60 Minutes: David Kelley IDEO, Design Thinking & Hasso Plattner School


60 Minutes: Design Thinking

You may never have heard the name David Kelley, but the inventions that have come from his remarkable career have probably touched your life. If you have ever used a computer mouse or seen an “occupied” sign on an airplane bathroom, David Kelley and IDEO have had an impact on your life through the concept of design thinking.

60 Minutes: What Is Design Thinking?

IDEO is located in California’s Silicon Valley, and that is where it has invented things like the stand-up toothpaste tube. Kelley’s philosophy as CEO is known as Design Thinking, which takes human behavior into account during the design process.


60 Minutes: David Kelley IDEO, Design Thinking & Hasso Plattner School

IDEO’s David Kelley explained the innovative concept of design thinking, with a reliance on collaboration, that is changing the world around us every day.

He explained to Charlie Rose that it is all about collaboration, as a diverse team from an array of backgrounds works together and builds ideas on one another. IDEO came to be over 20 years ago, and the problem solving design team includes engineers, journalists, businesspeople and more.

“That’s the hard part, is the cultural thing of having a diverse group of people and having them be good at building on each other’s ideas,” Kelley said.


60 Minutes: IDEO Apple Mouse For Steve Jobs

Following the brainstorming process, IDEO produces real prototypes, always keeping the consumer in mind and observing how people interact with the world around them. Kelley said that “building empathy” is their secret to design success, and watching how real people use a product can tell you how to improve it.

Design thinking was born in 1978 when Kelley and colleagues from Stanford started a company that is now IDEO. Steve Jobs was an early client and would become a longtime friend to Kelley. They worked together on many Apple products, including the company’s first computer mouse.

Jobs was very involved in the minute details of the design process, and IDEO learned through trial how to perfect the computer mouse and even coat the ball in rubber to meet Jobs’ demanding specifications.

60 Minutes: IDEO Steelcase Classroom Chair Review

Other clients of IDEO include the kitchenware maker Zyliss, the TiVo remote with its thumbs up or down, and a talking heart defibrillator for emergencies. In recent years, stalwart furniture maker Steelcase asked IDEO to reconceive the elementary classroom chair.

What IDEO came up with was on wheels, with a space underneath it for a backpack, as well as a swiveling workspace for fidgety kids. It sounds more comfortable, and Charlie Rose was able to sit in it comfortably, but I would think that chairs on wheels would drive teachers crazy.

60 Minutes: IDEO Empathy & Worldwide Design

Empathy is the keyword at IDEO, which works around the world to improve drinking water, redesign classrooms, and much more in countries including Peru and China. Kelley got his start at Boeing as an engineer, helping to design lighted windows and the “occupied” sign that comes on when the lavatory door locks.

But his love of hands-on design is traced back to his Ohio childhood, where his family would innovate and find solutions to things such as a broken washing machine. He even took apart the family piano, but lost interest before properly reassembling it.

60 Minutes: Steve Jobs Cancer Advice

In his 20s, a dissatisfied Kelley pursued product design at Stanford, and things really began to take off. “Stanford was the synthesis of…art and engineering, and it was wonderful,” he said.

Then Kelley and Jobs connected, beginning a friendship that spanned decades, until Jobs passed away. Kelley said his gruff demeanor was a misconception, because Jobs was very driven and goal-oriented.

Jobs also introduced Kelley to his wife, KC Branscomb, and gave the man advice during his own 2007 bout with cancer. Jobs said that Kelley should not explore alternatives and should stick with conventional Western cancer treatments.

According to his friend, Jobs thought he had made a mistake in delaying pancreatic cancer treatments, and did not want to see the same thing happen to his friend.

60 Minutes: Stanford Hasso Plattner School

Steve’s focus on his children during his illness inspired Kelley to fight his cancer and focus on what he had to live for. Kelley wanted to be there for his daughter as she grew up.

He also got inspired to team with Stanford and a client, Hasso Plattner, on a school for “human-centered design,” to the tune of a $35 million donation from Plattner.

60 Minutes: ‘Flaky’ Design Degrees

Kelley is now running the “d. school,” as it’s informally known, the first of its kind in the country, which is open to graduate students of all disciplines and has a long waiting list, including people with backgrounds in the arts, law, medicine, and more.

However, another bit of advice from Jobs affected the outcome: the school does not offer degrees, because Jobs thought they would be “flaky.” He preferred to have someone with a strong background in another discipline, who had design thinking training on top of that foundation.

60 Minutes: David Kelley Epitaph

With his cancer now in remission, Kelley spends a lot of time working on projects with his teenage daughter, including a 3D printer. He loves to make things, and he drives around in a 1954 Chevrolet pickup truck.

I guess just for fun, Rose took it upon himself to opine about life and write an early epitaph for Kelley: “My theory is that sometimes life squeezes out the best of us,” Rose said. “David Kelley helped people find the confidence in their creativity.”

That is not a bad way to be remembered, and Kelley of course had no objections.

Have you ever thought about the way things are designed? Tell me in the comments about a product you regularly use that needs improvement.


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