BOOK Review: Designing Your Life by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans


This month I have been reading a recently published book with an intriguing title; ‘Designing Your Life” by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans.
Burnett and Evans are not your typical personal development guru types. They are both senior directors at Stanford University in California and head up the wonderfully named Stanford Life Design Lab. The clue to their approach is in the title of the lab: they are not psychologists but successful designers. Burnett worked on the PowerBook for Apple as did Evans who also help develop games for Electronic Arts. Their approach to creating life options reflects this design sensibility and springs directly from their oversubscribed course at Stanford.
So it seems on the face of it a very new approach, but having said that I was surprised how little of what I read seem revolutionary or even particularly new. Ideas like re-framing dysfunctional beliefs have been around for years and employing mind mapping to bring creativity to planning is now a widely accepted tool. What was different was their practical take on the problem of dissatisfaction and the application of design techniques to deal with it.

It appears the world is full of people who are highly qualified at doing things that they don’t find particularly fulfilling, but because they have invested so much time and energy acquiring the skills and knowledge that has brought them success they feel stuck.

This is a problem, and according to one chapter heading ‘Designers Love Problems’, so why not just design your way out of it?
It seems a lot of the books I am reviewing lately have identified a social shift and develop a recurring theme of the way in which uncertainty, coupled with seemingly endless possibility, are creating discontent, this one at least has the merit of offering a route out of the dilemma and is therefore well worth taking a look at.

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