Beth Altringer

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Award-winning Designer and Expert on Combining Design, Technology and Behavioral Science to Create Innovative Products, Services and Experiences; Unrivaled Authority on Innovation Leadership, Product Desirability and Outside-the-Box Design Thinking; Founder, The Desirability Lab; Professor, Harvard University

Biography

Why do we desire certain objects or experiences more than others?

World-class design practitioner, researcher and Harvard University Professor Beth Altringer has dedicated her life’s work to answering that question in the most imaginative ways possible. With unique expertise at the intersection of design, behavioral psychology and technology, she has examined “what people like and why” for more than 20 years, helping designers, marketers and companies create signature products, services and experiences that elevate and differentiate their brands.

When it comes to infusing design thinking with advanced behavioral research, Altringer is an unrivaled authority and a highly sought-after consultant. She has worked closely with global powerhouses such as Gucci, Swarovski, Puma, Diageo, Piaggio, IKEA, Daikin, Disney, Apple and Google, and top design firms like IDEO and J. Walter Thompson Intelligence (JWT), helping them develop trademark offerings – physical and digital – that become wildly popular among consumers. At Harvard, she specializes in creating unique hands-on curricula that help students translate psychological concepts like “anxiety reduction” into product and service design.

Designers need to be educated with a lot of what we know from social and organizational psychology,” says Altringer. “If you just create your product and don’t engage with the complexity of interpersonal challenges, then your product doesn’t go anywhere.”

Artificial Intelligence, Sustainability and the Future of Work

Altringer is founder of Harvard’s Desirability Lab, a resource and learning center focused on quantifying design desirability. Her courses, which are in high demand, cover topics like need-finding, creative problem solving, design leadership and human-centered design processes, as well as technologies like interface design, UX/UI, strategy, learning design and game design. She also teaches immersive short courses in wearable technology, sustainable design, cultural entrepreneurship, sensory design and the future of work.

As a cross-disciplinary design thinker and innovator, Altringer has an impressive track record, particularly when it comes to disrupting an industry or furthering a mission. She helped develop the 2025 strategy for Kering, the conglomerate that owns Gucci, Saint Laurent, Bottega Veneta, Balenciaga, Alexander McQueen, Stella McCartney and other brands. Part of that work involved creating the first ever environmental profit and loss statement (EP&L), which won a number of global awards and led to Kering being named one of the 10 most sustainable companies in the world by the World Economic Forum. She was also part of the team that invented Piaggio’s multi-award winning Gita personal cargo robot. And in 2019, her design studio launched an interactive iOS app called Chef League which helps novices understand and experiment with flavors like expert chefs. She says such AI-powered teaching tools set the stage for more stimulating and personalized educational products in the future.

Altringer exudes an infectious passion when consulting, speaking or collaborating. Her teachings offer organizations a powerful opportunity to leverage every tool in the design and innovation toolbox so they can disrupt their industries and create memorable products and experiences that leave an indelible mark.

# # #

Beth Altringer is a design and innovation professor at Harvard University. She was named to the 2018 Thinkers50 Radar list of management thinkers most likely to shape the future of how organizations are managed and led. Part of the core team that created Harvard University’s first dual engineering (MS) and MBA degree in 2016, she was recognized as one of Harvard’s top 15 professors that same year.

Altringer boasts a wunderkind academic resume. A designer by background, she earned a master’s degree in architecture from University of Cape Town, a doctorate from Cambridge University in behavioral science of design, a visiting scholarship in human computer interaction at Stanford, degrees in psychology and economics, a Fulbright fellowship in design, and a postdoctoral fellowship in design at MIT. She furthered her education by studying around the world, spending years honing what she believes are the qualities of an effective cross-disciplinary designer. Altringer has also worked on a number of global sustainability and innovation projects – mostly in consumer products, fashion and urban design and development – in Chile, the Czech Republic, South Africa, Spain, France, Italy, the U.K., and the U.S.

Beth Altringer is available to advise your organization via virtual and in-person consulting meetings, interactive workshops and customized keynotes through the exclusive representation of Stern Speakers, a division of Stern Strategy Group®.

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A-Z Name

Altringer, Beth

Biography

Why do we desire certain objects or experiences more than others?

World-class design practitioner, researcher and Harvard University Professor Beth Altringer has dedicated her life’s work to answering that question in the most imaginative ways possible. With unique expertise at the intersection of design, behavioral psychology and technology, she has examined “what people like and why” for more than 20 years, helping designers, marketers and companies create signature products, services and experiences that elevate and differentiate their brands.

When it comes to infusing design thinking with advanced behavioral research, Altringer is an unrivaled authority and a highly sought-after consultant. She has worked closely with global powerhouses such as Gucci, Swarovski, Puma, Diageo, Piaggio, IKEA, Daikin, Disney, Apple and Google, and top design firms like IDEO and J. Walter Thompson Intelligence (JWT), helping them develop trademark offerings – physical and digital – that become wildly popular among consumers. At Harvard, she specializes in creating unique hands-on curricula that help students translate psychological concepts like “anxiety reduction” into product and service design.

Designers need to be educated with a lot of what we know from social and organizational psychology,” says Altringer. “If you just create your product and don’t engage with the complexity of interpersonal challenges, then your product doesn’t go anywhere.”

Artificial Intelligence, Sustainability and the Future of Work

Altringer is founder of Harvard’s Desirability Lab, a resource and learning center focused on quantifying design desirability. Her courses, which are in high demand, cover topics like need-finding, creative problem solving, design leadership and human-centered design processes, as well as technologies like interface design, UX/UI, strategy, learning design and game design. She also teaches immersive short courses in wearable technology, sustainable design, cultural entrepreneurship, sensory design and the future of work.

