The Ballay Center tailors professional education opportunities for a wide range of audiences. With the goal of leveraging design for innovation and impact, organizations seek the Ballay Center’s broad range of immersive modular workshops to acquire design methods, skills, and perspectives. Our programs are taught by faculty in the School of Design with contributions from colleagues across the University and industry professionals who customize their world-class research, teaching, and practice for these educational experiences. 

The Ballay Center extends the reach and audience of the School of Design’s long-established Executive Education program which has hosted programs for the United States Air Force, Penske, Highmark, Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, Software Engineering Institute, Software Engineering Institute, and many more. We aim to partner with organizations who see design as an enhancement and a catalyst to achieve something new and exciting.

Engagements are modular, scalable and stackable including lunchtime information sessions, 1.5 hour intensives, 3 hour workshops, full-day, and multi-day programs all hosted within the Ballay Center or conducted at your location. All short-form programming aims to develop "informed collaborators" who can enhance an organization's ability to work in cross-disciplinary ways. Long-form programs aim to develop "resident experts" who can share design processes and lead collaborative agendas within your organization. 

We conduct Professional Education programs throughout the year focusing on existing industry partnerships and on-campus units during Fall and Spring semesters and reserve the Summer months for deep engagements with new partners.

For information about the Ballay Center’s educational programs, please contact: 

Current modules include : 

  • This module is aimed at building a basic visual thinking tool kit for better visual communication, leading visual meetings, and thinking through ideas. This session provides essential skills that come into play in subsequent paired modules. 

    Visual Thinking introduces practical skills, approaches, methods, and techniques that enhance your collaborative processes. These modules are immersive hands-on sessions that combine presentation with individual and team-based activities designed to unlock your potential for creative brainstorming through better drawing skills, visual notation, diagramming and storyboarding. We aim these sessions for both novice and expert audiences in design, business and beyond – demonstrating methods for observation, leading visual meetings, and visual explanation to support collaboration and innovation. “Drawing Ideas: A Hand-Drawn Approach for Better Design” serves as the primary resource for Visual Thinking modules. Co-authored by Professor Mark Baskinger in the School of Design, this book syncs with the unique pedagogy in the School and provides an immediate skill set to enhance design activities across our Professional Education modules.

  • This module introduces design methods for problem framing, constituent mapping, and building empathy and understanding from a human-centered perspective in order to define strategic and tactical design opportunities.

    Design Methods in Action is an immersive hands-on workshop in which attendees learn by doing. Each session includes a mix of lectures, activities, and reflection, designed to go beyond step-by-step instruction and allow participants to experience the generative power of design. Participants will work in teams, modeling the non-hierarchical collaboration required for design to succeed. This learn-by-doing approach involves tackling a real design challenge, while also reflecting on how the process can be applied to any problem or situation. Armed with design opportunities exposed through research, you’ll be ready for a generative session full of ideas and collaboration. Teams will learn design-led methods for problem framing, strategic problem-solving, and concept generation. Using Professor Bruce Hanington’s co-authored book “Universal Methods of Design” you’ll learn constructive and collaborative ways of critiquing, building upon ideas, and evaluating your concepts. Finally, you’ll get an introduction to low-fidelity prototyping and start creating visual representations and artifacts you can use to test assumptions and evaluate your design.

  • Exploratory Design Research is used to investigate and understand a problem space, user needs, or opportunities for innovation and involves open-ended exploration to gather qualitative insights and generate ideas that can inform the design process.

  • This module introduces service design methods and practice for systems thinking and value creation. Hands-on activities leverage visual thinking, mapping, and research methods for strategic service proposals.

    We all have an idea of what a good service is — when everything clicks into place, when you feel a little surprised and delighted because of the thoughtfulness and smoothness of the experience. And we all know too well what it’s like when a service goes wrong — when you don’t achieve what you had set out to do in the time you set aside to do it. Service Design Thinking introduces mapping and diagramming methods used to analyze and understand services, their relationships, their value exchanges, and how what happens behind the scenes impacts customer-facing interactions. Additionally, user research and prototyping methods are demonstrated to develop service experiences for both those delivering services and those receiving them.

  • Concepting for Systems involves a generative and structured process of mapping, diagramming, modeling, sketching and prototyping to shape understanding of complex and dynamic social, environmental, and technological systems. 

  • Prototyping for discovery is the process of creating physical, visual and embodied models for exploring and understanding a problem space, user needs, user journeys, and potential solutions. Commonly used to support design processes in user experience (UX) design, product development, industrial design and more, prototyping for discovery aims for insights and ideas early in the design process to set strategy and focus.

  • This module introduces integrative studio practice that brings different domains, constituents, and programs together to generate and present concepts for transformative effect.

    Design Fusion in Practice is a facilitated design sprint that compresses the research, generative and evaluative approaches of design into a studio experience. We work with you to develop a theme that complements the work of your group/organization to provide a fertile playgound to exercise your new design skills. It is of particular interst for us to develop a theme that promotes a non-hierarchical and highly collaborative atmosphere. The goal of this module is to provide a structured and phased experience with design processes to help participants identify their creative strengths and practice new ways of working together. Design processes are highly adaptable for implementation within work groups and enable individuals to work outside of their area of expertise. Working in this way provides pathways for ideas to cross domains and for teams to work toward integrative and holistic solutions on behalf of offering innovative ideas and advancing the organization.

  • We like to wrestle with problem spaces that are multi-dimensional and cross domains of knowledge. You bring the problem – together we explore solutions to make actionable.

    Designathons serve as capstone experiences in our Professional Education programming where client leadership is joined by faculty and top performing students working together on integrated teams to generate viable problem-solving or opportunity-framing proposals. Working within a highly collaborative and creative studio setting, these events are structured to draw out your most exciting and innovative ideas.



  • The Ballay Center excels in coordinating sessions to help you analyze a problem and develop actionable next steps. Our facilitated strategy sessions provide a semi-structured space for partners to express concerns and ideas in non-hierarchical and productive ways. Employing our visual thinking skills, these sessions aim to map problem spaces, establish parameters, and synthesize multiple dimensions to form a model that promotes understanding, consensus, and action. We encourage our collaborators to schedule facilitated strategy sessions at mulitple checkpoints throughout our engagement in Professional and Continuing Education programs. These meetings serve to keep us in sync with your developing needs and allow you to begin employing design methods and techniques to address real-world opportunities. 

    This is how we help you to work the problem.