Once a scrappy disrupter in a trailer at the edge of campus, Stanford’s d.school — and its signature idea, design thinking — has grown into a Silicon Valley institution. Is it up for bigger challenges, like affordable housing, the courts, even democracy itself?
On a brilliant early October morning at the Family Justice Center Courthouse in downtown San Jose, a dozen people clustered in the public waiting room, reviewing copies of form UD-105, the document required to challenge an eviction notice. Every few minutes, a robotic voice broadcast an announcement: “Now serving A-508 at window 11.” Everything about the experience suggested the numbing grind of bureaucracy, save the courthouse itself, a gleaming structure with marble paneling and oversize windows. The public space could easily pass for a contemporary art museum.
As it happens, the cognitive dissonance between the bleak legalese of form UD-105 and the sumptuous environs of the courthouse was part of what the people huddled together in the waiting room were trying to understand. They were Stanford University students from an eclectic range of programs — law, public policy, engineering, computer science. What united them was a shared set of problem-solving techniques they were using to understand and improve eviction court, a framework known as “design thinking.”
Whether or not you have encountered the term, design thinking has influenced your life. Supermarket shelves and online app stores now feature countless products and services that were first dreamed up or refined using design-thinking tools: everything from early hand-held devices like Palm PDAs to Uber Eats and Bank of America’s Keep the Change savings program. While the movement has roots in physical design, it has, over the past two decades, blossomed into a method for generating solutions to a broad range of problems. Nonprofits have embraced the technique as a way to prototype new vaccine-delivery systems for low-income regions. PepsiCo now has a chief design officer whose job it is to bring innovative thinking to the company’s vast array of snack products. The bestselling book Designing Your Life applies design thinking to help its readers “create a life that is meaningful, joyful, and fulfilling.”
The techniques behind design thinking were first developed in the 1980s and 1990s at IDEO, the powerhouse international consulting firm, but the movement has its most visible home at Stanford’s Hasso Plattner Institute of Design, most commonly known as the d.school. Founded 15 years ago by engineering professor David Kelley, the co-founder of IDEO, the d.school may well have the highest ratio of influence to organizational footprint of any academic program created in the 21st century. It has no dedicated tenure-line faculty members. The entire institute is housed in half of a two-story Beaux-Arts building that is part of Stanford’s School of Engineering. Copycat programs have proliferated around the world. Stanford recently tasked the d.school with creating a vision for how the university might reinvent itself by the year 2025.
“We were kind of at the kids’ table around here,” Kelley told me. “Then, suddenly, the president is asking us, ‘Can you help make every Stanford student confident in their creative ability?’ And I’m thinking, Ooh, that’s different from when you used to come down here and ask me where to get cool glasses.”
As part of that maturation, the d.school in recent years has found itself increasingly focused on the systems that shape so much of modern life. That’s what brought the group of students to the San Jose courthouse, as part of a d.school class called Design for Justice, taught by a lecturer at the Stanford d.school named Margaret Hagan. Those students were trying to understand the flow of information and decision-making that a newly evicted tenant would experience, making the process better fit the needs of the community the court is supposed to serve. Hagan’s class is emblematic of an intriguing evolution in the d.school’s focus. While the d.school — and design thinking — is often associated with the Silicon Valley secular religion of move-fast-and-break-things innovation, it finds itself, in the middle of its second decade, increasingly engaged in the kinds of problems the tech sector has often ignored: social justice issues, inequality. “It’s really about seeing it as a series of experiences,” Hagan said of her class visit to the eviction courts. “The legal system is not what’s written in the statutes or the casebooks or the rules of civil procedure. That’s more of the lawyerly view of the system. When we take a design approach, it’s about the people who actually have to experience the system day to day and thinking from their point of view: Is this thing usable, is it useful, and does it make my life better?”
Sometime in the fall of 2002, the dean of the School of Engineering, Jim Plummer, took David Kelley to the southwestern edge of Stanford’s vast campus in Palo Alto to look at a trailer. The two men were scouting a potential home for a new institute that Kelley had been dreaming of for several years. Kelley had spent almost all of his adult life affiliated with Stanford’s engineering school, where he’d developed a reputation as something of a maverick, with an improvisational classroom style that deviated from the more traditional engineering offerings. “I thought it would be fun to teach with my friends,” Kelley told me. “ ‘Multidisciplinary’ was in the wind, but it wasn’t really happening. So I started teaching with a computer science professor, with a psychology professor, with an art professor.” Before long, he started to imagine an institute where these cross-pollinations would be the norm, an institute devoted to teaching Stanford students from all departments how to use some of the techniques that had been developed at IDEO.
