Dr. B. A. Altringer is based at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and the Graduate School of Design, and also a Faculty Associate of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society. Altringer runs the Desirability Lab and uses design and psychological research to help innovators 1) embed desirability into the product experiences they create, and 2) manage the inherent challenges of interdisciplinary creative work.

One stream of her research focuses on what makes some designs more desirable than others in terms of multi-sensory balance, emotional experience and cognitive experience. Another stream focuses on cognitive and interpersonal factors related to the most (and least) successful design and innovation projects. She has worked with hundreds of teams across a range of multinational companies and educational institutions, using both qualitative and quantitative methods to explore these questions, including: Piaggio Fast Forward, Harvard Innovation Lab, Stanford D-School, MIT, Berkman Center, Artscience Labs, Kering/Gucci Group/Puma, Swarovski, OneLeap, ARG Design/City of Cape Town, 2010 FIFA World Cup and others. She previously ran b4bi group, the Team Design Studio, and served as Interim Director of David Edwards’ Laboratory at Harvard before it evolved into Le Laboratoire Cambridge in Kendall Square.

Dr. Altringer is interested in practical ways that we can support more creative problem solvers to succeed more often – both in higher education and in industry. She regularly creates unique hands-on curriculum based on her research for undergraduate and graduate level courses. Examples include: Design Survivor: Experiential Lessons in Design for Desirability (spring) and The Innovators’ Practice: Finding, building and leading good ideas with others (fall). She also frequently creates winter and summer field courses such as Cultural Entrepreneurship in NYC (winter), Sustainable Design in Italy (summer), and Sustainable Design and the Rise of Digital Nomads in Indonesia (winter).

During her PhD at Cambridge University, visiting scholarship at Stanford and postdoctoral work at MIT, Altringer studied design teams and clients at IDEO and JWT across 11 countries spanning six continents, developing a model explaining team creative performance differences that was later implemented. Prior to the PhD, she studied architecture at the University of Cape Town focusing on sustainability, design and the FIFA 2010 World Cup preparations. This built on her previous research on design and major sporting events during a Fulbright Scholarship in Barcelona.

Link to SEAS Faculty Bio
List of publications, talks and experiential workshops
Link to project portfolio

Current Fellows

  • Laurie Delaney

    Laurie Delaney

    Research Fellow (Spring 2017) – Laurie became interested in design desirability through her work as a member of the market research team at Piaggio Fast Forward, a Boston startup focusing on autonomous mobility solutions for people and goods. She recently completed her master’s in political science from Northeastern University, where her research focused on innovative strategies for preventing genocides. In addition to her own research she worked with a Northeastern business professor on emerging markets and entrepreneurship in developing countries. Prior to that, she work in Rome, Italy as a TEFL teacher for members of the Italian military planning to go abroad to work with NATO forces. Having travelled to many countries and taught for many years she is passionate about connecting with people. Laurie is devoted to combining her interests in political science, travel and teaching with finding creative solutions to some of the most pressing problems in the world today.

  • Lilian Taylor

    Lilian Taylor

    Teaching & Research Fellow (Fall 2015 – present) – Lilian first realized her penchant for design as an undergraduate in Environmental Science. More drawn to the formal and psychological elements of space than the objective ones, she finished up her degree at Cornell University and transitioned into the world of architecture at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design. She now focuses on the ways in which research can facilitate cross-collaboration in design practice. When not hard at work in the studio or library, she can be found reading investigative nonfiction or exploring Massachusetts by bike.

  • Neal Adolph Akatsuka

    Neal Adolph Akatsuka

    Research Fellow (Summer ’16 – present) – Neal Adolph Akatsuka is a graduate student in Digital Media Design at the Harvard Extension School, focusing on user experience research and design. He holds a BA (University of Hawai’i at Manoa, 2010) and MA (Harvard University, 2013) in anthropology. As part of his anthropological training, he traveled to (and lived in) Japan, Australia, and across the US, working on funded ethnographic projects ranging from consumer perceptions of genetically modified crops to a local folk legend about the death of Jesus Christ in Japan. The results of his research were communicated in 2 invited international lectures, 8 national conference presentations, and 3 publications. In 2010, his writing was awarded the (National) William Whit Paper Prize by the Association for the Study of Food and Society. Outside of his studies, he supports the humanities at Harvard as the Coordinator of Publications and Programs at the Mahindra Humanities Center.

  • Ngoc Doan

    Ngoc Doan

    Teaching Fellow (Fall 2016 – present) – Ngoc is a graduate student in the Master in Design Engineering program. She holds a BA in Architecture from Yale University. Ngoc first found her passion for design in elementary school when she decided to create her own doll house using cardboard. Though she studied architecture, her interests also expand into the realm of graphic design, product design, fashion design, and sustainability. Currently, she is working on a project that promotes healthy eating habits while reducing food waste. Outside of her studies, Ngoc is an amateur photographer and she can also be found behind a sewing machine.

Link to Primary Projects
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