Design thinking (1/2)

Stanford d.school and IDEO

2017.08

IDEO and Stanford D. School (1/2)
Design thinking (1/2)
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I. IDEO, a global design and innovation company

Students attending Stanford University, which lies at the heart of Silicon Valley, are obsessed with “design.”

  • One of the companies that Stanford MBA graduates want to work for most is IDEO, alongside other major firms like Google, Facebook, and McKinsey & Company.
  • Some of the most popular courses at Stanford are the “Design Thinking” classes offered at the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design, commonly known as the d.school.

The d.school approaches the idea of design in a much broader sense than its traditional usage. There, design refers to everyone’s capacity to be creative and “design” solutions to messy and complex problems in our lives.

  • Traditional definition of design: To use graphic tools to modify the outward appearance and experience of a product.
  • A new definition of design: By observing people’s behaviors, habits, etc., we think of ways to redesign aspects of their lives to make them happier and more productive.

IDEO is an international design and consulting firm headquartered in Palo Alto, California, near Stanford. The company uses a “design thinking” methodology to design products, services, environments, and digital experiences.

  • What is IDEO?: “We are a global design company committed to creating positive impact.”
  • Mission: To use people-centric methods and collaboration between a diverse group of experts to propose a solution to humanity’s most complex problems.
  • 3 key elements of design: 1) Basic human needs, 2)[1]cutting-edge technology, and 3) a working business model.
  • Employees: IDEO’s workforce consists of 700+ employees from a diversity of backgrounds.
    • Former entrepreneurs, educators, accountants, architects, programmers, journalists, psychiatrists, archeologists, film directors, etc. have gathered at IDEO to serve as designers.
    • The most important virtue of being an IDEO designer is to offer a unique perspective to clients’ problems. Thus, the company focuses on maintaining a diverse employee base.
  • Design capabilities: IDEO has 23+ design capabilities to tackle a variety of challenges:
    • Brand, B2B, Consumer Goods & Services, Digital, Education, Energy, Environment, Experience Design, Financial Services, Food & Beverage, Government, Health & Wellness, Media, Medical Products & Services, Mobility, Non-Profit, Organization Design, Products, Retail & Hospitality, Toys & Games, Technology, Service Design, and Venturing
  • Locations: IDEO has nine locations around the world: Palo Alto, San Francisco, New York, Cambridge (MA), Chicago, Tokyo, Shanghai, London, and Munich.
  • Subsidiaries: IDEO has several subsidiaries in order to help organizations through a diversity of challenges.
    • IDEO U is an online school where anyone can unlock their creative potential through design thinking and collaboration. The school targets teenagers.
    • IDEO.org is a group of mission-driven drivers looking to use design to have as much impact as possible in the lives of the poor.
    • IDEO CoLab serves as the company’s research and design center. It brings together like-minded organizations to understand and shape how emerging technologies will affect our world.
    • OI Engine is an organizational and management consulting service that helps members of large corporations think more innovatively and collaborate creatively.
    • IDEO Futures [2]incubates and launches IDEO’s new businesses, and connects the world of startups with IDEO.
    • OpenIDEO is a global community working together to design solutions for the world’s challenges. By sharing diverse backgrounds, talents, and ideas with one another, members are equipped to tackle global issues in innovative ways.

In 2016, IDEO reported an annual revenue of KRW 1.6 trillion and owned approximately one thousand patents.


IDEO was formed in 1991 by a merger of David Kelley Design (founded by Stanford University professor David Kelley), London-based Moggridge Associates, San Francisco’s ID Two (both founded by British-born Bill Moggridge), and Matrix Product Design (founded by Mike Nuttall). At first, the company focused on producing innovative and human-centric designs.

  • David Kelley founded David Kelley Design (DKD) after earning his master’s degree from the Joint Program in Design at Stanford University. DKD’s founding members were all influenced by their time at Stanford, and they wanted the idea of “design” to be more than just applying superficial modifications, and instead be a way to create products and services in response to complex challenges in the world. One of DKD’s most remembered projects is the first Apple Mouse, a collaborative product between David Kelley and Steve Jobs.
  • In 1991, DKD merged with ID Two, which designed the world’s first laptop computer, and Matrix Product Design to become IDEO. DKD’s forte was in engineering design, ID Two’s was in human factors, and Matrix Product Design’s was in industrial design. The combination of these three companies made for a powerful synergy.
  • At the time, most design companies focused on meeting the needs of client companies and the preferences of their founders and directors. However, IDEO [3]went the extra mile, closely monitoring customers’ behaviors, designing proposals that met client needs fully, and producing prototypes with quick [4]turnarounds.
  • In the 90s, most of IDEO’s clientele were consumer tech companies based in Silicon Valley. These companies hired IDEO to improve the user experience of their products.

Since the turn of the century, IDEO has expanded its capabilities to become a design consultancy reaching a wider range of audiences.

  • After 2000, David Kelley proposed the concept, “design thinking.” This was a notion that creativity could be summoned at will, with a process not unlike the scientific method. The methodology would draw upon logic, imagination, intuition, and systemic reasoning to explore possibilities of what could be and to create desired outcomes that benefit the end user.
  • In addition, IDEO began to hire designers from non-traditional professions (e.g., educators, architects, consultants, engineers, artists, etc.)
  • IDEO began to take on unconventional “design” projects, such as reorganizing the management structure of a healthcare company and reimagining a high school’s core curriculum. IDEO became a company that designed solutions to experiences.

II. IDEO’s design thinking methodology

IDEO’s three-step design thinking approach helps solves problems according to one’s needs.

Step 1: Inspiration. Understand the targeted user and identify the challenge as clearly as possible.

  • Create an outline: Before plunging into the project, understand and outline the targeted user, the challenge at hand, how to quantify and measure progress, and the objectives and/or goals.
  • Discover the user’s needs: To gain a full understanding of the issue at hand, gather data about the target audience through surveys, interviews, and/or field observations.
  • Related cases: In 1996, Oral-B asked IDEO to design a new toothbrush for kids. The IDEO team started by observing how kids brushed their teeth and found that the way kids hold their toothbrushes was totally different than adults. Kids, lacking the manual dexterity of adults, tended to grab the toothbrush with their fists. IDEO then designed a totally new style of toothbrush: the squish gripper.

Step 2: Ideation. Brainstorm with experts from a wide variety of fields to generate as many ideas as possible. After gathering the ideas, conduct thorough research to finalize on the best idea.

  • Brainstorming: At the start of a project, focus on the number of ideas, rather the quality of these ideas. Trust that a diffuse mode of thinking will help designers find the best solution.
  • Find wild ideas: In pursuit of diffuse thinking, IDEO has hired professionals who can offer as many perspectives as possible, such as a consultant coming from a music school or a fiction writer with an MBA.
  • Select wild ideas: All participating designers will vote on an idea once the assorted options have been explored.

The ideation phase enables designers to produce creative solutions that are not typical to any single field.

Step 3: Implementation. Prototype the idea and incorporate feedback to following iterations of the product. Think about the best way to systematically and effectively market the product.

  • Prototype: Prototyping makes the connection between the ideation and implementation phases in many iterations.
  • Improve the design: Collect user feedback on the prototype and incorporate them into following iterations of the design.
  • Internal support for product marketing: Assuming that you accurately understand the targeted users, enlist internal support to market the product to these customers in the best and most efficient way possible.

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