Design Thinking for the Greater Good: A Free Online Course from the University of Virginia

Design Thinking for the Greater Good: Innovation in the Social Sector shows how and why human-centered design is a powerful tool. Offered by the Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia, the course lets students “view design thinking success stories from around the world, in areas as diverse as government, health care, and education.” Throughout the course, students will “learn the tools, techniques and mindset needed to use design thinking to uncover new and creative solutions in the social sector.”

You can take Design Thinking for the Greater Good for free by selecting the audit option upon enrolling. If you want to take the course for a certificate, you will need to pay a fee.

Design Thinking for the Greater Good has been added to our list of Free Business Courses, a subset of our collection, 1,700 Free Online Courses from Top Universities.

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Startup School: Take YCombinator’s Free Online Course for Current & Aspiring Entrepreneurs

If you’re working on a startup, take note. YCombinator–a well-known Silicon Valley accelerator–has created Startup School, a free online program for entrepreneurs. The school has a track for current startup founders, and another one for aspiring/eventual founders. In each case, the school strives to offer the best lessons and advice on how to start a startup, while building “a community of entrepreneurs who can encourage, teach and support one another.” Startup School is completely free. You just need a device with access to the internet. View the curriculum here. (Topics include everything from “How to Get Start Up Ideas” and “How to Pitch a Startup,” to “How to Find the Right Co-Founder” and “How to Split Equity.”) And sign up here.

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Ray Dalio & Adam Grant Launch Free Online Personality Assessment to Help You Understand Yourself (and Others Understand You)

Back in 2017, Ray Dalio published Principles: Life and Work, a bestselling book where the creator of the world’s largest hedge fund shared “the unconventional principles that he’s developed, refined, and used over the past forty years to create unique results in both life and business.” You can find a distilled version of those unconventional principles in a 30-minute animation video previously featured on our site.

To accompany his book, Dalio has now released, along with University of Pennsylvania organizational psychologist Adam Grant, a free personality assessment tool called PrinciplesYou. The assessment takes about 30 to 40 minutes to complete, and we would strongly encourage you to sign up for an account before you get started, so that you can save the results of the assessment afterwards. Otherwise you will lose the results.




According to psychologist Brian Little, “PrinciplesYou was developed over a two-year intensive and creative R&D process with two goals in mind. First, it measures traits that Ray Dalio and his team have observed and studied for many years as critical for personal and organizational success. Second, it is based on the latest research in personality science. The assessment provides a person’s score on a comprehensive set of traits, their underlying facets and interactive patterns, and it has high reliability, internal structure, re-test reliability and validity of these traits and facets. A distinctive strength is its ability to predict an extraordinary array of actual behaviors observed by the Bridgewater staff over many years.”

Adam Grant adds: “To achieve success, you need to know yourself and the people around you. Although your car comes with an owner’s manual, your mind doesn’t—and neither do your colleagues. We designed PrinciplesYou to help you gain the self-awareness and other-awareness that are critical to making good decisions, getting things done, and turning a group of coworkers into a great team.”

You can watch Grant and Dalio discuss PrinciplesYou above. You can listen to Grant feature Dalio’s insights on his Work Life podcast here. And finally you can start the free personality assessment here.

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IKEA Digitizes & Puts Online 70 Years of Its Catalogs: Explore the Designs of the Swedish Furniture Giant

The timeless modernism of the IKEA catalog, its promise of tidiness, clean, economical lines, and excellent value belie a struggle ahead, an ordeal customers of the global Swedish build-it-yourself juggernaut know too well. Will the bulky, majorly-inconveniently shaped boxes fit in the car? Will the rebus-like instructions make sense? Will we assemble a bed with love and care, only to find ourselves in a pile of its broken parts come morning?

Clearly outweighing such tragedies are the many happy memories we associate with buying, building, and living with IKEA products. The company itself has built such memories over the course of almost eight decades with an empire of Scandinavian design supermarkets.




“As of 2019,” Marie Patino writes at CityLab, “IKEA boasts 433 stores across 53 countries.” The IKEA catalog is as widely circulated as the Bible and Quran. The Swedish company with the quirkily named products and legendary cafeteria meatballs defines furniture shopping.

The layout of IKEA’s showrooms may turn “retail into retail therapy,” with corridors filled with monochromatic visions of clutter-free living. In these times, of course, we’re far more likely to take refuge in those venerable catalogs or the company’s always-improving website. Now we can do both at once with a trip through seven decades of IKEA catalogs, uploaded to the website for the 70th anniversary of the first 1950 release.

