What is it to study in a creative space ?

The d.school is a collaborative workspace in Stanford for problem solving. The d.school teaches design thinking, a practical approach for interdisciplinary projects. The space hosts both executive education and business bootcamps to help people learn how to work differently.

Design School of Stanford

Mayra Arroyo is a senior studying Communication, Psychology, and Product Design at Stanford. She works as a research assistant for the Virtual Human Interaction Lab. In addition, Mayra is part of the teaching team for ME 110, a course offered by the mechanical engineering department that teaches students about design sketching. For her, the d.school is about bringing together minds from any fields: educators and researchers, leaders and business students, with the spirit that anything can happen.
“I like working with students who enter the course with a fixed mindset,” she says. After hearing her explanation, I understood that a fixed mindset is someone who comes in with a certain idea that their intelligence and talent are innate and fixed, whereas a growth mindset thinks that intelligence and talents are a muscle that you need to work on, with time and effort you can grow it.

“As a student, I can be a researcher: I help other students to design their research study. I am also a teaching assistant. We always start from what students love, from their passion.
Finally, I am part of a small mechanical engineering independent studies course: this is an option if you are particularly involved in one topic, with a teacher that you know well. You can design the focus of your own projects and your own timetable.”


I had the chance to attend the course of design sketching with Bill Scott. I observed the design of the class. Table, chairs, board – everything is mobile. You can hang out anything on the walls. The class begins a short introduction and guidelines about how to sketch up a situation. Everyone is invited to draw out something.
Then there is a break where all students can ask questions to the teachers. Students are commenting their friends' work. I noticed, students' feedback comments are invariably positive and encouraging. Part of the course is letting the students experiment, draw and learn while the teacher is passing by and giving advice and support where it is needed. He tells : “Ask me questions”, “You have to start with what you want".

Mayra turns music on at the middle of he classroom. She starts hula hooping at the center of the room. No one looks disturbs – and especially not the teacher. This is a completely normal night of instruction.

One of the students, Rachel Johnson, majoring in civil engineering, is attending the design sketching course mostly for learning how to communicate her ideas visually. She said drawing is a very useful for communication. You can very well describe the movement, the structure by drawing.


I am now in the K12Lab dedicated to education. Gabrielle Santo-Donato has studied the psychology of child imagination and visual literacy. She’s working at the K12lab with a network of schools to implement design mindsets and challenges that educators can bring to life. She designs workshops and programs, prototypes and design customized resources.

K12LAB works on 3 projects :

  • The Dhome team program who work with educators, schools and designers to teach no only the design thinking process but strenghten mindset. All resources are available on http://www.dhometeam.stanford.edu/ We define and answers school challenge in a learning mode (experimental).

  • School rituals : Briefly, the aim is to make specific steps to change teaching and learning behaviors.

  • SparkTruck is an educational build-mobile! In the summers of 2012 and 2013, they drove across the country, spreading the fun of hands-on learning and encouraging kids to find their inner maker. http://sparktruck.org/


According to Gabrielle, what make the success of this school is that the method is fully human-based centered rather than technology centered. Still, they have a very innovative and forward thinking integrated approach.

“The learning culture is playful, try and fail something and test, using tools and strategies. We bring creativity by bringing people out of their context, in unrelated space. The first challenge is to cultivate enough confidence to create things. That is why we alwas say "the only way to do it ... is to do it." The more we try, the more we have chance to fail … and succeed. And confidence comes with additional series of successful actions. The second challenge is that we have so many resources already, how do we harvest what have been done ? How do we stay balanced between what have been done and what can we do ?”