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Industry Design firm[1]
Founded 1991; 26 years ago (1991)
Founder David Kelley;[2] Bill Moggridge, Mike Nuttall
Key people
Number of employees
600+ (2015)

IDEO (pronounced "eye-dee-oh") is an international design and consulting firm founded in Palo Alto, California, in 1991.[3] The company has locations in Cambridge (Massachusetts), Chicago, London, Munich, New York City, Palo Alto, San Francisco, Shanghai and Tokyo.[4] The company uses the design thinking methodology to design products, services, environments, and digital experiences.[3][5] Additionally, the company has become increasingly involved in management consulting and organizational design.[6]

The firm employs over 600 people in a number of disciplines including: Behavioral Science, Branding, Business Design, Communication Design, Design Research, Digital Design, Education, Electrical Engineering, Environments Design, Food Science, Healthcare Services, Industrial Design, Interaction Design, Mechanical Engineering, Organizational Design, and Software Engineering.[7]

IDEO has worked on projects in the consumer food and beverage, retail, computer, medical, educational, furniture, toy, office, and automotive industries. Some examples include Apple's first mouse, the Palm V PDA, and Steelcase's Leap chair. Clients include Air New Zealand, Coca-Cola, ConAgra Foods, Eli Lilly, Ford, Medtronic, Sealy, and Steelcase among many others.[7]


IDEO was formed in 1991 by a merger of David Kelley Design (founded by Stanford University professor David Kelley), London-based Moggridge Associates and San Francisco's ID Two (both founded by British-born Bill Moggridge), and Matrix Product Design (founded by Mike Nuttall).[8] Office-furniture maker Steelcase owned a majority stake in the firm,[6] but began divesting its shares through a five-year management buy-back program in 2007.[9] The founders of the predecessor companies are still involved in the firm. The current CEO is Tim Brown. Brown is the author of Change by Design: How Design Thinking Transforms Organizations and Inspires Innovation (2009) in which he argues that design can transform problems into opportunities – emphasizing design thinking as a human-centered activity, he specifically prizes the feeling of empathy, where designers are capable of understanding the perspectives and problems the end users face.[10]

Bill Moggridge died on September 8, 2012. While the company started with a focus on designing consumer products (e.g., toothbrush, personal assistant, computers), by 2001, IDEO began to increase focus on consumer experiences (e.g., non-traditional classrooms). Kelley applied the term "design thinking" to business in order to encompass the approach to work of IDEO across industries and challenges.[11]

In 2011, IDEO incubated — a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit dedicated to applying human-centered design to alleviate poverty.

The Deep Dive[edit]

On February 9, 1999, the ABC show Nightline featured IDEO in a segment called The Deep Dive: One Company's Secret Weapon for Innovation.[12][13] The segment featured Jack Smith of ABC touring the IDEO office and challenging the company to redesign the shopping cart in five days to demonstrate IDEO's process for innovation.[14] The end result was a shopping cart with a nestable steel frame which holds removable plastic baskets to help deter theft and increase shopper flexibilty. A dual child seat with a swing-up tray was also included in the design, as well as a cupholder, a scanner to skip the checkout line and steerable back wheels for maneuverability.[14] The demonstration of IDEO's innovation process has led to the segment becoming part of numerous curricula, including Project Lead the Way[15] and multiple universities.[16][17][18]

Organizational culture[edit]

IDEO's organizational culture consists of project teams, flat hierarchy, individual autonomy, creativity, socialization of recruits and engineer buy-in.[19]


  • Dobbin, Frank. “High Commitment Practices”. Harvard University. October 10, 2012. Lecture.
  • Thomke, Stefan and Ashok Nimgade. Ideo Product Development. 9-600-143. Boston. Harvard Business Publishing
  • Kelley, Tom, and Jonathan Littman. The Art of Innovation: Lessons in Creativity from IDEO, America's Leading Design Firm. New York: Currency/Doubleday, 2001. page 70.
  • “Recruiting Q&A: IDEO” Business week. 10 January 2001
  • "Designed Chaos - An Interview with David Kelley, Founder and CEO of IDEO." Designed Chaos. N.p., n.d.
  • "Navigate." Careers FAQ. N.p., n.d.
  • Stevents, Tim. “Creative Genius”. Industry Week. 4 July 1994. Skokie, IL


  1. ^ Harris, Jessica (26 June 2014). "David Kelley, Co-Founder of IDEO". NPR. Retrieved 25 September 2014. 
  2. ^ Eng, Dinah (29 April 2013), "Bringing Design to Corporate America", Fortune (paper), pp. 25–28 
  3. ^ a b "IDEO LLC". Bloomberg Businessweek. Archived from the original on 2011-12-20. Retrieved 2011-11-12. 
  4. ^ "IDEO Contact page". Retrieved 2011-11-12. 
  5. ^ Kelley, David; Kelley, Tom (2013). Creative Confidence. United States of America: Crown Business. p. 21. 
  6. ^ a b Nussbaum, Bruce (2004-05-17). "The Power of Design". Business Week. Retrieved 2006-12-19. 
  7. ^ a b "IDEO Fact Sheet". Retrieved January 8, 2017. 
  8. ^ "International Directory of Company Histories". Retrieved 2011-11-12. 
  9. ^ Bauer, Julia (2007-09-20). "Steelcase's IDEO will be sold over next five years". Grand Rapids Press. Retrieved 2007-09-20. 
  10. ^ Kimbell, Lucy (2011). "Rethinking Design Thinking: Part I". Design and Culture. 3 (3). 
  11. ^ Brown, Tim; Wyatt, Jocelyn (19 November 2009). "Design Thinking for Social Innovation". Stanford Social Innovation Review (Winter 2010). Retrieved 29 September 2014. 
  12. ^ "IDEO Nightline Transcript" (PDF). THE TRANSCRIPTION COMPANY. Retrieved 8 January 2017. 
  13. ^ "No mystery why IDEO became the home of good ideas". The Independent. 9 May 2001. Retrieved 8 January 2017. 
  14. ^ a b "Reimagining the Shopping Cart". IDEO. April 1999. Retrieved January 8, 2017. 
  15. ^ "1.5.A DeepDive". Project Lead the Way. Retrieved 8 January 2017. 
  16. ^ "CIOW - Videos". University of Pennsylvania. Retrieved 8 January 2017. 
  17. ^ Smith, Karl. "The Art of Innovation - University of Minnesota". University of Minnesota. 
  18. ^ "The Deep Dive - Weber State University". Weber State University. 
  19. ^ Dobbin, Frank (October 10, 2012). High Commitment Practices. Harvard University. pp. Lecture. 

External links[edit]