Programs in the Nancy Richardson Design Center ignite design thinking across Northern Colorado

A person draws on a poster surrounded by a small group of people at a table
NoCO IgnitED participants met at the Nancy Richardson Design Center on October 1 to collaboratively implement design thinking strategies that will help influence future generations of entrepreneurs and philanthropists. Photo credit: Matt Gohl.

Story by Justin England

When the Nancy Richardson Design Center (RDC) opened its doors in January 2019, Colorado State University was introduced to a new interdisciplinary makerspace and curriculum to boost design thinking skills across all fields of study. Design thinking is a non-linear, iterative approach to problem solving that seeks to understand users, challenge assumptions, redefine problems, and create innovative solutions. After two years of operation, the RDC continues to advance design thinking initiatives to the University and Northern Colorado community with the help of local nonprofit organizations.

NoCO IgnitED at the Richardson Design Center

In early October, the OtterCares Foundation partnered with two local nonprofits—MindSpark and Colorado Succeeds—to host NoCO IgnitED, a two-day collaborative event to help expand innovative learning environments for K-12 students across Northern Colorado. OtterCares, the charitable giving arm of the case manufacturer OtterBox, was founded in 2009 by Nancy Richardson with the goal of instilling entrepreneurial and philanthropic mindsets to younger generations. The RDC is named for Richardson, a 1982 CSU interior design alumna who is also co-founder of OtterBox.

With the help of educators, OtterCares created NoCO IgnitED in 2019 after extensive research helped identify gaps within entrepreneurial education. Tricia Vincent, senior program and grants director for the OtterCares Foundation explained, “One of the biggest concerns was the need for a stronger network between educators and the business community, but also educators who can learn from each other. We really want to help foster a network of shared resources that are centered around entrepreneurship and design thinking.”

Educators, administrators, and industry professionals met at the RDC for the second day of NoCO IgnitED to learn how to best implement solutions identified from prior on-site visits. Throughout the day, participants engaged in various workshops to share first-hand experiences and access design thinking tools to implement their own ideas. In doing so, members were provided the opportunity to think outside the box and apply a relevant, actionable solution on-site to take back to the classroom.

“We were very excited to host NoCO IgnitED at the Nancy Richardson Design Center to provide educators an opportunity to learn from the framework and mindset that design thinking offers,” said Vincent.  “For OtterCares, design thinking is such an integral part of entrepreneurship and the RDC helped make the connection.”

The Nancy Richardson Design Center is an interdisciplinary program in CSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences.