Doing work that matters.
We bring more human-centered ideas to life. We embrace cross-disciplinary collaborations from the TCU community and beyond. We use innovation frameworks to help students create socially impactful ideas by increasing their creative confidence and helping them explore creative options.

Human-centered Design

Human-centered design (HCD), also known as design thinking, can be defined as framework to translate creativity into innovation by focusing on human elements to understand users in a meaningful way, and using primarily ethnographic research, synthesizing that data and identifying key insights that provide the foundation for understanding the right problem to solve. The framework includes tools to generate and select ideas, and to prototype and test those ideas to maximize success. To accomplish this, design thinkers should approach problem solving possessing an open design mindset.

Life Design

Using principles from HCD, life design is a framework, toolkit and mindset to help people to contemplate and act upon their options as they design their journeys in life. This includes first-year experience, college experience and career choices while here at TCU and beyond.

Systems Design

Understanding the overall picture is important. Systems design provides a set of tools and frameworks that helps design thinkers to consider all the stakeholders and all the consequences (intended and unintended) when examining a large problem or system.

Social Innovation and Social Change Leadership

It is possible to use all these frameworks to drive social innovation and tangible change. It is important to understand the problem to be solved and who is working on the problem before diving in. This framework includes tools and frameworks to help people lead responsibly and create social impact to change the world.



Life Design Courses
One credit, 8-week courses that help students of any age to explore what they want to do while here at TCU and beyond, using human-centered design principles.
Pitch Your Passion Sessions
Opportunities for students to pitch initial ideas and get feedback. We meet every other Friday. For more information and book a meeting, email Cedric James at
Social Impact Design Challenge
Every December, we host an event where students can showcase their social innovation ideas. For more information, mail Cedric James at
Section Image: Student with chart presents ideas to a group.

About Us

The Idea Factory is an initiative within the Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the Neeley School of Business. We are dedicated to supporting the innovative and creative spirit of TCU students and the entire TCU community by providing an inclusive environment, innovative and human-centered frameworks, and resources to advance ideas and drive creative solutions.

Mission: Supporting the innovative and creative spirit of TCU.

Vision: To be the hub for human-centered, cross disciplinary innovation at TCU.


  • Radical collaboration
  • Empathy, optimistic spirit
  • Fail fast and forward
  • Experiment relentlessly
  • Do work that matters

In 2010, Eric Simanek, the Robert A. Welch Chair of Chemistry, was appointed as the first director of Idea Factory by Dean Demitrius Kouris from the TCU College of Science & Engineering. Idea Factory was funded by a Vision in Action grant (VIA) and a National Science Foundation grant. With the support of Dean Phil Hartman, dean of the TCU College of Science & Engineering secured space in Rees-Jones Hall, a state-of-the-art instructional building in the heart of the university’s Intellectual Commons. Currently, Idea Factory is part of the TCU Neeley School of Business with space in Rees-Jones Hall and is under the direction of Stacy Landreth Grau, professor of professional practice in entrepreneurship and innovation, and Cedric James, associate director, who has been with Idea Factory since its inception.

Thank you to the following organizations for supporting our work:
  • TCU College of Science & Engineering (early support and incubation for Idea Factory)
  • TCU’s Vision in Action fund (early financial support)
  • The National Science Foundation (funding the Pangea Mat and Cutter, Dance of the Continents and Plate Detective)
  • TCU Neeley School of Business and the Department of Entrepreneurship and Innovation
  • TCU (funding and space)
  • Robert A. Welch (early support for Eric Simanek’s time to pursue Idea Factory initiatives)