As a cross-disciplinary design thinker and innovator, Altringer has an impressive track record, particularly when it comes to disrupting an industry or furthering a mission. She helped develop the 2025 strategy for Kering, the conglomerate that owns Gucci, Saint Laurent, Bottega Veneta, Balenciaga, Alexander McQueen, Stella McCartney and other brands. Part of that work involved creating the first ever environmental profit and loss statement (EP&L), which won a number of global awards and led to Kering being named one of the 10 most sustainable companies in the world by the World Economic Forum. She was also part of the team that invented Piaggio’s multi-award winning Gita personal cargo robot. And in 2019, her design studio launched an interactive iOS app called Chef League which helps novices understand and experiment with flavors like expert chefs. She says such AI-powered teaching tools set the stage for more stimulating and personalized educational products in the future.

Altringer exudes an infectious passion when consulting, speaking or collaborating. Her teachings offer organizations a powerful opportunity to leverage every tool in the design and innovation toolbox so they can disrupt their industries and create memorable products and experiences that leave an indelible mark.

# # #

Beth Altringer is a design and innovation professor at Harvard University. She was named to the 2018 Thinkers50 Radar list of management thinkers most likely to shape the future of how organizations are managed and led. Part of the core team that created Harvard University’s first dual engineering (MS) and MBA degree in 2016, she was recognized as one of Harvard’s top 15 professors that same year.

Altringer boasts a wunderkind academic resume. A designer by background, she earned a master’s degree in architecture from University of Cape Town, a doctorate from Cambridge University in behavioral science of design, a visiting scholarship in human computer interaction at Stanford, degrees in psychology and economics, a Fulbright fellowship in design, and a postdoctoral fellowship in design at MIT. She furthered her education by studying around the world, spending years honing what she believes are the qualities of an effective cross-disciplinary designer. Altringer has also worked on a number of global sustainability and innovation projects – mostly in consumer products, fashion and urban design and development – in Chile, the Czech Republic, South Africa, Spain, France, Italy, the U.K., and the U.S.

Beth Altringer is available to advise your organization via virtual and in-person consulting meetings, interactive workshops and customized keynotes through the exclusive representation of Stern Speakers, a division of Stern Strategy Group®.

Speech Topics

Beyond Design Thinking Methods: Innovation Projects as Motivational Systems

Most people think of innovation projects as idea development processes. Harvard University Professor Beth Altringer’s research shows that these projects are also complex individual and social motivational processes. In this talk, Professor Altringer outlines the research The Desirability Lab is doing around systematic innovation performance differences in IDEO and Fortune 500 innovation projects. She also shares the motivational model for innovation success and related teaching materials that she and her team developed.

Creative Conflict and Diversity: Harnessing the Benefits of Functional Diversity Through Constructive Controversy

Multidisciplinary teamwork is becoming standard practice in engineering and design professions. Professionals and students are expected to work in teams of people from different specialties. While diversity presents opportunities and has been linked to more successful projects, it also increases the likelihood of relationship conflicts. In this presentation, Harvard University Professor Beth Altringer discusses her lab’s research on the effects of different types of diversity on innovation, educational and professional projects.

Human-Product Interaction

Human-product interaction refers to the cognitive and emotional associations we have with various items, and how this affects consumer decision making. Understanding human-product interaction is essential to good design. Designing things for people – whether buildings or music or TV shows or food experiences – has always involved trying to guess what people want and attempting to create things they’ll appraise as valuable. With the rise in the enthusiasm for user-centered-design, product design researchers are trying to understand the complexity of the relationship between users and products. This requires more thoughtful design and an understanding of psychology. Harvard University Professor Beth Altringer’s lab is currently studying patterns and themes from 2,500+ design reviews to better understand how products and services add delight and/or reduce stress and align with a user’s values. In this talk, she shares the fascinating findings of that research.

Technology That Helps Us Better Understand Ourselves

Harvard University Professor Beth Altringer’s Desirability Lab is researching how people develop product “fluency,” or the ability to recognize and articulate what they like and dislike about the products and services they use. Professor Altringer’s goal is to one day make it easier for people to become more fluent in designing experiences that add delight or reduce stress in their lives. Because of their frequency and accessibility, her lab has been studying flavor products. Their Flavor Fluency research helped inspire a mobile flavor fluency “chef school” called Chef League, that was the first of its kind in the iOS App Store. In this presentation, Professor Altringer explains how the flavor fluency model can help develop fluency in other product domains so users can better describe the nuances around what makes a product or experience more desirable or meaningful.

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Workshops

Designing experiences – whether physical or digital products, services, apps or live events – requires customization that takes both company strategy and the context of user experience into account. Harvard University Professor Beth Altringer, who leverages her background as a leading practitioner and educator, combines the fields of behavioral science and product design. Her hands-on workshops help companies learn hidden ways that consumer expectations are changing and demonstrate powerful new tools developed in her lab that can help them realize new and improved ventures. Over the past 10 years, she has created 100+ custom modules that extend the value of her presentations for clients and students. Her interactive workshops are designed to push entrepreneurs, experience designers and business leaders at ambitious startups and large organizations to realize new and improved experiences for their customers. In the process she covers topics like need-finding, creative problem solving, design leadership, and human-centered design processes, as well as technologies like interface design, UX/UI, strategy, learning design, and game design. She also offers shorter immersive workshops on wearable technology, sustainable design, cultural entrepreneurship, sensory design and the future of work.

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