Design & Prototyping

with Devika Patel and Natalie Griffen

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University Resources

Take advantage of your school’s ability to fund and organize

Devika Patel

Co-founder of Orenda, Stanford Student, Product Designer

Natalie Griffen

Designer, Incessant Doodler, Coffee Lover

Lessons Learned

Working in an unfamiliar environment expands your design abilities and senses.

Prototype your product at a studio where many people filter in and out.

Use grants for "academic research," and, from there, you can stem off into creating your business.


Lesson: Design & Prototyping with Devika Patel & Natalie Griffen

Step #6 University Resources: Take advantage of your school’s ability to fund and organize

If you need funding as a Stanford student, there are a lot of opportunities for grants but they are a little bit limited in the sense of what you can use them for. You can't use them to start a business for example but you can use them for some academic research that maybe eventually leads to something that becomes a business.

For example, my sophomore year, I applied for the Chappell-Lougee grant for $6,000, which was awesome because I did not have that money for myself and used that to go to the U.K. to study shoe design because I was interested in that.

So the funds were there for interested students for academic research and then from there, you can develop your ideas. And then, in terms of creating something that you're going to sell to people, I found crowdfunding to be an extremely lucrative way of doing that.

What prompted me to spend my summer abroad between my sophomore and junior years was sort of an itch to go somewhere else and do something that wasn't normal, I guess because maybe one of my greatest fears is to be normal. So I decided that I wanted to go to London to study shoe design, and so in order to get myself there, I applied for the Chappell-Lougee grant and got that, and then flew over there. And it was really an eye opening experience because it was entirely different than any internship that I could have applied for.

It was a lot of hands-on work. I worked in a sweat shop, I made shoes by hand, it was really difficult, and it was really different. It was just an environment that was completely unfamiliar and completely new to me. And so from that, I think that I expanded my maybe, design sense and just like my street smarts in general, I was living on my own, to something that helped me work in the way that I do now. So it helped me, I think, as a full person instead of just with the very niche job position.

I think that any program abroad provides that person with a total new sense of themself because it takes you completely out of context and puts you in a very unfamiliar environment. I think that my experience in London was even richer because I was totally by myself. So there was no, I guess, Stanford cradle for me or anything like that because I also went abroad to Chile and that was with Stanford. Although that was very eye opening in its own way, it was a little bit different, just in the sense that I felt like I knew London better because I had to navigate it myself.

It makes you a little bit more self-sufficient in a way that perhaps you don't really get to be when you're coddled in any sense of the word. I think it opens your perspective into something entirely new.

For the prototyping that we did for the Duo, which I, in a sense, almost co-founded. It was more Jake's idea. Jake is a graduate of the Stanford Business School and he brought me on as the head designer, so I was working with him throughout the entirety of the project. It was he, myself, and a bunch of designers at Enlisted, which is a design firm in Oakland.

But when we weren't at Enlisted, which was far off campus in Oakland, we worked a lot at the Venture Studio, which was on Stanford Business School campus. It was a pretty good space to work. Jake had already reserved a table that was just for us and for what we were working on and it was a very good place to quickly prototype things because there were a lot of students filtering in and out. And so it was just fairly easy to get quick feedback to point at a picture and be like, “Do you like this?” If it was no, then okay, rip it down and do something else.

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