Teagan Daly, a graduate product design student at Stanford University, has a distinct product portfolio that includes a bedside lamp, waffle iron, and comfortable high heels—creations born from a mindset of trying to understand how people deal with the world and different objects.

She’s applying the approach to social needs, too, with a graduate design thesis project focused on immigrants and education that she submitted to win the Bill Moggridge Award.

“I’m just really interested in the way people interface with the world and with objects and how design can change the way we interact with each other,” said Daly, who relates to human-centered design principles. “I’m excited about understanding what's important to people.”

Bill Moggridge, who co-founded design firm IDEO with David Kelley and Mike Nuttall, was a pioneer in approaching design with a human-centered focus. Kelley later founded Stanford’s d.school, where Bill Burnett serves as executive director of the design program. Both men provided Daly a great deal of encouragement as a designer, especially when it comes to sharing their experiences with Moggridge and interaction design, Daly said.

Teagan with mentors Bill Burnett and David Kelley

Teagan with mentors Bill Burnett and David Kelley

“One of the cool things that has come out of this award already was getting to talk to David Kelley and Bill Burnett about their stories and memories of Bill,” Daly said. Moggridge “had a huge impact on their lives and was a really meaningful friend and mentor. In some ways, I feel like I've inherited some of that inspiration through their work and through the program.”

Daly majored in mechanical engineering and studio art as an undergraduate at Dartmouth College, but her focus shifted when she took a design thinking class there with Professor Peter Robbie.

“It was as if these two halves of who I was as a person were suddenly put together,” she said about her experience. “Like a Rosetta Stone, it suddenly made sense. I knew that design was something I wanted to do moving forward.”

After Dartmouth, Daly worked in digital design and product development. She then headed to Stanford’s d.school to pursue a master’s degree and will graduate in June. Winning the Bill Moggridge award will make it possible for her to realize goals like travel when she finishes school.  

She said she expects the award also will be an “important conversation starter” as she explores design opportunities and pursues projects she feels are significant. One of those is the award-winning thesis she’s working on with another student. It explores the myriad challenges local Nepali immigrants face when moving to the Bay Area including language learning.

So thinking about ways to help immigrants toward a path of achievement has put Daly and her design partner at the intersection of solving social challenges via design and technology. There are opportunities to integrate conversational language learning into everyday life and delve deeper than English as a Second Language (ESL) classes and apps like Duolingo that tend to teach more “formal language” and grammar, she said.

“Building on theories of guided mastery, we’re developing a program that adds structure and feedback into daily practice with native speakers in the field, for example at the workplace or their children’s school,” she said. 

While Daly began the thesis with one other student in her design program, the duo has since expanded to a team of four by adding a Stanford Graduate School of Business student and another from the Graduate School of Education.

The team’s current prototype combines daily SMS prompts with a weekly practice group. Daly said she expects to develop the program further, as well as explore its scale and applicability for other immigrant groups in the U.S.

While the thesis began well before the U.S. presidential race was decided, the work with immigrants has “only become more relevant and more pressing,” Daly said. “That has really given us perspective and fuels us to continue...”

It also speaks to one of Daly’s goals as a designer: be a “force of change.” While that may sound “very lofty,” it underscores an emphasis on designing for underserved groups, she added.

But more than anything, Daly said she feels being recognized and remembered by her peers one day as a great designer with which to work would be an honor.

"If there is any of that kind of warmth and openness that I can channel, and that I know inspired Bill and David, that would definitely be something that I would aspire to,” she said.

To learn more about Teagan and her work or to contact her directly, please visit Teagan's website.