September 24, 2005
Law and Design
Posted by Mike Madison

A colleague at Yale forwarded a link to this interview with David Kelley, founder of the super hip design firm IDEO and now co-founder of the new Institute of Design at Stanford, known as the "d.school."

For any given project, multidisciplinary teams are formed that have a cross-section of students drawn from engineering, education, humanities, business and/or medicine. This innovative approach has allowed us to work on incredibly interesting projects. This year, we offered a unique class on how design can enrich the lives of autistic children and another using design to help subsistence farmers in India collect and distribute water to irrigate their backyard farms. Our industry project this year was with Electronic Arts on shaping the future of gaming.

But there is something missing . . .

Kelley continues:

When we did group projects before, everyone was from the same discipline and therefore had a similar approach to the problems presented. In d.school design classes, each student has something different to offer their team and seems to be thrilled that they can contribute in unique ways while leveraging the broader scope of their classmates. One of the challenges is to get the faculty to collaborate as easily as the students do! We have been lucky so far and are getting along famously.

Aren't they missing a discipline?  Where are the law students?  Where are the law faculty?  As one (non-law) colleague responded when I described my paper on the role of law in constructing "things":  well, law is design.  Sometimes that means that lawyers tell designers what not to do.  Sometimes it means that lawyers can tell designers what they might try.  Either way, law is inevitably in the room, along with business development, finance, engineering, marketing, history, and behavioral psychology.  At Pittsburgh, I'm in no position to tell David Kelley and his d.school colleagues what to do, but really, Stanford has some very smart people on the law faculty, and they should be connected with this enterprise somehow.

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