IDEO, Yesterday, and Today

by David Kelley

David Kelley

I’ve always been proud of IDEO, but I am particularly proud of where we are today. The diversity of our teams and the importance of the projects we do are staggering. Most impressive to me is that IDEO-ers are so smart and talented that when a new project comes in, we can put together a seemingly random team of designers out of who is available in the firm at that time, and in the end, magic happens: breakthrough ideas and happy clients.

I am most proud of the culture of the place. When I started the firm that would eventually become IDEO, all I really wanted to do was work with my friends on cool projects. I dreamed of a life that was like summer break from college all the time for me and my pals. I had worked in corporate America, and as exciting as designing aircraft and computer banking terminals was, I longed for a life that felt more personal, more creative, and more meaningful.

Luckily I had found Stanford - its design program and Bob McKim. At Stanford I found my calling and my passion, and I have never questioned my fit in the world since arriving in Palo Alto. IDEO still seems like it did in the beginning to me, a special place with extraordinary people trying to do the right thing for themselves and the world around them. Just a lot bigger. Having said that, the IDEO old timers will tell you how exciting it was back in the day, but I’m here to tell you that this is the most exciting time in our history to work at this company.

Go to our website and just enjoy browsing and feeling the impact we are having on the world. Crazy! When I go to a dinner party these days, somebody usually asks: what is IDEO up to? It’s hard to answer. One, there are so many interesting projects going on I can’t even remember my favorites or which ones I’m allowed to talk about. And two, if I really tell them even a few stories it seems unbelievable, so many impressive projects making so much impact. They think I'm exaggerating or delusional. And to think, when we started I thought we were going to forever be designing plastic parts for Silicon Valley computers and that would be enough to be fulfilled.

Most people I know have jobs or careers that they do mainly to earn a living. They actually live to do things like playing tennis or traveling in Europe or riding their bikes to the ocean. Doing their job and making money is a means to that end and a way to provide for their families. But all too many of them—lawyers, doctors, management consultants—have jobs that “look good but feel bad.” This is not the case for me and hopefully for most IDEO-ers. What we do is a way of life, not really a job, and it feels good.

My dream for the future of IDEO is still the same as it was back in 1978: that everyone at IDEO finds their calling; that being here feels like working with friends; that we are all enjoying our lives; that we are engaged in what feels like important work we were personally put on earth to do.

Enjoy every project!


IDEO, Today, and Tomorrow

by Tim Brown

Tim Brown