Stanford's Life Design Lab

“If the workplace is able to really encourage this exploration process, encourage talking to people and trying things, encourage prototyping, encourage the conversation about hey, how do those personal goals align with our organizational goals? And where can we potentially come up with a win-win for folks to grow? I think that's a really powerful space to play in as an employer.”
– Kathy Davies, Managing Director & Studio Lead, Stanford Life Design Lab


‘Designing Your Life’ is one of Stanford’s most popular courses on campus, which teaches students (of any age) how to take design thinking and apply it to their own life and careers. Students are encouraged to learn gratitude; generosity; self-awareness; adaptability, reinforced by design thinking-based tools and approaches. At the end of the course, students present three radically different five-year plans to their peers. 

Role in the future of work

Design thinking tools and approaches are particularly useful during transition periods. As workers switch roles or even industries more frequently, courses like those offered by the Life Design Lab can help individuals, at any stage in their life and career, navigate ambiguity and explore possible work and life pathways.​

Growth to date

The lab was founded by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans in 2007, based on the book ‘Designing your Life’. It started with a seven-person pilot product-design course, and the Lab now serves hundreds of Stanford students a year with courses, workshops and programs in departments all over campus. Through the Life Design Studio, the Lab has trained over 800 educators from 300+ schools globally, sharing their pedagogy under the Creative Commons license.​

Barriers and challenges

The team is very small, so funding and resources to scale are always an issue.​

Looking to the future

At Stanford, the goal is to embed life design tools in every aspect of the student experience to help them navigate ambiguity and gain confidence and agency to set a course for themselves and change it when needed. Globally, the aim is to build a community of practice and support other educators and organizations in bringing this methodology to life on their campuses. ​

Click to Stanford's 'Design your Life' website for more: