Recent Posts

Fairphone and iFixIt Partnership
Magical Experience Design
Unconventional Agriculture Video from The Lexicon of Sustainability
DMBA Grad starts new firm
The reason we created our new Public Policy degree
Innovators Before Innovation: A close look at the DMBA's Innovation Studio Class
Financial Illiteracy: One of Government's Biggest and Least-Discussed Problems
Sparse and Yield in the New York Times today
Happy 2014--just in time!
New MBA in Public Policy Design featured in Fast Company


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Fairphone and iFixIt Partnership

iFixIt is one of the companies we admire--for their sense of humor as well as their commitment to sustainability in the broadest sense. Last week, they announced an innovative partnership with FairPhone, which is considered and industry-leading.

Magical Experience Design

Ferdinando Buscema and Mariano Tomatis' new book on "magic experience design" is a delightful and insightful read. For now, its in Italian but we've read the English translation thats on it's way. We agree with Boing Boing's David Pescovitz review wholeheartedly:

Unconventional Agriculture Video from The Lexicon of Sustainability

Our friends at The Lexicon of Sustainability, in conjunction with PBS, have launched a new video on Unconventional Agriculture.

DMBA Grad starts new firm

Following on the successful Kickstarter launch of their DayTripper bag/picnic blanket, DMBA grad Andrew Demming and CCA Industrial Design grad Rachel Gant have launched their own design and products firm: Yield.

Yield describes their approach as being "about respecting the past, yielding to the present and looking forward to the future. We know the fashions of past decades will always find a way to eventually repeat. We look for the core element, the true essence of those times and with it we create something entirely new for today, or perhaps tomorrow." The firm isn't techno-centric but isn't afraid of new technological tools, in the service of human needs and desires: "We are neither designing for technology or taking a stand against technology. We believe the new tools at our disposal further empower us to create and communicate but are not an end unto themselves. From our Yield goods, to our 3d-printed/gold cast rings to our photo display products for digital prints...every product and new venture we undertake is a marriage of technology and hand craft."

At launch, they already offer 45 products for sale.

The reason we created our new Public Policy degree

This excellent article, by Nicholas Kristof, in the New York Times describes much of why we created a new degree in public policy: the MBA in Public Policy Design. In fact, all three of our MBA programs respond to the criticisms of academia in this OpEd.

Living in an independent school that prides itself on creative leadership gives us opportunities that our colleagues in research universities certainly don't have. And we try to take full advantage of them. While we don't have the research infrastructure (nor the money to fund it), we can innovate quickly and ignore the normal trappings of academic success.

Innovators Before Innovation: A close look at the DMBA's Innovation Studio Class

Innovators Before Innovation:
A close look at the DMBA's Innovation Studio Class

Is innovation a teachable skill? California College of the Arts' MBA in Design Strategy program certainly thinks so. Innovation Studio, one of the program's four foundational first-semester courses, exposes students to the skills, tools and mindsets required for design-led innovation.

Throughout the semester, students work together in teams on an immersive team project geared toward tackling a real 21st century challenge. Students must put their learning into practice - observing and questioning using empathy, thinking and communicating visually, prototyping and experimenting rapidly, and sharing ideas through compelling storytelling - all crucial skills of a design-led innovator. Equally important, the students learn to embrace the everyday leadership behaviors associated with successful innovation - the ability to create a compelling vision, navigate inevitably ambiguity and conflict, learn from failure and setbacks and build conditions of trust and high performance within their teams

2013's innovation challenge asked students to re-imagine the future of city services. Galvanized by pressing issues facing urban centers such as Detroit, students embarked into the streets of their own city to practice design-based research techniques such as interviewing, ethnographic observation, and persona and journey mapping to discover, prototype, and test innovative ideas to meet city dwellers' unmet needs. As professor Lisa Kay Solomon explained, their goal was not to "fix" cities, but to think expansively about how cities could develop new products and services to support sustainable, thriving communities. Essentially, what are the unmet needs of citizens living and working in cities?

On December 12, 2013 DMBA students presented their final projects to a panel of local innovation leaders across private, social impact and government sectors at the TechShop Annex in San Francisco, another hub of innovation activity. TechShop hosts Matt Shutte and Jarod Holtz were joined by Jeff Kirshner, David Viotti, change agents Kiran Jane, and Jamie Gardner, and Kristi Templitz, Charolotte Cooper, and Todd Grantham.

Addressing a wide array of challenges, each of the six teams solutions shared common characteristics of design-led innovation: they were future-oriented, discovery-driven, focused on user needs, grounded in market and trend research, refined through user testing, and told using core tenets of storytelling. Their proposals for city innovations include:

PayPort relieves the classic commuter headache of long waits and lost tickets by providing commuters a universal, streamlined payment method for rides aboard trains, buses, and city bikes. How might what is often the most stressful time of day for commuters become the most relaxing? By scanning a wristband, swiping a card, or flashing a cell phone, commuters can move across the city with ease, and transportation agencies can monitor patterns of transit, promoting increased awareness and accountability.

Doggle addresses the hidden gap between people who love dogs but are unable to own them for a variety of reasons. Doggle connects over-worked humans in need of energizing breaks with shelter dogs in need of play, attention, and adoption. This mobile app-based dog-delivery service offers a new model for collaborative "dogsumption", providing emotional and health benefits to busy humans and their best friends.

Reconnect SF focuses on the pending danger of cities whose citizens are over-connected and out of touch with the physical and emotional world around them. A city-wide movement, ReconnectSF promotes healthy, selective disconnection from over-abundant technology through services such as mobile-device check-in stations in public places and key partnerships with transportation and entertainment authorities. Reconnect SF believes that creating time and space for authentic connection promotes empathy and safety among members of an urban community.

The Wishing Tree transforms public spaces into hubs of community impact when the branches of special wooden wishing trees are populated by hand-written wishes in plazas and public parks. Wishes are mapped onto virtual infrastructures, helping turn city residents' real needs into wishes-come-true. A smaller, portable Wishing Kit makes the power of wishing possible anywhere (available for purchase on Kickstarter soon!).

SquareFoot believes that people deserve an easier time finding a place to live. This site transforms the maddening apartment hunt into a human-centered process benefitting renters and landlords through an online marketplace and user generated profiles. Neighborhood, building, and landlord statistics accompany a secure portal for application and document exchange.

Urban Barn supplies urban food deserts with customized vending machines providing accessible healthy, take-home snacks and cook-at-home meals at affordable prices and redeemable food stamps. Combating the dearth of healthy whole foods in some American cities (even within the regions that grow them), Urban Barn machines in neighborhood corner stores will act as dispenser of whole foods, cooking tips, and nutrition information.

Teams received enthusiastic feedback and constructive suggestions from the guest judges - advice they will carry forward into their prototypes should they continue on as teams into the program's capstone Venture Studio class next spring. Having journeyed through the stages of design thinking and rapid prototyping to test and pitch their final ideas, students emerged with a toolkit of mindsets, practices, skills to use as emerging designers in observing the world them and searching constantly for the "real need."

The TechShop audience joined the students in cheers and roaring applause, with the understanding that this was not an end for these teams and ideas, but just a beginning. Upon reflection of the semester experience, one DMBA student captured it best, "Now that I understand what innovation is about, it's not just my job to do this work, it's my responsibility."

(Picture caption: Innovation Studio guests enthusiastically joined the student learning process at TechShop)

CCA's MBA in Design Strategy (DMBA) is a new business school focused on blending creative discovery and problem solving skills with the fundamental analytic elements of a graduate business degree ( Since it began six years ago, the program has doubled its student population and has been recognized as a leader in its field pioneering design-led business education.

Financial Illiteracy: One of Government's Biggest and Least-Discussed Problems

This article in Governing is exactly why we created an MBA in Public Policy Design (and not a more traditional Masters in Public Policy or Masters in Public Administration).

Financial Illiteracy: One of Government's Biggest and Least-Discussed Problems
Failure to understand financial outcomes is more dangerous to states and localities than ever, and there's a big gap between what public leaders know about finance and what they need to know.

Sparse and Yield in the New York Times today

Two companies started by CCA students and faculty made the New Your Times today, talking about how to best use crowd funding to launch new products:

Happy 2014--just in time!

The year has begun and, along with it, applications for our MBA programs are due in just two days. It seems fitting that David Brin writes today on Bloomberg about 2014 possibly being the true start to the Century. His supposition is that the 19th and 20th Centuries didn't really start until 14 years after their turn. If that's so then it's even better timing that our new Strategic Foresight MBA degree launches this year--just in time to think about and build new futures.

New MBA in Public Policy Design featured in Fast Company

Today, Fast Company's Co.Exist blog featured one of our two new MBA programs, including discussion from our new Associate Chair, Will Semmes, on the MBA in Public Policy Design.

DMBA at the California State Capital

This Thursday (Nov 21), program chair Nathan Shedroff and Associate Chair Will Semmes will host a meeting about the new MBA in Public Policy Design (as well as the other two DMBA programs), at the California State Capital. This program is designed for those who want to have an innovative impact on government, using design and systems thinking techniques.

Special Thanks to State Senator Mark Leno for sponsoring us.

Event Time: 5:00pm-6:00pm
Date: Thursday, November 21, 2013
Location: California State Capitol, Room 3191, Sacramento, CA 95814

Descriptions for all three programs:

See you there.

Reclamation Etchworks


Reclamation Etchworks creates modern day spirit decanters by upcycling bottles repurposed with laser etched designs.
The company not only has a great value proposition by aligning sustainability and design to create an environmental friendly product with an exclusive appeal, but it was also created by CCA students Ethan Terry and Tim Daw.

The initiative was first launched earlier this year on Kickstarter and is now operating full speed.

"We believe that sustainability doesn't have to compromise functionality nor deprive you of engaging aesthetics. Instead we've anchored ourselves to the concept by naming our future that is our company Reclamation Etchworks." Ethan and Tim


For more information check:

RealChange learning expedition with DMBA

On October 25, four teams of DMBA students had the opportunity to network and share their learning experiences with French business leaders. The event at CCA was organized between the DBMA program and the RealChange Network, a global consulting firm that curates learning expeditions on innovation and sustainability for business leaders from France. This recent expedition was in Northern California.

The group of top executives from high-growth businesses in the Pays de la Loire region of France spent two weeks visiting leading innovative companies in the Bay Area, such as Google, Autodesk, Cisco, GE Software, GreenBiz, TechShop, Indiegogo, Tesla and others. The highly successful interactive exercise with 13 students from cohort 5 was their final activity of the program before returning to France.

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In this interactive discussion, students from the Operations & Systems class presented challenges to an operational initiative for their client. The students and executives worked well together on possible recommendations and solutions.

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"We were sharing our experience with local businesses and they were sharing their perspective on how they would address the challenges. It was really fun and validating to have this experience, to have them challenge us and come up with solutions that actually make sense." Isaac Buwembo, C5

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"I am really impressed with the quality of the projects, but I am even more impressed with the level of the students' comprehension and how they create innovative solutions." Fabien Arignon, CEO, Sitia

"I think there is a natural empowerment process that happens when people get closer and get more connected. All of the prejudices tend to fall away and people meet each other on a much more human level. This is a celebration of human connections and what can come from them." Christian Forthomme, CEO, RealChange Network

Prometheus Lights: back on Kickstarter


DMBA graduate Jason Hui is back on Kickstarter with another successful project: Prometheus Lights, world's first quick release AAA keychain flashlight. After the success of Prometheus Writes, Jason focused on his core business, ultimate LED flashlight, and created Prometheus Beta-QR a hand crafted, high-end and affordable keychain flashlight.
Even though he is already 4 times over his goal, there are still 3 days left to support him. Please check the Kickstarter link:

We're one of the significant design events of the decade

We're honored to be mentioned in Fast Company's Decade in Design as one of the significant events from 2008 (when we started the MBA in Design Strategy program. Now that we have three MBA programs, we hope to make an even bigger impact this decade. Read more at:

The Zoo Labs in the San Francisco Chronicle

What if bands could grow with the same tools and tricks as tech companies?
That's the idea behind Zoo Labs Music Residency, co-founded by DMBA Cohort 1 alumni Anna Acquistapace and Vinitha Watson that was on the cover of the business session in the San Francisco Chronicle last week.

The initiative uses the start up spirit on an incubator for musicians providing an entrepreneurial atmosphere for artists. According to Watson "Musicians are entrepreneurs, and the more we can bring tools from the tech entrepreneur world to them, the more they can do."

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Two new MBA programs!

After six years of planning, running, and evolving the MBA in Design Strategy, we're on the move and launching, today, two new MBA programs (to add to our current program). The first Design MBA has been such a success that we're filling more opportunities we see out there. Like the first, these are business programs focused on leading innovation within a variety of organizations but these aim at two specialties.

MBA in Public Policy Design

The MBA in Public Policy Design trains innovators and leaders change government and large NGOs to make use of the best innovation tools, paired with the foremost techniques for creating policy. It's a more pragmatic and innovative take on the traditional masters in public policy or public administration. It will be based on the current MBA curriculum, with new courses in government and policy, as well as projects that focus in this area. It will, however, still be a design- and customer-focused approach to leading change within organizations.

MBA in Strategic Foresight

The MBA in Strategic Foresight combines foresight tools with pragmatic business tools, allowing leaders to better meet organizational needs in the future. Think of it as business- and government-ready pragmatic futurism.

Each of these new degrees are two-year program integrates design and experiential thinking, systems thinking, and sustainability as well as new directions in strategy and leadership. All three are now described on one page with more information available at each programs' page.

More information about the programs, including details of the curriculum will appear in the next couple weeks.

5 Years of the DMBA

This year marks the DMBA program's fifth anniversary. In fact, just last month, we started our sixth cohort of students!

Read about the Rise

Maria Giudice and Christopher Ireland's new book, Rise of the DEO, is finished and available for pre-order on Amazon. It's a fantastic account of creative leadership with great interviews and easy-to-follow suggestions for anyone to improve their creativity AND their leadership. Like our own program, it's not about design leaders but all kinds of business leaders who lead in a designerly way.

Maria teaches in the DMBA program and Christopher co-founded Mix & Stir, one of the few accelerators in the world that is design- and customer-focused. Together, they've distilled the essence of the creative future.

The book is only available for pre-order at the moment but you shouldn't wait until it's out. You;ll want to get it ASAP to jump start your own creative leadership.

Strategy and User Experience

Friend of the program, Sara Ortloff Khoury, just published an article on the strategy of user experience. She should know as she has shepherded user experience at for more than 6 years.

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