When I met Kelley in his small office on the ground floor of the d.school, he was wearing an untucked Oxford shirt and jeans. Kelley is 68, but he could pass for a man a decade younger. With his mustache and easy sense of humor, he has the playful, enthusiastic mien of a successful puppeteer. His office is a cabinet of wonders, packed with everything from an original Apple Lisa computer to a photo of Mick Jagger playing a musical instrument designed by IDEO to a collection of “better mousetraps” that friends have given Kelley over the years.
I asked Kelley to tell the story of design thinking’s evolution. “Everything we do is common sense,” he began. “If you want to design something for people, why don’t you ask them not what do they want, but what’s important to them?” The approach has its roots in a technique called “needfinding,” which was developed in the 1960s by Bob McKim, founder of Stanford’s product-design program. McKim was Kelley’s mentor; the door to Kelley’s office once belonged to McKim, salvaged from an engineering building that had been demolished.
Central to needfinding is the stage design-thinking adherents call “empathy”: the act of putting yourself in the shoes of the person you are designing for. Needfinding shared some core values with other buzzwords that prospered in the 1980s and 1990s: “user-centered design” in software, or the biz-school mantra that product development had to begin by defining the customer’s “jobs to be done.” But Kelley and his colleagues at IDEO developed a series of discrete steps to take the insights of empathy and turn them into useful products, like the first Apple mouse and a portable defibrillator. In a sense, they took the mysterious art of creative inspiration and turned it into a practical recipe that anyone could follow. The classic design-thinking prescription involved five stages: empathize, define, ideate, prototype, test.
Those five stages have become the innovation world’s version of Alcoholics Anonymous’s 12 steps. While the school is quick to note that it teaches a much wider range of techniques, the five stages — particularly the empathy and prototype stages — provide a foundation for many of the classes. The d.school instructors often demonstrate the stages using about as low-tech an object as you could imagine: the vegetable peeler. During one of my visits, an instructor named Sam Seidel showed a slide of an old-fashioned peeler with a thin plastic handle as part of his introductory remarks to a visiting group of high school educators. “How many people have owned or used one of these?” he asked. “I grew up with one that looked just like that, and I never had a problem with it. I didn’t know there was any issue there. But one of the things that design is really good for is identifying unknown problems or challenges — or opportunities.”
As part of the empathize stage, Seidel explained, a group of designers studied people with arthritis using a standard peeler and noted their difficulty with the thin handle. From these observations, the designers defined a new need: a grip that would be less painful for arthritis sufferers. The designers then shifted to ideation, scribbling ideas and sketches onto Post-it notes and assembling them into clusters that have some kind of shared property or approach. The most promising ideas were then assembled into rough prototypes, which were tested on subjects and then refined based on feedback. Seidel showed a few humorous slides of prototypes: peelers with tennis-racket grips or bicycle handles. Then he showed a slide with a modern peeler with a thicker, rubber grip.
“How many of you have one of these?” he asked. “Is this experience better? One of the interesting things about this kind of approach to design, where you focus on a specific user, sometimes you design something that’s actually better for everyone.”
Kelley began teaching the five stages to his product-design students at Stanford. After a while, he started calling the approach “design thinking.” Something about the name “just resonated,” he told me. It was a simple addition — sticking the word “thinking” after the word “design” — but it suggested a meaningful shift. The kind of design Kelley was teaching was not about aesthetics; it wasn’t a matter of making an eye-catching logo. It was a general-purpose tool. Whatever experience a person might be engaged with — everything from peeling a vegetable to navigating an eviction court — design thinking could help develop useful new solutions.
Those broader applications planted an idea in Kelley’s mind: Why shouldn’t Stanford have a “d.school” that was open to any student in any field who was interested in ways that might help him think more creatively? A casual conversation with one of IDEO’s clients, SAP co-founder Hasso Plattner, led to a $40 million gift to start the program. But that left open the question of where the fledgling institute would be housed, which is how Plummer and Kelley ended up looking at trailers.
