About the Lab

We study desirability in design processes, products, and services.

The lab is a hub of teaching and research resources on design and desirability. Our research focuses on quantifying design desirability in different areas. Courses cover topics like need-finding, creative problem solving, design leadership, design teams, human-centered design processes for product, experience, and service design; interface design, UX/UI, strategy, learning design, game design.


Themes We Work On
Recent Themes:
  • Ongoing: How to teach and learn expert creative fluency?
  • 2022: Changing business models for creative industries and collaborations
  • 2021: How to use emotions as creative fuel?
Previous Themes:
  • Designing human-centered robotics
  • Teaching the next generation of technical leaders
  • Accessible ways of teaching human-centered algorithm design
  • Cognitive, social, and emotional factors related to success and failure of team-based creative projects
  • Making sustainability aspirational in fashion by 2025

History

The Desirability Lab was founded by Dr. Beth Ames Altringer Eagle, Executive Director of the MADE program and Professor of Design Engineering at RISD and Brown University. Previously, Altringer spent 10 years as faculty on Innovation and Design at Harvard University’s John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS), the Graduate School of Design (GSD), and core faculty of the joint engineering MBA degree offered by SEAS and Harvard Business School.

The DL’s research on teaching and learning has been supported by many generous funders, including Harvard SEAS and the Harvard Initiative for Learning and Teaching. In addition to working with industry, the DL often collaborates with the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and SocietyHarvard Innovation Lab, other departments, and other institutions on teaching, field courses, and mentoring.

Inquiries: ba[at]desirabilitylab.com


Leadership

Professor Beth Ames Altringer Eagle leads the MADE program and is jointly based at RISD and Brown University. Prior to joining Brown and RISD, she became known as a bridge-builder across the fields of design and engineering at Harvard University, where she was one of four founding faculty members of the joint engineering MS+MBA degree offered by SEAS and HBS, was involved in the creation of the Master’s of Design Engineering (MDE) Program offered by SEAS and the GSD, and was an early supporter of the cross-university Harvard Innovation Lab. Beth is also a practicing designer with substantial entrepreneurial experience. As a designer, Altringer’s past clients include IKEA, Puma, Disney, Gucci, Uber, Kering, Bosch, Expedia, General Mills, the City of Cape Town, Harvard Innovation Labs, Stanford D-School, MIT, Berkman Center, and more. As an entrepreneur, she was on the founding team of Piaggio Fast Forward, where she led research and design from 2015-2017. She also created and leads the Flavor Genome Project that categorizes the human taste experience of flavors. Altringer completed her PhD in the psychology of design at Cambridge University, visiting scholarship in design at Stanford, postdoctoral fellowship in design at MIT, Masters in architecture at the University of Cape Town, business degree in arts management at Pontific Catholic University of Chile, and a Fulbright Scholarship in Barcelona.


Opportunities to Join the Lab

The DL has part-time learning by doing fellow roles each term. We provide the necessary project-specific technical and domain expertise. All roles work with the director. All roles are open to non-traditional as well as remote candidates unless otherwise indicated.

  • Research: Interested in joining our research team? We regularly accept new researchers. These are usually part-time, learning and mentorship-based roles. We currently do not have paid positions. Register your interest in research positions here and we’ll be in touch.
  • Teaching Fellows: Interested in joining the teaching staff for one of our courses? These are part-time roles and only available to Harvard-affiliates. Please fill in this short form to let us know, ideally a month or more in advance of the start of term.

Below are examples of the types of skills we are often looking for:

  • Analytics – previous analytics experience (we have both qualitative and quantitative datasets), detail-oriented, able to work well independently. R, python, Tableau, SQL, and similar experience a plus.
  • UXUI/Design/Data Visualization – some previous skill and high interest in visual content creation and editing using Illustrator, Photoshop, Indesign, After Effects, Sketch, AB testing, and/or similar tools.
  • Writing/editing/research – literature reviews, product and marketing research, crafting engaging storylines, conducting interviews, engaging casual learning content.
  • Education/curriculum – assist with developing and refining educational content and delivery mechanisms.
  • Front/backend Development – we have a professional full stack development team. Fellows help as we go along, and participate in feature strategy, prototyping in response to user feedback, etc. Active projects are in SWIFT, SQL, Node.js, Laravel, Wordpress.
  • Teaching Assistants –  The Innovators’ Practice course (fall) and Design for Desirability course (spring). Must be in-person.
  • Generalists – collaborative, can-do, get things done, communicative, flexible attitude. Must be detail-oriented.

To express interest, send CV and portfolio (if you have one): ba[at]seas.harvard.edu.


Remote Teams

Data Science Team: Our data science team works with our design team on complex R&D projects and focuses on quantitative models, machine learning, and large-scale text analytics.

Full Stack Development Team: Our development team works with our design team to turn the refined prototypes we decide to take to market into professional products.


Research and Teaching Fellows


2022 Team [Transition year from Harvard to Brown and RISD]
  • International collaborations, Art & Exhibitions
  • International collaborations, Research
  • Griffin van Horne, Research & Teaching

2021 FELLOWS

  • Griffin van Horne, Teaching
  • Kurt Bickenbach, Teaching
  • Jonathan Biderman, Teaching
  • Laurie Delaney, Senior UX Research & Teaching

2020 FELLOWS

  • Paola Bellis, Teaching & Research
  • Laurie Delaney, Senior UX Research &  Teaching
  • Rosa Weinberg, Teaching
  • Nick Stager, UX Analytics Research
  • Bob Pak, UX Analytics Research
  • Zhixin Lin, Visual Design
  • Maria Roldan Castro, Visual Design
  • Jared Myers, UX Research & Teaching

2019 FELLOWS

  • Laurie Delaney, Research & Teaching
  • Ningxin Cheng, Research
  • Jordan Degraaf, Research
  • David Gomez Gil, Research & Teaching
  • Jason Lee, Research
  • Chenlu Wang, Research & Design
  • Vicky Xu, Research
  • Jazib Zahir, Research
  • Ailing Zhang, Research

2018 FELLOWS

  • Laurie Delaney, Research & Teaching
  • Brandon Shaik, Research & Teaching
  • Berto Ceballos, Teaching
  • Chenlu Wang, Research & Design
  • Chong Hu, Design
  • Ningxin Cheng, Research
  • Vicky Xu, Research
  • Hanna Kim, Design

2017 FELLOWS

  • Laurie Delaney, Research & Teaching
  • Genevieve Ennis Hume, Research
  • Ngoc Doan, Teaching
  • Santiago Mota, Teaching
  • Keith Scott, Research & Design
  • Lilian Taylor, Research & Teaching
  • Yaara Yacoby, Research

2016 FELLOWS

  • Lilian Taylor, Research & Teaching
  • Ngoc Doan, Teaching
  • Neal Adolph Akatsuka, Research
  • Jacques van Rhyn, ai-kitchen