Steven DuPuis : Design Thinking from DuPuis Group on Vimeo.

If you happen to be in our Chicago office on a Monday afternoon around 4PM, you will find Steven DuPuis in a flurry of papers, preparing to leave for Northwestern University. In addition to being the visionary behind DuPuis, Steven is also teaching at Kellogg School of Management. His latest academic project is ‘Design Lab’, an experimental course that has been in the works for two years.

The course, covering the intersection of design and marketing, looks at how design and design thinking can be incorporated into marketing theory and practice.

Design has become a critical aspect in achieving success within today’s business environment, yet is often misunderstood and typically viewed as an aesthetic application.  This confusion has lead to varied degrees of effectiveness within the business community. ‘Design Thinking’ introduces students to a creative form of problem solving– a process that requires a malleable mind– one that embraces both logic and abstraction. It really only makes sense… after business school and art school, business leaders and creatives collaborate in the real world. To make this interaction most effective, it’s important that business leaders understand creatives and vice versa.

The concept of ‘Design Thinking’ dates back to the 1980’s but has recently gained momentum as human-centered design approaches have become more commonplace within a business context. Readily employed by design schools world wide, this approach to problem-solving was first extended as a multi-disciplinary academic environment by Northwestern as part of their engineering program and has since manifested itself as part of a tri-focused degree (the ‘Triple M’ program) that combines practices from engineering, business, and design.

DuPuis’ approach to creating an environment for problem-solving through Design Thinking made Steven an ideal candidate to teach this course.  The course itself, called ‘Design Lab’, is a ten-week experience that focuses on the topics of discovery, immersion, research, collaboration, brainstorming, rapid prototyping, and culminates with a design presentation. Discussions will include methodologies to establishing a creative culture, design integration, visual trends, and case studies of companies that have adopted design as a central strategy for growth. The class will actively work with professional design agencies within the Chicago area to develop skills in understanding the creative process. Students are placed into teams and assigned an agency ‘client’, who will provide the real-world problem which they are to solve through the new approaches presented in class.

For the last six years, Steven DuPuis has been involved with the Kellogg School of Management speaking on the topic of design. In the last two years, he has regularly taught Marketing Innovation. One thing that he finds particularly inspiring is the students’ excitement around the subject. With over 500 student participants, Northwestern has one of the largest and most active design clubs within a university. This interest has led students to give Steven a very warm welcome. Last school year, the students of his New Products and Services class awarded him “Certificate of Impact”, which represented the most influential class the students had taken at Kellogg.

Steven’s next class, offered this spring, will be on the topic of Marketing Innovation.