Palo Alto, California, U.S.
Number of employees
IDEO (pronounced „eye-dee-oh") is an international design and consulting firm founded in Palo Alto, California, in 1991. The company has locations in Cambridge (Massachusetts), Chicago, London, Munich, New York City, Palo Alto, San Francisco, Shanghai, and Tokyo. The company uses the design thinking methodology to design products, services, environments, and digital experiences. Additionally, the company has become increasingly involved in management consulting and organizational design.
The firm employs over 700 people across many 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.
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). Office-furniture maker Steelcase owned a majority stake in the firm, but began divesting its shares through a five-year management buy-back program in 2007. The founders of the predecessor companies are still involved in the firm. The current CEO is Tim Brown. 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).
In 2011, IDEO incubated IDEO.org — a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit dedicated to improving the lives of people in poor and vulnerable communities.
The Deep Dive
On February 9, 1999, the ABC show Nightline featured IDEO in a segment called The Deep Dive: One Company's Secret Weapon for Innovation. 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. The end result was a shopping cart with a nestable steel frame which holds removable plastic baskets to help deter theft and increase shopper flexibility. 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. The demonstration of IDEO's innovation process has led to the segment becoming part of numerous curricula, including Project Lead the Way and multiple universities.
Acquisitions and partnerships
On October 17, 2017, IDEO acquired Datascope - a data science firm based in Chicago. Datascope has worked with IDEO as a consultant on many projects over the past four years. CEO Tim Brown states that the acquisition is largely motivated by advances in data sciences and machine learning. These advances allow for a bigger focus in human-centered applications including facilitation of the design process. Datascope's 15-person team will be moved to IDEO's Chicago office.
IDEO's organizational culture consists of project teams, flat hierarchy, individual autonomy, creativity, socialization of recruits and engineer buy-in.
Products and services
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, ShinHo, and Steelcase among many others.
In August 2010, IDEO introduced OpenIDEO - a collaborative platform for the design process. OpenIDEO was designed to be an internal tool for IDEO to collaborate with clients, but it is now a public tool. The purpose of the tool is to virtually drive the creative process to solve social problems, allowing for people of different expertise and backgrounds to collaborate. Examples of projects that have been facilitated by OpenIDEO include various projects of the WWF and TEDPrize winner Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution movement.
OpenIDEO is an example of a Crowdsourcing platform for creative work. On the website, one user puts up a brief summary of its idea and creates discussions. From the website, users can get help from others who have the knowledge or ability to provide him/her with helpful information or insightful guidance to develop the idea or that workpiece. There are three major steps for crowdsourcing on OpenIDEO: challenge, events, alliances. The “Challenges” part is an open idea accelerator where worldwide users are connected to the platform. The “Events” part creates opportunities for users to participate, engage actively, and collaborate with innovators. The “Alliances” part provides a sense of community that supports its users to connect, design solutions together, and build partnerships.
IDEO U is an online educational program released in early 2017. Course participants are instructed on the concepts surrounding human-centered design thinking.
In addition to the online program, IDEO and its affiliates have released multiple books on design thinking, including New York Times best-selling Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All. CEO Tim 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.
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