“Jim said, ‘Let’s go look at space,’ ” Kelley recalled. “So he took me to this double-wide trailer out on the edge of campus. Just the way he said, ‘Let’s go look at space,’ I thought something was funny. We talked about it for a while, and I said, ‘Well, I’d like tall ceilings.’ Then I got it. I asked, ‘Is this the only space that’s available on campus?’ And he said, ‘Yes.’ And I said, ‘I’ll take it!’ ”
Birch Trailer, the d.school’s first home at Stanford, has now become part of the school’s mythology. Only 3,000 square feet, the structure had no windows that could open and only one bathroom. As it turned out, the trailer was well-suited to the ethos of the d.school. It embodied what Stewart Brand in his book How Buildings Learn called “the low road” of architecture: cheap, temporary structures that often facilitate creative thinking more effectively than architectural statements, precisely because they are flexible and can be reconfigured to fit the new ideas that are emerging in them. “Early on, David had this idea of nonpreciousness being really important,” Scott Doorley, the d.school’s creative director, said. “If something feels precious, you start to think about the thing rather than the work. You’re like, I don’t want to mess up this table, versus, I need to make this prototype.”
That first year in Birch Trailer, the d.school offered three courses, taught by six professors. One of those courses was called Design for Extreme Affordability. While the school has since offered dozens of other classes and programs, Extreme — as d.school regulars call it — remains the signature offering and arguably the one with the most global impact. The class tasked students with developing cheap, practical innovations that could make a material difference to individuals living in low-income communities around the world. Like many future classes at the d.school, Extreme emphasized turning its student prototypes into actual products, most famously the solar lantern d.light, which was developed in 2006 and is now used by almost 100 million people around the world.
One of those taking Design for Extreme Affordability that first year was a graduate student named Sarah Stein Greenberg. She had spent her early career in the nonprofit world and had enrolled at Stanford’s business school to see what lessons she could learn from private-sector approaches. Despite its rough edges, she found the whole experience at Birch Trailer captivating. “We were in on an experiment,” she told me. “I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was looking for the language of innovation.” Within a few years, she began teaching at the school, and in 2014, she became executive director.
After its brief sojourn in Birch Trailer, the d.school would move to unused space in an administrative building, then to various outposts of the engineering school. “It wasn’t fun, but it was amazing because we got to prototype the space four times in four years,” said Doorley, who oversaw the design of its current quarters inside the Thomas F. Peterson Engineering Laboratory. “The main lesson was we thought we were going to prototype our way to perfection. What we realized was the ability to adapt was the key.”
The first impression that greets you when you enter Peterson lab is that the d.school has come a long way from Birch Trailer. The ceilings in the central atrium are double height, with natural light pouring in from above. The d.school’s unofficial mascot — a 1954 Chevy — is parked off the atrium, a few Post-it notes stuck to its windows. Two walls are covered with hundreds of Polaroids documenting the faces of the extensive d.school network. The workspaces on the second floor are a cross between an artist’s loft and a Staples store. Whiteboards are everywhere. One wall is lined with an imposing collection of handsaws, screwdrivers, rulers, and clamps. A series of trays are labeled “Sticks,” “Paper,” “Wire,” and “String.”
For all its kindergarten-for-grownups ethos, the physical plant understates the radical pedagogical nature of the d.school. Stein Greenberg calls it “a student space where faculty visit.” The institute “doesn’t issue diplomas,” political science professor Rob Reich, who has taught several classes at the d.school, told me. “It doesn’t enroll students or admit students. It’s like they hung out a shingle and got this white-hot reputation and people have come flooding over to do things. It’s all been voluntary, which is an incredible accomplishment.”
Those Design for Justice students at the San Jose courthouse represent another element of the school’s approach: Many of the courses take place outside the traditional classroom. Last year’s Design for Justice class studied the traffic-court system, spending many sessions at courthouses in Alameda County. Parking tickets can for some people “snowball into major life crises,” Hagan explained. After shadowing people who were attempting to pay overdue fines, Hagan’s students conjured up dozens of ways to improve the system, everything from text messages reminding someone to deal with his ticket before going to court to visual guides that explain how to apply for a fee reduction. After testing their prototypes, two of the projects — the visual guide and the text-based reminder tool — are now running as pilots in several Bay Area counties.
There is an admirable practicality to the interventions Hagan’s students have dreamed up, a focus on tactile, immediate fixes. But you can also see in the course an important shift in the design-thinking methodology — the movement from tangible things to the more nebulous realm of systems. Thanks to its origins, design thinking has long been associated with physical objects, but in recent years, the school has been increasingly applying its techniques to a different order of problems: the design of information networks, or regulatory systems, or laws themselves.
