Course Information

Is Extreme the right course for you?  

This was my first exposure to the d.school process, and never before in my education have I had such open-­ended prompts and deliverables and such encouragement to be creative! The most appropriate summary is what Prof. Beach said to me when I first asked him about Extreme, “Extreme will change your life.”  You could say I’ve drunk the Kool-­Aid.
Annie Scalmanini, Earth Systems, Extreme 2012

Who are the Extremes?

  • Diverse Stanford graduate students from around the world
  • Extraordinary masters of their disciplines
  • Passionate individuals striving to change the world
  • Collaborative group members building upon each other’s knowledge
  • Committed academics ready to put Extreme above all else for six months
  • Humble students who listen to needs of the extreme poor
  • Adventurous souls prepared to explore new territories
  • Innovative creators yearning to unleash their potential
  • Download a pdf that lays out ideal characteristics of Extremes: 2014 Ideal Extreme Student


What happens before Extreme?
Every fall, we receive applications for the coming Extreme class (attending both winter and spring quarters are required).  We receive around 100 applications for 40 slots.  Applicants are selected based on their passion for the class, proclivity to make things and prior experience in addition to their discipline.  A typical Extreme class is 50/50 male/female, 25% business students, 25% engineering students and 50% from the remaining programs across campus.  Because we know the mix of projects provided by our partners, we may try to attract more students from specific departments to work on those projects.  For example, if we have a project involving architecture, we will look to admit several students with architecture backgrounds.

What happens during Extreme?
I came into Extreme with really high expectations. And I wasn't disappointed. It is a real gem of a learning experience, one that goes a long way towards validating my b-school expenses, since it's precisely the kind of work I'd like to do long-term. Knowing just how many hours I haven't slept for this class, I would still do it again next year if I could.
Ryan Takasugi, Graduate School of Business

Extreme is a full six month commitment to a rigorous learning experience.  Class is held every Monday and Wednesday 10am to noon and Thursday evenings 7-9pm throughout both semesters.  In addition to class time, Extremes spend numerous hours with their teams prototyping in the Product Realization Lab (PRL) MainLab or Room 36 (low res prototyping space in the Huang Engineering Center) and working in their team space in the d.school.  During spring break, representatives from each team travel to partner sites to do need finding and empathy building that will guide project development for Spring Quarter.

Winter Quarter
The winter quarter of the course immerses students in the fundamentals of design thinking. Topics include need finding, user empathy, rapid prototyping and iteration, and collaborative dynamics. Students learn the design process experientially, as they are coached through a number of fast-paced design projects, culminating in a real-world project with local partners. In parallel with these projects, the course gives students a background on design for the developing world, including economic, technological, and cultural considerations. Students are also introduced to the international partners with whom they will collaborate. By the middle of the quarter, students have formed teams and begun their international projects.

Over spring break, student representatives from each team travel to the project sites. While there, they explore the needs of their customers and make arrangements with their partners to collaborate over the spring quarter.

Spring Quarter
During the spring quarter, the course activities revolve entirely around the international projects. Teams gain empathy with all stakeholders in order to develop solutions that fit into the culture, aspirations, and constraints of their target customers. Teams will iterate on their designs and business models through a rapid sequence of prototypes, user tests, and design reviews. In parallel, students interact with experts and entrepreneurs who have launched ventures in the developing world, including several class alumni.

The final deliverable is a product or service framed in a comprehensive implementation plan including the business model, the technical innovations, the cultural rationale, and the appropriate next steps. The course culminates in a professional presentation to the partners and a panel of industry experts.

What happens after Extreme?
Although there is no requirement to continue the projects after the spring quarter, many students choose to push the projects forward beyond the class. This can take a variety of forms.

Funding and space for additional research and prototyping through the summer following the course is available through Social E Labs.  Some students visit their partners over the summer, where they help implement the ideas. This can involve transferring their ideas and methodology to their partners, testing their final ideas more thoroughly with customers, or helping their partners set up a functioning manufacturing unit.

Should the students wish to continue further development and prototyping after Social E Labs, additional support during the following academic year is available through SEED Design Lab.  Sometimes students decide that the best way to implement their ideas is to form their own organization. Several for-profit and not-for-profit organizations have launched out of the class to carry their ideas through to implementation.  

We are committed to helping students pursue their passions. A large, informal community of designers, industry experts, investors, legal counselors, and advocates has formed around the class, and has proved invaluable in helping students push their projects toward final implementation.  


If you are up for the challenge, we encourage you to apply.