Pinterest Design

Berkeley Innovation x Pinterest Design

May 17, 2024

By Judy Wu

What we learned while partnering with students at Berkeley Innovation

A photograph of the amazing BI Team

Partnering with Berkeley Innovation

Berkeley Innovation (BI) is UC Berkeley’s student-run human-centered design consultancy that allows students to gain practical, real-world experience with clients ranging from physical to digital products, brands and experiences.

My colleague Wei Huang and I had the opportunity to propose a project for the BI team’s consideration for their Fall 2023 semester. This became the perfect opportunity to see how we could better support our small and medium business (SMB) merchants on Pinterest so that they can more easily get their products in front of shoppers on their path to purchase. We kicked off our partnership with BI and worked with six student design consultants from September to December 2023.

Collaborating with the students

We met with the team weekly to get progress updates and insights and to provide feedback on ways to move forward with the project. The team ran research and synthesis to inform designs that they ideated and then iterated, and finally presented us with final deliverables in the form of a competitive analysis, journey map, and final prototype and presentation deck. To see some of this work, check out their case study.

Takeaways and insights from the partnership

While the benefit of participating as clients was clear (a fresh perspective and designs for our product), what Wei and I gained from working with our BI design consultants stretched beyond the designs they worked on.

Sharing the business side of Pinterest

When you think about Pinterest, you may not immediately think of business tools or the merchants and advertisers that use them to connect their products to people on Pinterest. With this project, we were able to highlight that side of the company and show how this type of design work leads to tangible business impact. It was also an opportunity to share the business-focused side of the design discipline more broadly as a possible area of focus for our student design consultants.

Seeing that the design process is alive and well

We were curious to see how students today approach the design process and encouraged that some semblance of “discover, define, design, and deliver” persists in building a foundation in design. But the application of this process and the tools involved always depend on the project. Opportunities like this partnership provide invaluable lessons in how to tackle the unknowns and how to best apply the design process in various scenarios.

Our very own senior product designer, UC Berkeley alum and former BI consultant, Kenny Yeung, shared a notable takeaway from his experience: “The design process won’t always go as smoothly or linearly and being able to navigate within this ambiguity is important.” It was rewarding to help students navigate the design process, and it was fascinating for us to see that the core of the design process remains largely unchanged.

Mentoring as a two-way street

In an environment where there are endless product requirements and designs never feel done, it’s easy to get bogged down by the “jobs to be done” and decisions that need to be made. Getting to teach our design consultants what we know was a nice gentle reminder of the knowledge we’ve built. In return, we’re inspired by our mentees as they embark on the path we also once chose as product designers to use curiosity and thoughtfulness to inject user-centric ideas into products that people can love using.

Special thanks to all those involved from the Pinterest team to ensure that this collaboration happened without a hitch. And thank you to the BI team for partnering with Wei and I to explore fresh new ways we can improve our ads experience and support SMBs on Pinterest. This collaboration has been a very good reminder that we all start our design journey somewhere. And as designers working in the field, we have the opportunity to plant the seeds we want to see bud in the design community. We can’t wait to see how our design consultants will push our industry forward!


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