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Beth Altringer

Dr. Altringer is Founder-Director of the Desirability Lab and faculty at the John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and the Graduate School of Design. In 2016, she was recognized by The Harvard Crimson as one of the university’s top 15 professors. The Desirability Lab connects research, practice, and teaching on product and service design with the psychology of desirability. One stream of their research focuses on what makes some designs more desirable than others. Another stream examines the management and decision-making factors that can reduce the risk of avoidable failure on design and innovation projects. Altringer is committed to improving design, engineering, and technical education by learning from practice and applied research. She draws on both to develop novel, practice-based courses cross-listed at SEAS and the GSD. She was on the core faculty that developed the joint engineering-MBA degree program launched in June 2017, and frequently serves on committees working on the future of design and innovation education. She is developing a new course on Integrated Design, has created and teaches two ongoing courses (Design Survivor: Experiential Lessons in Design for Desirability and The Innovators' Practice: Finding, Leading and Building Good Ideas With Others), and designs regular one-time courses in wearable technology, sustainable design, cultural entrepreneurship, sensory design, and digital nomadism.

Altringer often works with industry to keep her design skills current and to discover underserved needs and opportunities to improve design education. In 2015, she joined the founding team and senior leadership of Piaggio Fast Forward, leading design research and interaction design up to the launch of their Gita and Kilo robots in February 2017. Gita is a nimble, human-assisting cargo robot designed and engineered with the same attention to safety, braking, balancing, vehicle dynamics and performance that you would expect of a motorcycle or car. In 2016, in her role as Senior Fellow at Leverett House, Altringer created ai-kitchen, an organization that promotes and facilitates algorithmic literacy by translating ‘algorithmic writing’ into plain language that non-technical participants can critique and improve upon. In 2014, Dr. Altringer began researching flavor experience as another means of developing more accessible avenues for technical education. This began with an art residency deconstructing the sensory experience of a sustainable working farm in Italy. The project lives on at She later researched blind tasters and top chefs, built a large initial database of food and beverage flavors called the Flavor Genome Project, and began developing software for new flavor discovery that functions like a Pandora for flavor.

Altringer received her PhD in organizational behavior and design from the University of Cambridge, where she conducted fieldwork inside 11 country offices of top design companies including IDEO. Before that, she earned a masters degree in architecture from the University of Cape Town, where she extended her previous work on sustainable design as a Fulbright Scholar (at L'Escola Tècnica Superior d'Arquitectura de Barcelona), to the FIFA 2010 World Cup preparations. She has worked on many innovation projects - mostly in consumer products (e.g., PFF), fashion (e.g., Kering, Gucci Group, Puma, Swarovski), urban design and development (e.g., FIFA 2010, City of Cape Town, United Nations ECLAC), and education (e.g., Stanford D-School, MIT, Berkman Center for Internet & Society).



AI and Ethical Design

Beth Altringer of Harvard’s John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences & the Graduate School of Design

Beth Altringer discusses how to design AI systems with ethics in mind.

Jan 11, 2017