“The hunger of our students to have this kind of impact has continued to grow,” Stein Greenberg said. “They want to work on issues of social justice. They want to work on criminal justice. They want to work on medicine. They want to be involved in these systems that don’t change quickly, that have a degree of complexity. That’s been picking up over the past decade.”
Tackling immense social and political systems does pose challenges for a design approach. Several years ago, Reich began to talk with Stein Greenberg and Kelley about applying design thinking to improve democratic institutions, discussions that resulted in a course called Design for Bipartisanship. “We had all these long conversations about it,” Reich told me. “Sarah would always be pushing — appropriately — that we have to specify the problem, and I would say, ‘All right, are we thinking the problem is Congress? Or are we thinking the problem is citizenship and how people respond to elected politicians?’ Of course, my inclination was to say, ‘It’s a lot of these things.’ We can’t reduce the problem of democratic dysfunction to one problem specification. So far as I could make out, the design-thinking approach couldn’t move forward unless we could specify a singular problem to work on.”
In the Design for Bipartisanship class, Reich and Stein Greenberg ended up focusing on the problem of decreasing compromise among legislators in Washington. “So the solutions,” he said, “were things like bipartisan dorms for legislators, soccer and Little League teams for kids of politicians. But it was hard to identify background structural issues like gerrymandering, partisan redistricting, or the rise of the Tea Party.”
“I think what we’re seeing in these courses that are tackling big-system questions,” Stein Greenberg told me, “is a sense of where the places of leverage are — where you might want to get started. When you can fundamentally improve a person’s experience, people have a different sense of what might be possible.”
As an example, she points to the organization Noora Health, which was hatched in the Design for Extreme Affordability course by two med school students, an engineer, and a self-described “policy nerd.” Shadowing the families of patients in India, they noticed that health-care institutions did a poor job of educating family members about basic procedures to prevent infection, procedures that could go a long way toward reducing readmission rates. At the same time, they noticed that family members spent long hours waiting around hospitals with nothing to do. Their idea was to transform the underutilized spaces of the hospital — the hallways and waiting rooms — into a kind of classroom.
“That was a great example of where the students saw this need that no one else was paying attention to,” Stein Greenberg said. They didn’t attempt to restructure the health-care system of India or invent some new life-saving medical technique: It was a much more targeted intervention. Because it was focused on an unmet need of those family members and because it used an existing resource — all that downtime waiting around in the hallways — it offered an immediate, material improvement, one that could easily be replicated in other hospitals and clinics.
During one of my last visits to the Stanford campus, I sat in on a prototyping session in the basement of a medical school building for a class called Design for Health. The students had been tasked with reinventing that most prosaic of medical encounters: the annual physical. Like many medical schools, Stanford has a high-tech simulation lab where aspiring physicians can practice their bedside manner with actors who play patients. The sim lab contains a series of consultation rooms, each one wired up with hidden microphones and cameras; instructors and students observe the interactions on a row of computer monitors outside. One team of students had prototyped an app for finding a new doctor, vaguely modeled on Tinder; another had rigged up a cardboard confessional designed to make it easier for patients to share embarrassing health issues.
One of the instructors, Alexei Wagner, a professor of emergency medicine, explained that the sim lab had historically been used only by med school students, but the new partnership with the d.school has made clear the value of bringing in outsiders. “We have these ingrained constraints: ‘Patients have to be in a gown because I’ve been told for years they have to be in a gown,’ ” he said. “Whereas in reality, we have to test those constraints and those assumptions. Bringing in nonclinicians — we have an undergrad philosophy major and a computer science major and a quant economics major — they all come in with different points of view and skill sets.”
Wagner’s argument for the importance of outsiders is one you often hear in the push for multidisciplinary collaboration that has swept across higher education in recent years: With the right facilitation, different fields can borrow interesting ideas, or technologies, or conceptual metaphors from one another; collaborators from different disciplines provide fresh eyes on the “ingrained constraints” that arise when one looks at a problem from the same angle for too long. This kind of collaborative model is eminently compatible with the existing organizational structure of the university. The academy is still there to produce expertise in specific fields — it’s just that domain expertise can be enhanced by rubbing shoulders with other experts in other fields.
That was the model of multidisciplinary collaboration that I had in my head when I first walked into Peterson lab. But the longer I spent at the school, the more I began to realize that the design-thinking approach suggested a bolder vision of multidisciplinary collaboration, one that challenged the architecture of higher education itself. What the d.school is implicitly proposing is that certain kinds of problems can be understood only through multiple, converging disciplines.
