Design Strategy + Innovation

Design for Philanthropy


Başak Altan leads the efforts in integrating design thinking principles into the curriculum of the Berkeley Turkish School,  a nonprofit she founded. She believes in the high value design thinking plays in early education and in building strong communities.

Başak leads initiatives in designing the nonprofit's day to day operational structure as well as creating the valuable partnerships and providing services to its extended community through community workshops, seminars, university engagement programs. One of these important programs is the partnership Başak has created between her CCA Industrial Design students with the Berkeley Turkish School community to design educational products that focus on teaching culture through creativity. You may see the results of this partnership in the examples of her students' work below.



The mission of BTS 501 (c) (3) is to inspire the children of the Turkish American community and aid in their ability to understand, speak, read, and write Turkish.

To learn more about this public charity, please visit here.


CHIME Xylophone

A study in the universal language of music

Inspired by the premise that language of music is universal, in the Spring 2017 Semester Industrial Design students Hugo Waldern & Xander Tocher in Başak Altan's class designed this collaborative music education tool for BTS.

Chime Xylophone's goal is to enhance the class dynamic by encouraging children to both play individually and as well as in a team.

Desesn Blocks

DESEN Blocks

Connecting symbols from the past to the stories of the future

In this project Başak's CCA Industrial Design students of Spring 2017 Miles Callan & Cameron Putnam explored a modular system.

In this innovative playful learning structure, students could replicate kilim patterns and at the same time learn about the meaning of the symbols with a supporting visual card system.

Bina Brix for BTS

Teaching history through architecture

Bina Brix is a result of her Industrial Design students Isaah Jones, and Adrian Karaan's work during the Fall 2016 semester.

Bina bricks are an educational tool that feature 4 slits where connector pieces and attachments can smoothly fit to connect more blocks or feature a prominent piece. These blocks are paired with a process book that guide the students towards their end goal of kids build Turkish architectures, they will also engage in creative play and learning.


“This is our second year at Berkeley Turkish School and I am really impressed how fast the school came to its current stage in less than 2 years since its inception. Basak is not only a visionary who designed a much-needed creative and modern environment to introduce our kids to Turkish language and culture, but also a great manager that executes with super quality paying attention to all details. Basak is a true leader in my opinion, as she did not hesitate to fill a big gap we had for the Turkish community by taking charge and starting BTS with the help of a couple of close friends. She is very resourceful in finding great tools and programs that improve the experience for the kids and the parents. Last year, I was very impressed how her students in Industrial Design got involved with the BTS and brought great educational activities into the classrooms in a short time. You can see that everything she does, she does with great passion, stemming from her deep love for the Turkish community in the Bay Area and her cultural heritage. While she understands that the parents are all busy, she is eager to grow the community and what the school can offer by welcoming everyone to get involved as much as they can. I am truly impressed with how much she was able to accomplish with very little resources and support in a such short time. I believe her creative mind, strong interpersonal skills, resourcefulness, and perseverance have been a gift to the Turkish community in the Bay Area.”

Irem Radzik- Parent at BTS & Head of Product Marketing at Striim

”I’ve had the pleasure of working with Basak for the last 3 years in founding, developing and running The Berkeley Turkish School. Basak is a true visionary and is highly skilled in and passionate about thinking outside the box, maintaining integrity both personally and for the school while taking steps to develop the school further and push things to its limits to see what can be achieved and how. She’s very hard-working, and goes above beyond all expectations to stretch the boundaries of what is possible, while also holding her team responsible and accountable for their expected contributions. So, things are never idle and the energy always remains strong. Basak has great critical thinking capacity – she constantly evaluates the state of things, cause and effect of decisions made, how improvements can be made, who we can bring in for expertise, how we can better address the needs of our community and continue developing our programs. And finally, I think Basak is an excellent leader and has the crucial traits necessary to run a developing and strong organization: the ability to hold her ground for what she’s passionate about, being a good listener, being a strong researcher and synthesizer, encouraging collaboration and contribution, energizing others, appreciating and acknowledging deserving efforts, and always thinking big.”

Basak Cakici- Co Founder of BTS, Architect & Realtor