1951 “marked the first proper IKEA catalog,” writes Patino, as well as the first iconic cover featuring the first iconic design, the MK wing chair. Covers became more elaborate, with smooth mid-century modern living room layouts that tantalized, but the contents of the catalog looked like government order forms until the late 60s and 70s. It did not appear in English until 1985. In these early layouts we can see just how dated so many of these designs appear in hindsight.

The company’s signature business model came together slowly at first. It started in 1943, founded by Ingvar Kamprad in Sweden, as a mail-order business for stationary supplies. The furniture arrived soon after, but it would take another decade or so for the flat-pack idea to fully emerge. The BILLY bookshelf, perhaps the most popular IKEA design ever, debuted in 1979. Other staples followed, and in 2013, the original wingback chair made a modified comeback as the STRANDMON. Through it all, the catalog has documented Swedish design trends in a global marketplace.,

The 21st century has seen not only the return of the wingback but of the mid-century Scandinavian modernism with which the company made its name in the 1950s and 60s. Maybe that’s why it’s easy to think of IKEA as consistently embodying this trend, slightly updated every few years. But browsing through these catalogs shows how thoroughly IKEA absorbed all sorts of European influences—as well as the look of hotel room furniture from Miami Vice.

What kind of therapy is this? Gazing at dated or retro-hip products we are years too late to buy? It offers the same experience as all IKEA catalog shopping—without the struggle and expense of transporting and assembling the results: the distraction of a world without distractions. Explore the new archive of IKEA catalogs here.

via Bloomberg and Kottke

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

The Massive Harrods Catalogue from 1912 Gets Digitized: Before Amazon, Harrods Offered “Everything for Everyone, Everywhere”

A couple years ago, obituaries began appearing online for the department store Sears after the 130-year-old American company announced its bankruptcy. Many of the tributes focused on Sears, Roebuck & Co’s catalog, and for good reason. Their massive mail-order business, the Amazon of its day, transformed the U.S., selling guitars to Delta blues and rock and roll musicians and shipping thousands of build-it-yourself houses to rural homesteaders and suburbanites. The sheer reach and scope of the Sears’ catalog can seem overwhelming…. That is, until we turn to the 1912 Harrods for Everything.

This 1,525-page catalogue from London’s world-famous department store, Harrods, does seem to mean everything, with over 15,000 products available for purchase at the store’s location, by mail, or by phone (“anything, at any time, day or night”).




You can see the enormous monument to commerce for yourself at Project Gutenberg. The catalogue took 13 years to scan. “Some idea of the vast quantity of items that Harrods stocked or had available can be taken from the general index,” notes Eric Hutton, one of the volunteer editors on the project, “which runs for 68 pages, five columns to a page.”

Men and women could order custom-tailored clothing, fine jewelry, clocks, watches, furniture. Naturalists and hunters could have their trophies dressed and mounted. Policemen and, well, anyone, could order pistols, “knuckle dusters,” and handcuffs. “You could also hire bands or musicians, plus tents or marquees for outdoor gatherings. You could rent steam, electric, or petrol launches to go down a river, or, if you set your sights further afield, there were ‘exploring, scientific and shooting expeditions… completely equipped and provisioned for any part of the world”… perhaps the Edwardian British version of the Sears House.

A MetaFilter user points out how much globalization and empire play into the marketing. These are “not just luxury goods but commodities. I noticed wheat could come from at least three continents…. Over and over it explains how Harrods will outfit anyone abroad who needs a social or military or exploratory uniform: telegraph Harrods for shoe buckles appropriate to your stations.” Harrods also repeatedly emphasizes they will ship anywhere in the world. Colonial officials in India or Uganda could live like kings. We must confess, we doubt this merchandise was truly meant for everyone.

This was also a time when miracle cures and various unscientific treatments abounded. “You could buy things like chloroform or throat pastilles in dozens of varieties,” notes Hutton, “even those containing cocaine!”

A few of the commodities featured in Harrods for Everything are a lot harder to come by these days. Some of them, like the pages of guns, are easy to get in the US but not so readily available in the UK and many of its former colonies. (Though you can find catalogues for just about anything if you look hard enough.)

But aside from certain obvious historical differences, the catalogue isn’t that much different from the pages of online retailers who will also sell you almost anything, at any time of day, and ship it to you anywhere in the world. What we thought of as unprecedented innovation was commonplace in the days of Queen Victoria, only shipping took a lot longer. Harrods’ universalizing Latin motto even sounds particularly modern, in English, at least: Omnia Omnibus Ubique, or “everything for everyone, everywhere.” Yet much, too, has changed. Harrods, outfitter of the British Empire, is now owned by the state of Qatar.