Think about that person arriving at the San Jose courthouse with an eviction notice in her hand and a thousand questions. Her experience lies at the intersection point of at least a half-dozen fields: in the architecture of the building, the information design of the form UD-105, the legal intricacies that govern the questions and statements that form offers, the broader public-policy decisions that have shaped the entire encounter. From the design-thinking perspective, if we want to improve our eviction courts — or our annual physicals — the logical place to start is with the experience of the person residing at the convergence of all those fields. An academic institution organized into the silos of law and architecture and computer science is optimized for training a new generation of lawyers and architects and computer scientists. But if the institution is also interested in training a generation of students who can solve complicated problems like improving the lived reality of a tenant facing eviction, then maybe we’ve been working with the wrong structure all this time. Instead of starting with the silos of academic disciplines, start with the experience you are trying to improve and then draw on the disciplines that are pertinent to that experience.
It is easy to take shots at design thinking for the New Age language it can sometimes adopt: “design with intention,” “navigate ambiguity,” “be mindful of action.” When I inquired about his thoughts on the d.school, one Stanford professor sent me a picture of Designing Your Life featured prominently at the Stanford bookstore next to a Norman Vincent Peale advice book and a tome on New Age mindfulness, noting in an email, “It is telling that even a sweatshirt shop like our bookstore has the wisdom to group design thinking among self-help and ersatz-religion manuals.” But the word that kept surfacing throughout my visits to the d.school, the word that appears in the first step of the five stages — empathy — suggests something more profound than just gauzy self-help. It proposes a fundamental shift in the ways schools should be organized. If you are trying to understand public policy or architecture as a general field of study, then a traditional classroom experience, with lectures and required reading, makes perfect sense. But if you are attempting to have an impact on lives, then shouldn’t the mental projections of empathy — entering the mind of that person struggling to fill out form UD-105 — be as central to the educational process as writing a paper or studying for a final exam?
Like any self-improvement regime that hits critical mass, design thinking has attracted its fair share of detractors over the past few years. Some of the backlash is a reaction against the wave of innovation consultants who packaged up design-thinking methodologies and sold them to otherwise traditional corporations, with the promise that after a few days of practice navigating ambiguity and being mindful of action, they’d have creative confidence as an organization. No need to rethink the structure of the organization. Just slap some Post-it notes on the whiteboard and walk through the five stages and you’ll be as innovative as IDEO or Apple.
But the more complicated question for the school has to do with the valence of innovation itself. Back in the Birch Trailer days, the d.school was operating in a culture that rarely questioned the value of creative destruction. Today, the big-tech backlash has made the culture in general more suspicious of Bay Area disrupters. “One of the reasons why I really push back against the focus on producing innovators in higher ed is that most students aren’t going to go into roles where that is their focus,” said Lee Vinsel, a science, technology, and society professor at Virginia Tech, who has been one of design thinking’s most vocal critics. Even in dynamic industries like the tech sector, a significant portion of the workforce is not focused on generating daring new ideas, but rather on the equally important, if less sexy, work of what Vinsel calls maintenance. Vinsel points out that the vast majority of software budgets are devoted to maintaining existing code; only 10 percent is directed toward designing new features or products. “So instead of just thinking about what skills students need to be innovators,” he said, “we need to think about the skills they need to be maintainers, people who are really good at keeping the health of the system alive.”
There’s another element to the innovation backlash that hits at the center of the d.school canon. “Intentional design” may be one of the most commonly used of the d.school catchphrases, but it’s the unintentional effects of technology that have drawn so much criticism in recent years. “I’m a fan of the d.school,” Scott Berkun, the author of Myths of Innovation, told me. “They have done an excellent job in improving the visibility of design and bringing ideas from design practice to the wider business world. But for some reason, most people who teach creativity methods seem blind to, or ignorant, or want to ignore how these methods can be used for evil or dumb purposes.”
While the original designers of the internet were obviously not using design thinking when they first sketched out the architecture of the system in the late 1960s, they did have a clear set of intentions that guided their design. Judged by those original intentions, their creation was a staggering success: The internet still works largely as they planned, more than a half-century later. The problem lies with the unintentional secondary effects: the collateral damage it inflicts on valuable industries and cultural habitats, or the way the system can be abused by bad actors. To use, perhaps, the most extreme example, the original designers of the internet didn’t consciously set out to create a system that would greatly expand the supply and distribution networks of political disinformation. But that is part of what their creation enabled. Sometimes disruption is disruptive in the old negative sense of the word, even if the disrupters themselves have the best of intentions, even if they have come up with a genuine solution to the problem they were attempting to solve. You need creativity to imagine new approaches, but you also need it to imagine all the ways in which those approaches could go wrong.
