Splash of Color

The Secret Menu
3 min readOct 26, 2021

Earlier this year, Design Tech students and staff were invited to a ribbon cutting for a mural in Pacifica. The mural exists because of Lauren and Annie’s hard work on their innovation diploma project. You can read more about their project here

As part of our month long series reflecting on the relationship between the educational environment at Design Tech and our students’ work, this week we are focusing on our innovation diploma program.

Innovation Diploma Program: We have been piloting our innovation diploma program for the past two years. If you’ve read any of our previous posts you know that we believe design thinking teaches students important skills and also that design thinking needs a north star. The innovation diploma is our method for giving design thinking a north star. In this program students apply their design thinking skills toward addressing one of the sustainable development goals. Annie and Lauren, currently seniors at Design Tech, wanted to use art as environmental advocacy and the idea for the mural was launched in their junior year.

Innovation diploma projects are typically two year projects because we have an expectation that students will actually implement the idea they generate from their design thinking work. We learned early on that if students never take their ideas beyond low resolution prototypes they will eventually begin to view design thinking as a waste of time, which makes sense. If we position design thinking as this amazing tool for innovation and creative problem solving and then at the end of four years all students have are pictures of a bunch of post-it’s and cardboard prototypes, they start to question the process.

The innovation diploma program helped us solve this problem because now students can see the real world impact of design thinking. It is important to remember though that design thinking will not teach a student the skills for implementation. Lauren and Annie had to do things such as work with city council members and submit plans for approval by city managers. Design thinking will not teach students how to do this. While our innovation diploma program is rooted in creative problem solving, we also teach students less glamorous things, such as how to write an effective email. It’s important for students to realize that while important, an effective brainstorming session and a wall full of post-it’s will not change the world.

As we’ve begun to look at the data from our innovation diploma program it has been very interesting for us to note that the program has had a very positive impact on the entrepreneurial skills of the girls at our school. We have been motivated by the work of Van Reenen, Chetty, Jaravel, Petkova, and Bell who found that at the current rate it will take 118 years until women make up 50% of the inventors in the U.S. This is despite the fact the women now earn a higher percent of college degrees than men. When you put these statistics side by side it’s easy to conclude that there is something wrong with the education system in the U.S.

We’ll address this more directly in future posts, but right now we are celebrating Lauren and Annie’s amazing innovation diploma project.



The Secret Menu

A place to find all of the good stuff and wonder why these things aren’t on the main menu.