Charles Burnette, a design educator, initiated the Design Based Education:
Most of the information on this website was originally developed during the Design Based Education K-12 Program at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, PA, USA. Initiated in 1989 by Dr. Burnette, the program began with a university course, Design With Kids, that placed design students in classrooms to help teachers conduct design projects related to their teaching goals.
From this beginning, and in partnership with Dr. Janis Norman, Director of Art Education at the
University, a national pilot program was launched in 1990 using an earlier version of the model of design thinking based on Dr. Burnettes PHD dissertation. The material presented here in an improved form was developed and tested during the ensuing program.
In June 1990, a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts enabled the first Summer Institute, "With Design You Can Teach Anything" that was offered to eight teachers.
In April 1991, the program became affiliated with the principal enrichment program for public school teachers in Philadelphia, The Philadelphia Partnership for Education; Paths/Prism, whose guidance and support enabled it to attract and support a larger, more diverse group of teachers from elementary, middle and high schools throughout the city. Preference was given to teams of teachers from the same school representing different disciplines. Teachers from three high schools, three middle schools, four elementary schools and one school for incarcerated youth participated.
In 1992, with continuing support from the NEA, the School District and Paths/Prism the program continued to provide week long summer institutes. The program also included a Saturday School Course for children, publications, workshops, and a website and became a featured presentation at state and national conferences on arts education. Two books, twelve teaching guides, a slide presentation and a video were produced and distributed to interested people. (Crizmac Art and Cultural Materials republished most of this material in 1997). A community oriented program and a video for PBS based on the model were developed in Marquette, Michigan by Northern Initiatives, a local economic development organization which also used material, tutorials and techniques from the program to encourage design thinking in the Marquette-Alger Intermediate School District, at the childrens museum (where children designed the exhibits), and at Northern Michigan University.
In Philadelphia the program served approximately 120 in-service teachers and 30 higher education faculty, plus approximately 70-80 in-service mentor teachers. Aided by the National Endowment of the Arts, the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts and the Pennsylvania Department of Education (over $800,000 in state grants over a two year period) and with numerous other contributions the program grew to statewide and national proportions. For example, in 1994-95 the mission of the program was to establish a strategy for educational outreach to build interest in and understanding of the design model. This was accomplished through a format of "teachers teaching teachers" as peer mentors for professional development through a series of follow-up, state-wide workshops on Design Based Education. Recognizing that design thinking was a cross disciplinary creative problem solving process that could be used by teachers to promote higher level thinking skills in a way that enriched school-based models for basic K-12 education and that also supported The Pennsylvania Plan for Arts Education and the required Arts and Humanities Standards in Pennsylvania, Chapter 5, many of the state's most influential programs for educational reform adopted the approach and introductory workshops were funded through a Special Projects Grant from the Pennsylvania Arts In Education Initiative and presented during the academic year in professional development workshops across Pennsylvania, at The University of the Arts in Philadelphia, the Allegheny Instructional Unit in Pittsburgh co-hosted by Carnegie Mellon University and the Pittsburgh Fund for Arts in Education, and in Lancaster at the Pennsylvania School for Art and Design co-hosted by The Cultural Council of Lancaster.
In 1998 Funded by Pennsylvanias Link to Learn Program as the Design Link for Art and Science project, The University of the Arts, The Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Franklin Institute Science Museum worked closely with four schools to explore the use of computers, the internet, and videoconferencing to teach art and science through design. (See A Teachers Resource was also developed then. The Design Based Education K-12 model was then adopted, implemented, and assessed at a comprehensive level by a consortium of highly visible integrated arts and humanities programs as a way to implement needed educational reform. This carefully selected and piloted consortium of exemplary interdisciplinary, arts-based programs across Pennsylvania each received additional training for their faculty, participated in comprehensive assessment programs to evaluate and monitor the effectiveness of their programs, and committed to ongoing investigation and implementation of the design thinking model to empower students with tools with which to address complex issues. The "design team partnerships" in this consortium were initially trained through state-wide professional development workshops, summer institutes and through individual consulting sessions provided by a "design team" comprised of art education and design faculty at the University of the Arts, designers, and classroom teachers who had participated in the institutes and had continued to implement research and exemplary design based programs in their respective schools. Over its eleven years of existence the program generated instruction in over 500 schools. The model was later used to develop materials and techniques for teaching design thinking to children on the internet. This website seeks to pass on to others some of the ideas and what was learned.

Charles Burnette received his BArch, MArch and PhD degrees from the University of Pennsylvania where he was also a Research Associate doing research on the uses of information during design. A licensed, award winning architect, he became Director of the Philadelphia AIA, founding Director of the Center for Planning Design and Construction in Philadelphia, and Dean of the School of Architecture, University of Texas at Austin. He was made a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects for research and service to that profession. In a parallel career after his BArch degree, he became an industrial designer in the office of George Nelson designing structures for the American Exposition in Moscow and furniture for Herman Miller, Inc., later teaching industrial design while pursuing the PhD and personally rebuilding his current home. After the Deanship he founded his own firm dedicated to creative problem solving in research, industrial design and architecture.
Deeply involved in solar design in the 80s, he directed the Philadelphia Solar Planning Project, the largest such effort in the US as well as several major demonstration projects supported by the DOE, The City of Philadelphia and public utilities.
He then returned to teaching, becoming Director of the Industrial Design Department, then Director of the Graduate Program in Industrial Design at the University of the Arts, both while co-directing the Design Based Education K-12 Program. The graduate program was conceived and implemented to explore the design thinking model and to demonstrate its potential in a computer support system for interdisciplinary design.
In 1993 Dr. Burnette received a Pew Fellowship in the Arts and in 1994 was recognized by I D magazine as one of forty people making a difference in design.
He was a consultant on the practical arts to the groundbreaking Edison Project. Twice a juror for the IDEA awards, he served for 10 years on the International Advisory Board, University of Art and Design UIAH, Helsinki, has been a frequent speaker in European design schools and at the European Unions Cumulus Program on Design Education, and is widely published on topics such as design management, design systems, ecological design and design education.
He has led workshops and studios in Canada, Finland, Taiwan, Sweden, Germany and Slovenia and chaired several conferences. He is now writing a book about the design model, its foundations in cognitive science and its application.