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Devin D. Thorpe
Devin Thorpe

Inspired By Brother’s Death, Stanford Grad Uses Human-Centered Design To Change World


Durell Coleman wanted to be an inventor since he was a young child. His brother, five years his senior, died from cancer after graduating from high school. Before he did, he challenged his younger brother to make cancer treatments better. That request was seared into Durell’s memory and changed the direction of his life.

Today, the two-time Stanford grad combines his passion for invention with the spirit of his brother’s challenge. He employs human-centered design skills to develop processes, system and technology that improve people’s lives. Watch the full interview in the player at the top of this article.

Interview with Durell Coleman, the Founder and CEO of DC Design.

The following is the pre-interview with Durell Coleman. Be sure to watch the recorded interview above.

What is the problem you solve and how do you solve it?

We design services, systems, products, processes, and experiences that better improve outcomes for those who have not been well designed for. In Design the Future, we are solving a few different problems.

  1. We’re teaching young adults the “How” behind changing the world by teaching them how to make a direct impact on the life of one person.
  2. We’re showing young adults that there are issues they can direct their energies toward that go beyond the innovations of Instagram, Facebook, snapchat and laundry apps that help those who are well-off do their laundry without interacting with those who aren’t. In other words, that there are big issues all around them that really affect people’s quality of life that they can get involved with.
  3. We’re breaking down barriers across difference, in particular between those with disabilities and those without them. We’re teaching young adults to engage with things that are uncomfortable and how to navigate difficult conversations.
  4. Groups of high school students are creating real products that directly improve the quality of life of their project partners in a lasting and meaningful way. Many of the projects the students have worked on have gone on to be directly implementable and used over the longterm by those they were designed for.
  5. We’re bringing this education to students who normally wouldn’t be able to experience it by offering scholarships and actively recruiting students from different backgrounds. That means we recruit students from underrepresented racial backgrounds, students of different ability levels with both sighted students and those with visual impairment, mix socioeconomic levels, skill sets, and have a greater number of girls in this STEM program than boys.

Design the Future:  designthefuture.dcdesignltd.com

More about DC Design:

Twitter: @dcdesignltd

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/dcdesignltd/

Website: dcdesignltd.com

DC Design is a social impact design firm. We use human centered design to help solve the world’s biggest problems. Our work includes redesigning aspects of the foster care system in Silicon Valley, partnering with governments to develop and implement strategies for reducing jail recidivism, consulting architects, physicians and nurses on designing optimal emergency departments, and developing award winning educational programs to address challenges around physical disability. Our specialty is in multi-stakeholder design, which involves understanding the needs of diverse groups of people, finding key points of agreement, and identifying opportunities to create novel solutions to the challenges those stakeholders face. Our consulting services, educational design workshops, and products are aimed at creating a lasting positive impact on society and helping others do the same.

For-profit/Nonprofit: For-profit

Revenue model: Design Consulting Services – Strategy, Service Design, App Design, Product Design.

Design the Future – Charge students

Scale: Our core team consists of 5 people. Our work has focused on impacts for populations of various size ranging from 1 person when designing for an individual with a disability to 1.9 million when designing for the criminal justice system of a government. For Design the Future, our team scales up to 25 paid contractors and employees. This year 85 high school students will produce 17 different products that impact the lives of 17 different individuals with physical disabilities.

Durell Coleman

Durell Coleman’s bio:

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/durellcoleman/

Durell Coleman is the founder of DC Design, a social impact design firm that uses the design thinking process to address the world’s biggest problems. In his journey as a designer, Durell has collaborated with international non-profits, large tech companies, and small businesses to create products and services that solve the problems they face. Trained in mechanical engineering (B.S) and sustainable design (M.S.), he is a two-time alumnus of Stanford University and its famous Institute of Design (the Stanford d.school). He partners with diverse clients to help them successfully overcome challenges and capitalize on the opportunities before them. His clients include governments, foundations and nonprofits working to address challenges in the criminal justice and foster care systems, Syrian refugees designing solutions to challenges in refugee camps, students at Stanford University designing a more inclusive campus, and corporate executives from Sony, Oracle, and Santander. He is an expert in multi-stakeholder, human-centered design and is one of the subjects of the PBS documentary: “Extreme by Design,” which is used as a design thinking teaching aid all over the world.


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Devin is a journalist, author and corporate social responsibility speaker who calls himself a champion of social good. With a goal to help solve some of the world’s biggest problems by 2045, he focuses on telling the stories of those who are leading the way! Learn more at DevinThorpe.com!

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