On Making

I have recently become enamored with this idea of making. It must be the environment I find myself in. The act of bringing ideas to life and having other humans understand that act and associated intent is animus – I feel my spirit compelled and animated.

I just wrapped up the first phase of my project on homelessness. Our project ended up being a service oriented physical product: a button that lets clients notify staff that they are back in their rooms and allows staff to better serve clients. We found a lot of resonance with this idea from clients at the new Mountain View Leghorn shelter site, where each unhoused client has their own room for 90-120 days in which they can work towards finding stable housing. The button made clients feel more safe and independent in their new environments. The act of bringing ideas from our heads to real people is a transformative experience. It comes back to this moment I had in Morocco, where I realize I can do something that can help people and make them happy. The next part is execution. I find immense satisfaction in implementation and getting the hard work done. In the next 11 weeks, I look forward to having this product realized so it can accomplish its intended impact.

If successful, I would have completed my first design thinking process from start to finish. By finish, I mean actually making it real and functional.

I remember telling David Kelly that over the summer, I wanted to feel more confident in my creative or design thinking process. In most consultancies, the work stops at the ideas. Implementation is usually done by another entity. This summer, I have an opportunity to run the full gamut. My goal is to find my creative process and the only way to get better is by doing more of it.

But what about this idea of working under a master like in the Renaissance. The reframe is I have masters everywhere! David being one of them.

My skills as a maker have improved. Taking ME181: Deliverables was a great challenge for me, but who would have thought that I’d be able to use Solidworks to a decent proficiency! I feel more comfortable with my design process. I start with inspiration boards, I make some rough sketches, and jump right into making physical models using either foam, modeling clay, or paper. A thoughtful physical model translates easily to a CAD model. I am thankful for 杜老师 for teaching me how to draw two years ago. I have still much more to practice, but slowly I am developing an artistic sensitivity.

Design is hard, it involves aesthetic, beauty, but also engineering, manufacturing processes, & materials science. I don’t have a sense of what is beautiful design. Irene Au, one of the teaching team members I work with in a class I course assist, recommended me a couple books: Designing for People by Henry Dreyfuss and Geometry of Design by Kimberly Elam. I will take some art classes in the upcoming quarter to keep developing my sense for what good design is.

The engineering side to design is not as foreign. I reckon I could use more practical experience with manufacturing processes and working with different materials. As an incoming Product Realization Lab Course Assistant, I will be spending a lot of time refining my craft as a maker. This summer I will brush up on my making knowledge, so I am prepared to assist other students. Teaching is the ultimate testament to one’s understanding.

I must note, I am not attached to the idea of creating physical products. Rather I am more attached to the idea of bringing ideas to life. Life happens to interface with the physical world quite often! That could be set design, space design, and physical product design.

The animus of making has been influencing me because I’m part of this ‘Loft’ community. The alumni of my program are makers. I met this magician Andrew Evans, who had an incredible journey before and after Stanford. He uses his making skills to create sets for his magic shows. Everything does connect back in the end. In the Loft, we have the entire collection of Eames films. I watched a documentary of Eames recently, in which I was inspired that the pair did so a wide variety of things. They made chairs, houses, ‘desserts’, films, and exhibitions. To them, the whole world was a canvas and they loved playing with all sorts of mediums to express themselves. They communicated through their design. I just dream of the day when I can design and build my house. That will surely happen.

In my classes, I am surrounded by people who have realized intent and thought. I’ve had short dialogues with Jacqueline Novogratz and Debbie Millman. Bill Gates visited my class, so did a handful of other billionaires. These are all people who have taken creative action into bringing their thoughts to the world. More so, their creative actions impact people. I’m still stewing on my brief moments with Debbie and Jacqueline. I hope to have more interactions with Irene as I complete the books she’s shared with me. I am on a journey to cultivate myself as a designer. My Capstone project next year will combine everything I have been trying to learn: design thinking, making, and business. I aim to make impact with my project. Thoughts of doing work in an Indian city remains in my head.

Last, I want to note that all these amazing artists and designers were part of ‘collectives’. I started to think, what would a collective for social impact look like? At the base, there has to be a spirit of play, of iteration, of human centeredness, and of creativity. Here is a thought:


The Intent Collective - A social impact collective of creatives.

We are a new type of collective. We are collective oriented towards making social impact at scale. Our mediums are diverse: digital, physical, experiential, metaphysical, scientific, and artistic. We seek to advance culture into its next stage of social and environmental consciousness. We will define and administer what it means to be a citizen in the decade of 2020-2030.

We approach our work in an iterative sense. We bias towards making, rapid and constant iteration. We utilize social experiments to simulate culture. We think about unintended consequences and are strategic in our intervention points. We design for the society we would want to live in.