The Deans of Design
From the computer mouse to the newest Swiffer, IDEO is the firm behind the scenes
The show also implies that design is simply about products. But IDEO is pushing design thinking far beyond that. The firm was hired by Kraft to help improve its relationship-and supply-chain management process-with Safeway supermarkets. IDEO brought teams from both companies to Palo Alto to brainstorm and develop prototypes of strategies and promotions. Afterward, IDEO pestered the participants with E-mails to remind them to follow up on the ideas generated at the get-together.
Crumbs on the carpet. What's it like to experience the IDEO approach as a client? Robert Godfroid has seen it firsthand. He led a team from P&G that worked with IDEO on the Carpet Flick, a version of the popular Swiffer for cleaning carpets without an electric vacuum. The collaboration combined existing P&G consumer research with IDEO'S research process, such as visiting people in their homes to see how they cleaned. Then came a couple of days of brainstorming, IDEO style. "So you had all these P&G managers down on the floor on their hands and knees working with tape dispensers and scrapers and things trying to pick crumbs off the floor," Godfroid recalls. "We weren't just pondering about this stuff on a whiteboard."
The Eureka moment came after an IDEO team member was messing with a squeegee and realized that crumbs and other small particles could be collected by pressing them down and popping them back up like tiddlywinks. That approach was quickly incorporated into rough prototypes-"You can always pretty it up later," Godfroid says-and eventually into what became the final design. "I've now become an evangelist for this kind of development process."
Time to leave the yurt. Brown is headed to the airport to catch a flight to China, where he's giving a speech on design. Unfortunately, when you're the CEO of one of the planet's most influential design firms, you tend to see disjointed design everywhere. "Airport security-please, just give us an hour to work on that!" Brown exclaims with a smile.