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DSGN 495-40: CPG Product and Business Innovation Studio (Previously “Intersect CPG”)

Quarter Offered

Spring : Tuesdays 11-2pm, Hive Annex, Ford, 2.340 and Thursdays 3-6pm, Ford Design Studio, Ford 1.230 ; Craig Sampson and Helen Vondensteinen


Open to all graduate students with a focus on Kellogg MMM, Segal EDI, and Medill IMC programs. Enrollment is limited and by instructor permission. Interested students should submit a brief statement of interest to the instructors, Craig Sampson and Helen von den Steinen. Statements should include why you want to take the class, skills brought to the course, what students hope to learn from the course, and the student's resume (and portfolio if available). Interested students should apply by Tuesday, February 18, 2020 by 5pm. Students will be notified of their enrollment status by Monday, February 24, by 10am, and a permission number will be issued.


This experiential course lives at the intersection of transformative product innovation, design thinking, and business model innovation. The learning experience will be both rich and realistic.

Student teams will work under NDA on five real-world upstream product innovation projects sponsored by Procter & Gamble, experiencing and helping to advance the way in which big innovation works in highly scaled businesses like P&G, as well as comparing innovation at different business scales including startup and licensing. Teams will be formed across schools and majors. Each multi-disciplined student team will develop both the consumer and business value proposition of their project through hands-on exercises, prototyping, testing and weekly coaching by sponsor mentors on-site and via video conference. 
Unique characteristics of this class include physical and virtual product prototyping, business model development at three different scales (startup, licensee, global CPG), pitch development and testing, and robust primary consumer research among the target audience for each project, applying a range of state of the art consumer research methods including ethnography and behavioral psychology. Physical & social science, engineering, business, communication, design plus both physical and digital prototyping skills and interests will all be highly valuable to the teams, and brought together in pursuit of a common innovation goal. In this course, creativity meets rigor, and both win.

The work will be challenging, comprehensive and rewarding, building individual ability and team collaboration skills that will translate to the professional world. If you want to experience how big product and brand innovation works in the world of Consumer Packaged Goods (and, by analogy, to many other businesses), as well as learn powerful frameworks that guide innovation across the broadest range of business scales, then this is the course for you.

The course will meet twice a week. One session per week will be a studio class; the second session will be dedicated team working time. Due to the class going across three schools, which all have very different schedules, we need to schedule team working time to ensure that students are able to work together outside class. 

Additionally, we will be conducting in-home ethnographic research on the second Saturday of the quarter (April 11), and all students are required to participate.

Final presentations are on June 9 in Evanston. We expect all students to be present.

Learn more about the instructors, Craig Sampson and Helen Vondensteinen.

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