Hello and welcome to the Life Design Lab

We aim to improve people’s life to make it happier, more fulfilling and meaningful. We use the "Designing Your Life" approach established at Stanford University, adding a European perspective and apply the idea and interventions from Positive Psychology from the University of Zurich and the work on the benefits of knowledge visualization and visual thinking at the Institute of Media for Media and Communication Management at the University of St. Gallen.

Our portfolio of activities ranges from education in the form of courses, workshops and retreats for various audiences, such as the Contextual Studies of the University of St. Gallen on a Master level or the Young Investigator Program at the University of St. Gallen, to research on life design aiming to show the impact of Designing Your Life on people’s lives to working with foundations and other partners to bring the notion of life design also to those who cannot afford education.

We are based in St. Gallen and Zurich in Switzerland and associated with the Institute of Media and Communication Management at the University of St. Gallen. We are educated and heavily influenced by the work of the Life Design Studio at the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford University.

Our Approach

We use the process, methods and mindsets established at Stanford University (Burnett & Evans, 2014) and adding our European perspective to the approach. In addition, we use the intention and interventions from Positive Psychology focusing on the latest theory on well-being called PERMA (Seligman, 2011): Positive emotions, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning, and Accomplishment. This is accompanied by our local expertise on knowledge visualization aka visual thinking and its cognitive, emotional and social advantages for intra-personal and inter-personal thinking and communicating (Eppler & Kernbach, 2016; Kernbach & Eppler, 2015).

The process is based on design thinking aiming to improve the wicked problem of having a joyful, fulfilling and meaningful life. This process includes methods like The Compass, Good Times Journal, Job Bingo, Odyssey Plans, Stairway to Heaven and others. The entire process and all methods are supported by the mindsets of curiosity, bias to action, problem reframing, mindfulness of the process and radical collaboration. Life design is not a solo project. Next to the process, methods and mindsets, all our activities aim to build small life design teams and greater communities with an ongoing exchange beyond single workshops and retreats. Especially since one of the main reframes is that life design is not something that is done once but an ongoing process. 

“I want to beg you, as much as I can, dear sir, to be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”

(Rainer Maria Rilke, letters to a young poet)

Join: Courses, Workshops And Retreats

We run courses, workshops and retreats for various audiences in Switzerland and abroad. At the moment, we ran a full course for Master students at the University of St. Gallen in the Contextual Studies with a focus on creativity. We also run workshops for PhD students, Post-Docs and Associated Researcher as part of the Young Investigator Program at the University of St. Gallen.

We are happy to have been invited by CreativeMornings in Zurich to share the concept and some insights about “Designing Your Life” for the creative community in Switzerland’s largest city. We also collaborate with the Zurich University of the Arts (ZHdK) on the notion of "Design Your Career".

We are also running public workshops:

Design Your Life (in German), 17./18. May 2019, Details

Design Your Life (in English), 20/21 June 2019, Details

«Design your Life»

17./18. Mai 2019

“Design your Life”

20/21 June 2019

"I really liked the structure of the workshop, the group with their different perspectives helped me to develop new ideas. Very inspiring environment and atmosphere, I look forward to the followup with our peer group."

"I gained more clarity about my wishes and needs, and also the insight that is totally doable. The notion of life design as a process was and will be very helpful."

"It may sound weird but I understood that there is not one perfect way and that others struggle with similar issues. I will continue to visualize more often instead of only writing or thinking. These things together with the idea of prototyping gave me more clarity and make me more relaxed." 


We aim to show that Designing Your Life can improve people’s lives for more happiness, fulfillment and meaning. We are currently working on using established scales and developing new scales to measure the impact of our programs. We are inspired by the Handbook of Life Design (Nota & Rossier, 2015) and collaborate with researchers from around the world.

Selected references
  • Burnett, W., & Evans, D. J. (2016). Designing your life: How to build a well-lived, joyful life. Knopf Publishers.
  • Eppler, M. J., & Kernbach, S. (2016). Dynagrams: Enhancing design thinking through dynamic diagrams. Design Studies, 47, 91-117.
  • Kelley, D., & Kelley, T. (2013). Creative confidence: Unleashing the creative potential within us all. Crown Pub.
  • Kernbach, S., Eppler, M. J., & Bresciani, S. (2015). The use of visualization in the communication of business strategies: An experimental evaluation. International Journal of Business Communication, 52(2), 164-187.
  • Niemiec, R. M. (2017). Character Strenghts Interventions: A Field Guide for Practitioners. Hogrefe Publishing.
  • Nota, L., & Rossier, J. (Eds.) (2015). Handbook of life design: From practice to theory and from theory to practice. Hogrefe Publishing.
  • Seligman, M. E. (2012). Flourish: A visionary new understanding of happiness and well-being. Simon and Schuster.

About Us

The Life Design Lab in Switzerland is motivated by the work of David Kelley at IDEO as well as the work of Bill Burnett and Dave Evans at Stanford University and the work in Positive Psychology especially by Prof. Martin Seligman and Prof. Willibald Ruch and his team at the University of Zurich. A constant and underpinning basis and framework for all activities comes from the work on Knowledge Visualization and Visual Thinking by Prof. Martin J. Eppler and his team at the University of St. Gallen.

The Life Design Lab is led by Dr. Sebastian Kernbach from the University of St. Gallen who is also a Visiting Fellow at Stanford University. He has been educated at Stanford at the Life Design Studio by Bill Burnett and his team. He runs DYL courses and workshops for various audiences in Switzerland and abroad. Together with his colleagues, he conducts research on the effects of designing your life with concepts such as self-esteem, self-confidence, career anxiety, hope for the future, and others.

We aim to showcase the notion of “from insight to impact” of the University of St. Gallen by offering theoretically based and highly practical education formats such as courses, workshops and retreats as well as conducting rigorous and relevant research to gain insights and demonstrate our impact by publishing studies, writing books and academic papers, by working with organizations and also by working with foundations and society at large to improve the world with the approach of designing your life.

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