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Red Burns’ Design Advice

Margaret Stewart, a former student of Red Burns, who was often referred to as the godmother of Silicon Alley, reflected on Burns’ approach to design and technology in a recent Wired article.

“She knew that technology was a means to an end — and that the end was people. She saw it as something you needed to get to the real work: improving people’s lives, making them feel more connected, bringing delight in big and small ways, and empowering them to affect change.”

“Don’t see the world as a market, but rather a place that people live in — you are designing for people, not machines.”

In reading about Burns’ approach to her curriculum, I found that she sought out a diverse group of students who were eager to learn how to solve problems. Working together with a group of strangers with varied backgrounds adds to the challenge and the rewarding feeling of completing a project together — if you’ve ever attended a Design Gym weekend workout or night class you can probably relate! Margaret also captured some of Burns’ quotes during her address to new design students. Here are some standouts that can be applied to the design thinking process.

– Look for the question, not the solution.
– Observe, imagine and create.
– Creativity is not the game preserve of artists, but an intrinsic feature of all human activity.
– In any creative endeavor you will be discomfited and that is part of learning.
– Communicate emotion.
– Don’t see the world as a market, but rather a place that people live in — you are designing for people, not machines.
– Be willing to risk, make mistakes, and learn from failure.

One Comment

  • jonny goldstein on Oct 31, 2013 Reply

    Red was an amazing lady who was interested in the serious value of play. If you capture some of that in what you do (and from experience, I’d say that you do), then you are following in her footsteps.

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