See the fully scanned 1,525-page Harrods for Everything catalogue at Project Gutenberg.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

10 Rules of Self Discipline from the 1930 Self Help/Business Guru Napoleon Hill

It seems ridiculous to refer to the Golden Rule as a “weapon,” but that is just what it is—a weapon that no resistance on earth can withstand! —Napoleon Hill

Napoleon Hillwhose early books The Law of Success (1928), The Magic Ladder To Success (1930), and Think and Grow Rich (1937) helped establish the self-help genrewould be considered a life coach or motivational speaker in today’s parlance.

And were he alive today, he’d likely he’d be facing charges, or at the very least, cancelled for some of the behaviors, schemes, and whoppers Matt Novak details in an exhaustively researched essay for Gizmodo’s Paleofuture blog.




We think it’s important to tip you off to that shady side, because Hill’s “10 Rules for Profitable Self Discipline,” above, are so sunny, they could spur you to disseminate them immediately, leaving you vulnerable to harsh words from better informed friends and, more crucially, social media followers, who are already het up about any number of things in this election year, and who enjoy the catharsis a good call out affords.

Ergo, if you’re inclined to share, investigate the well from which they sprung, and then decide whether or not you want to proceed.

Why did we proceed?

Because practiced with the purest of intentions, these rules constitute extremely humanistic advice from a man whose outward philosophy continues to be a touchstone for many in the business community.

And as evidenced by the comments left by grateful YouTube viewers, many of whom stumbled across his words by accident, people are thirsty for such explicitly positive guideposts to interpersonal dealings.

(A good number also seem quite taken with the Virginia native’s old timey speech patterns and vintage lingo.)

If nothing else, applying these rules could sweeten your next argument with someone you love, or serve as inspiration if you’re ever called upon to give a commencement speech:

Napoleon Hill’s 10 Rules for Profitable Self Discipline

  1. Keep a cool head around hot heads. Rage doesn’t have to be contagious,.
  2. Believe that there are three sides to every argument. If you’re in a dust-up, don’t assume that the fault lays with the other person, but rather that you both shoulder a portion of the blame. This is a pretty compassionate way of ensuring that everyone’s ass will be partially covered for both better and worse.
  3. Never give directives to a subordinate when you are angry. Given that swift and decisive action is often required of those in leadership positions, you’ll have to learn to ice your own hot head pretty quickly to put this one into consistent play.
  4. Treat everyone as if they were a rich relative who might leave you a sizable inheritance. Which is kind of a gross way of putting it, but otherwise, we agree with Napoleon Hill that treating others with respect and loving attention is a real “honey” of a concept, especially if the other person can offer little beyond their friendship.
  5. When you find yourself in an unpleasant circumstance, immediately start searching for the seed of an equivalent benefit within the experience. If Novak’s Gizmodo essay is any indication, Hill probably had a lot of opportunity to put this one into practice, squeezing lemonade from lemons of his own making.
  6. Ask questions and listen to the answer. If you find yourself inclined to disagree with a statement, employ the phrase, “How do you know?” to get the speaker to do all the heavy lifting. For example, Napoleon Hill might say to Matt Novak, “How do you know?” which would be Matt Novak’s cue to produce a mountain of documentation.
  7. Never say or do anything before thinking if it will benefit someone or hurt them. The goal is to refrain from hurting others. Let those of us are without sin cast the first stone here. Hill’s karmic spin on this rule is that any injuries you cause that don’t immediately come around to bite you in the ass, will bite you in the ass much harder at some future point, a la compound interest.
  8. Learn the difference between friendly analysis and unfriendly criticisms. His not entirely foolproof method for distinguishing intent is to consider the nature of your relationship with the one offering the observations, their tone of voice, manner of delivery, and somewhat quaintly, whether or not they throw in any epithets. If it’s friendly, you can set some store by it. Otherwise, disregard.
  9. A good leader knows how to take orders cheerfully. This pairs nicely with Rule Number 3, don’t you think?
  10. Be tolerant of your fellow humans. Always.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Join Ayun’s company Theater of the Apes in New York City  for her book-based variety series, Necromancers of the Public Domain, and the world premiere of Greg Kotis’ new musical, I AM NOBODY (March 5 – 28) Follow her @AyunHalliday.

A Map of the Disney Entertainment Empire Reveals the Deep Connections Between Its Movies, Its Merchandise, Disneyland & More (1967)

We all remember the first Disney movie we ever saw. In most of our childhoods, one Disney movie led to another, which stoked in us the desire for Disney toys, Disney games, Disney comics, Disney music, and so on. If we were lucky, we might also take a trip to Disneyland or one of its descendants elsewhere in the world. Many of us spent the bulk of our youngest years as happy residents of the Disney entertainment empire; some of us, into adulthood or even old age, remain there still.

