A Smart Design System for Harvard Business School

Our Responsibilities:

  • User Experience
  • Design System
  • Information Architecture
  • User Interface Design
  • Research Content Strategy
  • Responsive Design

Harvard Business School (HBS) has one of the world's most prestigious and exclusive MBA programs—only 13% of applicants were admitted in 2013. Notable amongst the 78,000 living alumni from 167 countries are former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, Hewlett-Packard President and CEO Meg Whitman, as well as CEOs from Time, American Airlines, Palm, Schering-Plough, Merrill Lynch, Hess, GE, and General Motors.

Happy Cog worked closely with HBS to bring their new visual identity to the web. Our work spanned parallel redesign efforts that focused on the About and MBA sections of the site. Each section was designed with discrete groups within HBS. Balancing the needs of two stakeholder groups in tandem was a unique challenge, but provided tangible benefits. We were able to test layouts and interface patterns across a broad spectrum of scenarios. This process provided insight into how to future-proof the design system.

A design system based upon a unifying pattern language can only be successful if the instructions on how to deploy it are clear. We also created a comprehensive style guide that considered both designers and non-designers, focused on reinforcing design intent over simply listing out aesthetic decisions. A good manual must educate, not dictate.

We designed our work with HBS to be responsive, but opted to lead with a fixed-width implementation to allow the HBS team to become acquainted with the design system. Through a follow-on effort, the system will be fully responsive, including fluid layouts, new navigation patterns, and an updated style guide that will enable a wide variety of new templates and experiences.

We’ve already built great things for:

  • A List Apart
  • ADP
  • AMC Theatres
  • American College of Physicians
  • Ameriprise Financial
  • Ben & Jerry's
  • Black Hills Corporation
  • Black Hills Energy
  • Black Pixel
  • Blogger
  • Books-A-Million
  • Bubakiki
  • Build-A-Bear Workshops
  • Campus Explorer
  • Canon Business Process Services
  • Carlisle Wide Plank Floors
  • Channel 4 (UK)
  • Cirrus Logic
  • Coldwell Banker
  • Comhaltas
  • Daily Kos
  • Delaware Valley College
  • Einstein Healthcare Network
  • El Nuevo Día
  • Fetch Softworks
  • Fog Creek Software
  • Fonts.com
  • Garces Group
  • Georgetown Law School
  • Georgetown University
  • Geosign
  • Grist
  • Groupon
  • Harvard Business School
  • Harvard Extension School
  • Harvard University
  • Hersha Hospitality
  • Hershey Entertainment and Resorts
  • Housing Works
  • Kaplan Test Prep
  • Kongregate
  • Krylon
  • Lagunitas Brewing
  • Landmark University
  • Liberty Mutual
  • Longwood Gardens
  • Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
  • MICA
  • Moss Rehab
  • Motivate
  • Mozilla
  • MTV OMA 2
  • MTV OMA 3
  • National Constitution Center
  • New York Institute of Technology
  • Nintendo of America
  • NRT, LLC
  • Papa John's
  • Philly.com
  • Rush
  • SmartyPig
  • Soccer.com (Sports Endeavors)
  • TEDxPhiladelphia
  • The Annie E. Casey Foundation
  • The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
  • The Center for Teaching Quality
  • The Institute for New Economic Thinking
  • The McGraw Hill Companies
  • The Posse Foundation
  • The University of San Francisco
  • Thomson Reuters
  • Tideway Systems
  • United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
  • Visitphilly.com (GPTMC)
  • Weil, Gotshal & Manges
  • Yale School of Management
  • Zappos


We don’t specialize in a specific technology or type of business; we specialize in all of them. Have an idea for a project?

Start Your Project with Happy Cog →

We love to provide:

  • Research
  • User experience design
  • Online business strategy
  • Information architecture
  • Content strategy
  • Graphic design
  • Template (code) development
  • Responsive design & development
  • Mobile development & testing
  • Application development
  • Content management system (CMS) development
  • Hosting

We routinely build great things for:

  • Banking & financial institutions
  • Broadcast & media
  • Universities & educators
  • E-commerce sites
  • Energy & utility companies
  • Film & entertainment
  • Fortune 500 companies
  • Gaming studios
  • Local and federal governments
  • Non-profit organizations
  • Professional service providers
  • Software companies
  • Tourism & travel