Design lessons from Dave Grohl



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Last summer, I crossed an item off my bucket list: I saw the Foo Fighters live.

Dave Grohl, the band’s lead singer and guitarist, is an extraordinary artist, musician, and performer. It’s important to note that during the start of the Foo Fighters’ European tour, just months before I saw them live, Dave fractured his leg in the middle of a show.

Most people would head for the nearest ER, but he kept playing and finished the night’s set list. The tour continued as scheduled.

“Allow me to explain how Dave Grohl’s fractured leg relates to design.”
Photo by Jason Coudriet.

Photo by Jason Coudriet.

As a designer, I found this really inspirational and enlightening. Allow me to explain how Dave Grohl’s fractured leg relates to design.

Scratch an itch or remedy a pain

When Dave injured his leg, he had to make a choice: cancel the tour or find a way to allow the show to go on. Needless to say, Dave had a large and rather painful problem. Many, including myself, assumed the tour would be cancelled.

Most successful products or designs scratch an itch or solve a problem that’s the cause of great discomfort. If Dave, due to his fractured leg, cancelled the tour, the result would be a large loss of revenue, impacting salaries for numerous people. Additionally, it would mean great disappointment for his loyal fan base. Dave had to find an immediate solution.

Start with a sketch

Shortly after his injury, Dave designed a potential concept and shared it with his team. The drawing depicted an epic throne, inspired by Game of Thrones, with branding, guitar necks, speakers, and tons of lasers.

The throne would allow him to travel across the stage with his broken leg securely propped up. Dave could interact with the crowd, play guitar, and sing. During the show, Dave shared a photo of his inspiring sketch.

“A simple sketch communicates a concept and creates momentum.”
A photo of Dave Grohl's sketch.

A photo of Dave Grohl’s sketch. Photo by Jason Coudriet.

Impactful, innovative solutions virtually always start from humble beginnings. A simple sketch communicates a concept for others and creates the necessary momentum that leads to a prototype, thus igniting experimentation and continuous improvement.

As each iteration forms, the remedy becomes more and more adapted to the problem. A word of advice: never be afraid to draw your ideas. Remember, it’s the beginning that counts, not always your artistic ability.

“Never be afraid to draw your ideas.”

And the show goes on

A few weeks after breaking his leg, a video of Dave performing with his leg propped up on a throne went viral. The show did “go on,” which resulted in millions of dollars in revenue, paid team members, and thousands of thrilled fans.

Dave’s modest sketch sprung the momentum and propelled the team to an impressive result.

Photo by Jason Coudriet.

Photo by Jason Coudriet.


Most would have packed up the tour and rescheduled. It was through creativity and passion that Dave came up with an innovative solution.

As designers, we’re often faced with problems that need a solution. We struggle to take that first step, and a simple sketch can ignite the creative process. Sketching helps synthesize our vision, thus entering it into a broader conversation that empowers others to experiment and contribute.

“A simple sketch can ignite the creative process.”

As a sketch blossoms into a workable prototype, the solution evolves and becomes clearer during each revision. With diligence and focus, a design forms that elegantly solves the problem and eases a burden. The opportunity to see Dave Grohl in concert—rocking out even while perched on a throne—validated and reconfirmed for me the importance of taking that creative and courageous first step towards designing a solution.


Jason Coudriet
Helping to lead user experience at Blackboard K12. Passionate about blending art + technology to deliver useful and delightful solutions. Lover of music, family, photography, and travel.

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