Beth Altringer

Beth Altringer

  • Lecturer on Innovation and Design


Dr. Altringer is based at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and the Graduate School of Design, and also a Faculty Associate of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society. Altringer runs the Desirability Lab and uses design and psychological research to help innovators 1) embed desirability into the product experiences they create, and 2) manage the inherent challenges of interdisciplinary creative work. One stream of her research focuses on what makes some designs more desirable than others in terms of multi-sensory balance, emotional experience and cognitive experience. Another stream focuses on cognitive and interpersonal factors related to the most (and least) successful design and innovation projects. She has worked with hundreds of teams across a range of multinational companies and educational institutions, using both qualitative and quantitative methods to explore these questions.

Dr. Altringer is interested in practical ways that we can support more creative problem solvers to succeed more often. She regularly creates unique hands-on curriculum based on her research for undergraduate and graduate level courses. Examples include: Design Survivor: Experiential Lessons in Design for Desirability (spring) and The Innovators' Practice: Finding, building and leading good ideas with others (fall). She also frequently creates winter and summer field courses such as Cultural Entrepreneurship in NYC (winter), Sustainable Design in Italy (summer), and Sustainable Design and the Rise of Digital Nomads in Indonesia (winter).

During her doctoral work at Cambridge University, visiting scholarship at Stanford and postdoctoral work at MIT, Altringer studied design teams and clients at IDEO and JWT across 11 countries spanning six continents, developing a model explaining team creative performance differences that was later implemented. Prior to the PhD, she studied architecture at the University of Cape Town focusing on sustainability, design and the FIFA 2010 World Cup preparations. This built on her previous research on design and major sporting events during a Fulbright Scholarship in Barcelona. She now focuses on desirability via multi-sensory and emotional elements of product and service experiences. She has worked on a number of projects with the Harvard Innovation Lab, Stanford D-School, MIT, Berkman Center, Artscience Labs, Kering, Gucci Group, Puma, Swarovski, One Leap, ARG Design/City of Cape Town, 2010 FIFA World Cup and more. She previously ran b4bi group, the Team Design Studio, and served as Interim Director of the Laboratory at Harvard before it evolved into Le Laboratoire Cambridge.

Contact Information

Office:204C Pierce Hall


  • MIT Fostering Creativity (MIT-Singapore International Design Center), Postdoctoral Fellow, 2011-2013
  • NYU/NYU-Poly Verizon Spirit of Innovation Award, 2012
  • Ashoka U Innovation Award Runner-up, 2012
  • Stanford University Design School/Human Computer Interaction Group, Visiting Scholar, 2010 
  • University of Cambridge Emmanuel College Derek Brewer Fellow (UK), 2007-2010
  • City of London Worshipful Company of Marketors Award (UK), 2009
  • Fulbright Scholar (Spain)
  • Holcim Awards for Sustainable Construction (Bronze, Africa & Middle East, shared award)
  • University of Cape Town Global Scholar (South Africa)
  • Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar (Chile)
  • David L. Boren (NSEP) Scholar (Czech Republic)
  • Arizona Regents Scholar
  • Phi Beta Kappa National Honor Society