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College Preparation Program: IN FOCUS Seminar

Insight into Innovation and Design

This seminar introduces participants to the inner workings of the innovation process and how design is increasingly being employed as a method to fuel the development of new products, services and solutions to civic and social challenges. It will take a broad approach, contextualizing traditional and emerging design disciplines in the larger innovation process. By examining numerous factors, such as multiple stakeholder agendas, market readiness and user adoption, participants will develop an understanding of how a variety of constraints and drivers shape these practices. Chicago provides an ideal laboratory for our exploration, with a rich diversity of companies, social ventures, municipalities and consultancies seeking and delivering innovation across a broad spectrum of sectors. Furthermore, key thought leaders will be invited to interact with students and to provide valuable insight on the evolving role of design-driven innovation. Additional resources will include readings, guest speakers, field trips, discussions and collaborative, hands-on projects.

  • Dates: TBA
  • Instructor: Peter Nicholson, Founding Principal at Foresight Bright, LLC, Principal at Foresight Studio, and Executive Director, Foresight Design Initiative
  • Enrollment Capacity: 18 


The course will explore innovation and design from both a conceptual and practical level through academic oriented study and hands-on experience. The first week will provide a theoretical framework and exposure to the methodologies of practicing professionals through readings, discussions, field trips and guest speakers. Case studies will be presented by the people involved with them in order to learn about the otherwise hidden constraints, barriers and opportunities encountered in their development. Guests will also be encouraged to share about their training and career trajectories. The group will divide into smaller teams for the second half of the seminar to assimilate and apply what they've learned. With regular instructor and peer-based critiques, groups will navigate the challenges of working together to understand a need, design potential responses and refine a compelling and viable proposal. As with the case studies, projects will be drawn from diverse sectors (e.g. sustainable product/service design, social impact, policy innovation, etc.) and will include many of the same constraints faced by professional firms. Teams will devise and deliver engaging pitches of their solutions to one another and invited guests at a final presentation on the last day of the term. Participants will receive a comprehensive syllabus and accompanying resource guide at the start of the seminar and will connect with one another before, during and after the program through a private online social media group.


  • Provide a conceptual overview of leading methods for researching and developing novel products and solutions, and hands-on experience of design-driven innovation across diverse sectors. Key concepts include: visual sense making, user-centered design strategies, systems thinking, rapid prototyping, effective brainstorming, concept mapping, and communicating innovation.

  • Increase understanding of current and rising issues shaping the economic, social, and environmental context in which innovation is occurring.  These include sustainability-related factors, emerging business models, crowdsourcing, and the evolving relationships between government, business, and the social sectors.

  • Empower participants with leadership experience working in a collaborative environment toward common goals on challenging projects.

  • Develop greater knowledge about potential education, professional development and career paths in an innovation-related sector.



The seminar is appropriate for college-bound high school students with an abiding interest in design, innovation, as well as social impact, sustainability and entrepreneurship and a desire to explore them more deeply through multiple learning modes. While familiarity or experience with a design discipline is desirable, it is not required. The program is open to students from all backgrounds with an continuing interest in the topic and willingness to embrace new skills and areas of knowledge.

Resources and Materials

The seminar’s resource guide provides a diversity of materials including: reading list, bibliography of key texts, websites, online videos, organizations, terms and a variety of background articles. It is updated annually and provided to students at the beginning of the session. Throughout the program, students rotate through note taking and leadership roles and break into small groups to conduct facilitated discussions, the essence of which is reported back to the full class.