Die-hard Disney fans appreciate that the world of Disney — comprising not just films and theme parks but television shows, printed matter, attractions on the internet, and merchandise of nearly every kind — is too vast ever to comprehend, let alone fully explore.




It was already big half a century ago, but not too big to grasp. You can see the whole of the operation laid out in this organizational synergy diagram created by Walt Disney Productions in 1967. Depicting “the many and varied synergistic relationships between the divisions of Walt Disney Productions,” the information graphic reveals the links between each division.

Along the arrowheaded lines indicating the flows of manpower, material, and intellectual property, “short textual descriptions show what each division supplies and contributes to the others.” The motion picture division “feeds tunes and talent” to the music division, for example, which “promotes premiums for tie-ins” to the merchandise licensing department, which “feeds ideas for retail items” to WED Enterprises (the holding company founded by Walt Disney in 1950), which produces “audio-animatronics” for Disneyland.

Some of the nexuses on the diagram will be as familiar as Mickey Mouse, Goofy, Tinkerbell, and the characters cavorting here and there around it. Others will be less so: the 16-millimeter films division, for instance, which would eventually be replaced by a colossal home-video division (itself surely being eaten into, now, by streaming). The Celebrity Sports Center, an indoor entertainment complex outside Denver, closed in 1994. MAPO refers to a theme-park animatronics unit formed in the 1960s with the profits of Mary Poppins (hence its name) and dissolved in 2012. And as for Mineral King, a proposed ski resort in California’s Sequoia National Park, it was never even built.

“The ski resort was one of several ambitious projects that Walt Disney spearheaded in the years before his death in 1966,” writes Nathan Masters at Gizmodo. But as the size of the Mineral King plans grew, wilderness-activist opposition intensified. After years of opposition by the Sierra Club, as well as the passage of the National Environmental Policy Act 1970 and the National Parks and Recreation Act of 1978, corporate interest in the project finally fizzled out. Though that would no doubt have come as a disappointment to Walt Disney himself, he might also have known to keep the failure in perspective. As he once said of the empire bearing his name, “I only hope that we never lose sight of one thing — that it was all started by a mouse.”

h/t Eli and via Howard Lowery

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

What Happened to the 1200 Paintings Painted by Bob Ross? The Mystery Has Finally Been Solved

Very few artists enjoy the degree of recognition that’s been conferred upon the late television educator Bob Ross, though sales of his work hover around zero.

It’s not due to scarcity. Ross pumped out three nearly-identical paintings per episode of his series, The Joy of Painting (watch them online here). That’s 403 episodes over the course of 31 seasons on public television—or 1209 canvases of clouds, mountains, and “happy little trees.”

Shouldn’t economics dictate that these would have only increased in value following their creator’s untimely death from lymphoma in 1994?




A handful have been donated to the Smithsonian National Museum Of American History’s permanent collection. Leaving those aside, why are there no Bob Rosses fetching high prices on the auction block?

Is the painter’s legendary hypnotic appeal a factor? Did he subconsciously manipulate even the most cutthroat collectors into a state of sentimental attachment wherein profit matters not a jot?

As The New York Times-produced video above points out, Ross’ great mission in life was to get others painting—quickly and joyfully.

Which is not to say he blithely tossed the fruits of his labor into the incinerator after that purpose had been served.

The reason Ross’ paintings aren’t on the market is they’re neatly stacked in cardboard cartons at Bob Ross Inc. in Herndon, Virginia. It hardly constitutes archival storage, but the boxes are neatly numbered, and everything is accounted for.

And that is where they’re likely to remain, according to executive assistant Sarah Strohl and president Joan Kowalski, the daughter of Ross’ longtime business partner. (Her mother, Annette is Ross’ former student and the foremost authenticator of his work.)

For now, if anyone endeavors to sell you a Bob Ross original, it’s safe to assume it’s a fake.

Better yet, paint your own. Bob Ross Inc. tends to both the master’s reputation and his lucrative off-screen business, selling instructional books and painting supplies.

Be forewarned, though, it’s won’t be as easy as the ever-placid master made it seem. Have a look at these comedians scrambling to keep up with his moves for the Bob Ross Challenge, a fundraiser for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

Ross, of course, never broke a sweat on camera, which lends a bit of cognitive dissonance to the Times’ video’s frenetic editing. (I never thought I’d have to issue a seizure warning for something Bob Ross-related, but those canvases flash by awfully quickly at the 1:09 mark and again at 10:36. )

Explore a complete database of 31 seasons’ worth of Bob Ross’ Joy of Painting artworks here. Or watch all of the televised shows here. Just don’t expect to purchase one any time soon.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inkyzine.  Join her in NYC on September 9 for the kick off of another season of her book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

 

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