Springboard: Harvard's 1st Design Club

Workshops, Community Building, Event Management, Web, Social
Co-Founder & Co-President
Sep 2014 - Apr 2016
"Uh...why isn't there a design club on campus?
Springboard is Harvard College's first undergraduate design club. One day during my sophomore year on campus, I was eating lunch with a few friends, when someone asked, "Why isn't there a design club on campus?

So we started one.

During the three years I was leading the club, we organized HarvardxDesign in collaboration with Harvard Business school and the Graduate School of Design. It was one of the largest design conferences in Boston. We also held numerous workshops to teach undergraduate students about design and the design process..

HarvardxDesign Conference

The largest student-run design conference.
The Harvard x Design conference was started by a group of graduate school student 7 years ago. Over its first few years, it grew to be on of the largest design conferences in the city of Boston.

However, it was almost completely out of reach to the undergraduate community. I hoped that Springboard could be an opportunity, so I joined the HarvardxDesign organizing committee to help recruit sponsors, print out flyers, sell tickets, and run the event.(Show Harvard x Design Photo)

The conference featured speakers from Pentagram, IDEO, Continuum, Nike, and other companies, but the most gratifying part was that we were able to extend attendance to the undergraduate community. We had college students from Harvard, MIT, Wellesley, Boston University, Rhode Island School of Design, Babson, and many more. We even had someone fly in from UC Berkeley!
Harvard x Design with David Lee, CCO @Squarespace
HarvardxDesign Conference posting on our Interactive Wall

It wasn't just a social club. We actually built stuff.

Under the guidance of Professor Kit Parker, I worked along with 11 other Harvard engineers to reverse engineer existing. Every single week, we would wake up at 3AM and kick-off a smoke.

During the 14-hour process, we’d be running back-and-forth to gather our readings and then warm our our frost bitten hands. Once we collected the data, we passed it onto a few other bio and chemical engineers to run simulations for how we would create our own smoker.

We recruited 100+ students & hosted hands-on workshops.

Design is about building things, not just talking about them. So we made that a core requirement to getting into the club. Each week we would take students through one step of the design process to let them get a quick feel of a full design cycle.

- Week 1: Club Introductions & 7 minute Workshop
- Week 2: Problem Framing
- Week 3: Brainstorming
- Week 4: Prototyping
- Week 5: Testing
- Week 6: Presentations

After our first year we were starting to get known on campus. We had a mailing list of over 500 students, 100+ active member who would attend conferences and talks, and around 30 members who would show up every week to get feedback on projects that they're working on.

During each week, we would ask students to work on their presentation speaking skills, give and receive critical feedback, and get inspired by other students' work. This created a community that would organically grab weekly lunches and museum outings.
Lee Moreau (VP @Continuum) talking about innovation

We connected students with professional designers.

Another problem area that Springboard wanted to address was accessibility to design. At Harvard, it's super easy to get introduced to recruiters for opportunities at large tech corporations, management consulting, and investment banking - but it was nearly impossible to get into design.

I spoke to a few alumni who ended up at some design agencies and learned they really had carve their own path to become a professional designer. While they learned a lot at Harvard, the campus experience didn't necessarily make it easy to learn about those professional fields.

We felt the best way to fix this problem was to just visit design agencies, and talk to the people leading them. We just cold called them and asked for student tours, which turned out to be an incredible experience. We traveled around the country to visit places including IDEO, Continuum Design, MoMA New York, and frog design in San Francisco.