The d.school has recently been including more reflection on these unanticipated secondary effects. In the Design of Data class taught by Carissa Carter, the institute’s director of Teaching & Learning, students explore the new set of machine-learning tools that has been unleashed on the world over the past few years by the artificial-intelligence community. But the course spends a significant amount of time thinking about how these new resources could be abused. One exercise has the students imagine two headlines written about their prototype three years in the future, one positive and one negative. Students are also asked to sketch out a chart of first-, second-, and third-order effects of their designs. They are, effectively, learning how to be intentional about unintended consequences.
I asked Carter if these exercises would have been part of the d.school curriculum a decade ago. “The honest answer is no,” she replied. “You see all the tech folks now — they’ve released their addictive app, and now they’re all down in Esalen having their retreats to come to terms with what they’ve put into the world. But that’s all we do as designers: put things into the world. We feel really strongly, particularly with our position at Stanford, that even if your thing isn’t hacked, even if it works as expected, it can take multiple different trajectories out in the world. So let’s test for them now. Better now than some crisis later.”
The day I visited the San Jose courthouse, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed the Tenant Protection Act of 2019, legislation that capped rent increases across the state for the next decade. The bill was the result of years of organizing and persuasion from housing advocacy groups, battling the much-better-funded real estate industry. The bill was also an attempt to improve the experience of that evicted tenant at the San Jose courthouse, but one that used a fundamentally different set of techniques to achieve its directives: argument, advocacy, old-fashioned political struggle, the force of law.
There was something striking in the juxtaposition between the Tenant Protection Act and my visit to that San Jose courthouse. It was hard not to be impressed by the d.school’s pursuit of practical innovations, providing answers to those questions that Margaret Hagan had originally asked: Is this thing useful? Does it make my life better? And the school’s new focus on unintended consequences show that this institution devoted to effecting change is capable of changing itself. But the passage of the Tenant Protection Act was a reminder that some systems may be beyond the reach of empathy-driven design.
“When you look at problems like poverty and eviction and race, you see very deep social structures,” Vinsel told me. “I’m not convinced that we can solve the problems that bring people to eviction court by design-consultant-like practices. I think that way of talking in higher education is distracting us from these very deep social structures that would really require political reform to even touch.”
“The reality is, you can’t fix it with just one approach,” Stein Greenberg said, during our last meeting. “But that’s also something that I think design adds — this sense that you have a robust portfolio of different prototypes going at the same time. Some of them should be on the human social constructs or behavior change, and some of them should be on the technology level, and some of them should be on the policy level.”
Driving up I-280 back to the Stanford campus from the San Jose courthouse, with the grand estates of Woodside and Los Gatos clustered in the neighboring hillsides, it occurred to me that if there is a danger to be had in the meteoric success of the d.school, it lies in the assumption, so common in the tech sector, that innovation is the default mode of creating positive change. Right now, if you’re a student at Stanford with a passion for economics or microbiology, there are clearly labeled programs for you to enroll in. But a student who wants more than anything to learn multidisciplinary skills for driving change will likely be drawn into the d.school’s orbit. Some problems in the world, though, require another set of tools, less user-centric and more structural.
The housing crisis in a region like the Bay Area is not a problem that can be fundamentally addressed with more innovation. It requires a different approach, one that also draws upon varied fields of expertise: persuading local communities to drop their NIMBY objections to more development, rezoning neighborhoods to permit high-density housing, engineering new transit systems to support those new hubs, passing laws like the Tenant Protection Act to give renters a fighting chance to stay in their homes. It’s not that the d.school is wrong to engage the world through design thinking. It’s that the school’s success should inspire other, equally multidisciplinary programs that teach change-making skills from the opposite angle. Sometimes it’s important to focus on empathy, on that individual’s struggle to make sense of form UD-105, and sometimes you need to organize, stage protests, change minds, pass laws. Creating practical interventions that help San Jose residents better navigate the eviction system is a genuine achievement. But we shouldn’t neglect the more radical cures that might keep them from being evicted in the first place.