Science & Tech

Using the Upside-Down Pyramid of Design to Make Things

Bill Nye

Lesson time 15:09 min

Gain a handy mental tool that Bill uses to turn “nerd ideas into nerd action.” Go through each stage of the “Upside-Down Pyramid of Design” with Bill and learn how to make environmentally conscious choices along the way.

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Topics include: Design Phase: Be Part of the Start · Procurement Phase: Choose the Right Materials · Fabrication Phase: Efficiency, Efficiency, Efficiency · Marketing Phase: Spreading the Word · Use Pyramids Within Pyramids


[MUSIC PLAYING] - Megan, you just really slap it loud. Let them hear you outside. - All right. Three cameras on the marker. - Whenever you're going to undertake a job or a project, you have to have initiative. You've got to get started. But as my father often pointed out, you've also got to finish. You have to have initiative and finitiative. So how do we turn scientific thinking into action? How can we create things more efficiently with science? Well, to help you build better, smarter, and with a greater chance of success, I've got a handy little approach. When it comes to making something or solving a problem, I like to think of what I call the upside-down pyramid of design. Down here at the bottom is the design, the idea, the concept, the thing you want to do. And above that is what I call procurement, or getting the materials together you need to solve the problem or make the thing. And above that is the fabrication, the actual making of the actual thing or solving the actual problem. Then above that is what I like to call marketing. It takes a tremendous number of people to get the idea out to the consumers or the object out to where people are going to purchase it or make use of it. For me, the upside-down pyramid of design applies to manufacturing anything. It also applies to addressing big ideas, like climate change. If the design is good at the bottom of the pyramid, then there's a good chance as things go up, as you procure materials, as you put the thing together, as you convince people to use it or buy it, there's a good chance it'll be successful. But if the design isn't very good, then no matter how hard everybody else works-- all the people in procurement, all the people in manufacturing, all the people in marketing-- no matter how hard all those people work, no matter how good they are, all you're going to get is a well-rendered version of a bad design. So the upside-down pyramid of design for me is how nerds turn nerd ideas into nerd action. I dare you. I dare you. - On the marker. - When I look at the upside-down pyramid of design, for me every part is important. But what's especially important is the very base, the vertex, the tip, because that's where the design starts. That's where the constraints emerge. That's where the problem you're going to solve gets addressed. Now, notice as you go up the upside-down pyramid of design, the number of people that get involved generally increases. And what really increases is the amount of money that gets spent, the investment. The risks that people are taking get larger and larger. So if the design is good, there's a good chance that the product or the idea will be successful. If the design is not good, then no matter how hard everybody else works going up the pyramid, the thing is just not going to succeed. Look, nobody wants to make a bad movie. But people do, almost always because they haven't thought enough about the...

About the Instructor

With his 19-time Emmy Award–winning show, Bill Nye the Science Guy introduced the joy of scientific discovery to a worldwide audience. Now, for the first time, the beloved educator is teaching his framework for scientific thinking and everyday problem-solving. Learn Bill’s approach to navigating information through “critical filtering” and embrace a science-based, optimistic response to some of the planet’s biggest challenges.

Featured Masterclass Instructor

Bill Nye

Emmy Award–winning science educator Bill Nye teaches you his method for solving everyday problems, evaluating information, and thinking like a scientist.

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