Design Your Chicago

A Design Thinking Workshop Series for Chicagoans New and Old

Design thinking is an iterative, collaborative problem-solving approach rooted in industrial design process. Beginning with an introductory one-hour workshop (DYC #1: Start Here) and then continuing with a more advanced three-session series (DYC #2-4), Design Your Chicago teaches UChicago College students the basics of the designer mindset and design process — tools you can apply to exploring and responding to questions in ANY aspect of your life:  from how to meaningfully engage Chicago while you're a student, to what you want to study, to who you want to be as you grow up.

DYC sessions are based on the the wildly successful "Designing Your Life" courses developed by Stanford University's Bill Burnett and Dave Evans. This series was designed for undergraduate students in the College at the University of Chicago, but can be fruitfully engaged by others as well. Note:  DYC is currently on hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  As new workshops are scheduled, we will update this page as well as Chicago Studies' newsletter and social media accounts.

Workshop Synopses

DYC #1 (60 minutes) offers an introduction to design thinking, explores the designer mindset, and offers participants a chance to try applying it in reference to a question they're currently working on.  By the end of this workshop, you'll know how to approach problems like a designer, and have some basic tools for engaging others in your personal design projects.  Completion of DYC #1 is a prerequisite for signing up for the more advanced DYC series (#2-4).

DYC #2 (60 minutes) introduces participants to wayfinding, the ancient art of figuring out where you are going when you don’t actually know your destination. By the end of this session, you'll have a clearer idea how your past experiences can help you clarify your interests and goals here and now, and be equipped with more sophisticated tools for designing your way forward, wherever your journey may take you.  DYC #2 is the first in a three-part series of workshop sessions, which must be be registered for and taken as a set.

DYC #3 (60 minutes) offers participants an opportunity to develop, and then get feedback on, an odyssey plan. Odyssey planning is an application of design process that envisions the universe of possible resolutions to pressing questions, then develops easy ways to "try out" those solutions to see which ones might work best. By the end of this session, you'll have a clearer sense of where your curiosity is guiding you, as well as next steps you might take to get there.  DYC #3 is the second in a three-part series of workshop sessions, which must be be registered for and taken as a set.

DYC #4 (60 minutes) brings participants to what, in some ways, is the heart of problem-solving by design:  prototyping.  Rather than searching for one-size-fits-all, "final" solutions, designers seek to develop ever-more-adequate responses to ever-evolving situations.  They do this by conducting micro-experiments, by engaging more collaborators, and by retelling (and therefore reframing) the stories they tell about the questions they're trying to answer.  By the end of this session, you'll have specific ways to prototype your imagined next steps, and know what to do with the results of your experiments.  DYC #4 is the last in a three-part series of workshop sessions, which must be be registered for and taken as a set.


Learn more about Designing Your Life

Resources from Stanford's Design Thinking Lab

Read the Book

The bestselling book by Stanford Design School professors, available in multiple formats from Amazon and other booksellers

Hear from the Author

Stanford TEDx talk by Design School professor Bill Burnett, about the application of design thinking to "life design"

Visit the Website

Website associated with the "Designing Your Life" movement, containing worksheets and supplemental resources for life designers