IDEOlogy

Ok about IDEO. Where to even begin… I’ve been at the office for about a week now, though more as semi-spectator than a full-time designer. This is in part because I’m not actually supposed to be there yet; my contract only starts on the 14th of February (Valentine’s day, in fact) and no one really expected me to show up already. I have jokingly been called an overachiever, yet sometimes I stop to ponder as to how much it in fact is a joke. The proportions in it, perhaps. I occasionally want to bite the world and IDEO seems like the best of appetizers. Most of what we were lead to believe about the company is true, as far as I can tell. Ain’t that great? Projects do assemble around assignments, teams are truly multi-disciplinary, the company still enjoys the luxury to select its projects (I was told they recently explained to an eagerly inquiring client that they probably can’t afford IDEO’s services). If IDEO is the prom queen of the design world, I guess that makes me her hair dresser. The fridge is permanently full of Coke (glass, not plastic bottles), 6 different types of yoghurt, two types of quality fruit juice and today, left over Thai food from the weekly collective lunch. The rooftop terrace is genius and so are the people working here.

It is hard to describe the mind-boggle that is participating in a brainstorm session with highly (what’s above highly…? vertiginously) capable, intelligent and experienced designers. Particularly how they tackle the sheer breadth of a design brief without losing focus. It’s like joining a Cirque du Soleil troupe of trapeze swingers and coming to consider mid-air, as one is being tossed around: ‘gee, I’m not sure where chaos ends and preparation begins, but what a feeling of confidence for one to experience here, 47 feet above ground’. These are people that can jump in a hay depot and come out with not one but three needles, neatly arranged in a 2-by-2 matrix at that. It’s amazing. It feels a lot like IDP, but different… I can’t really put my finger on it, whether it’s because they talk less, or because they say more intelligent things, or because they ask different questions… again, I’m down to pointing my finger at this incredible confidence that teams acquire from solid experience. By the time my colleagues will be done with the Synthesis phase, we’ll be able to write the identified Opportunity Areas in stone, ten-commandments style.

I never want to leave here. In every project room, on the walls, are written the exact tennets of brainstorming that I grew up with: Defer judgement, Encourage wild Ideas, Build on ideas of others, Stay focused on the topic, One conversation at a time, Be visual, Go for quantity. AHA! See that one about staying focused on the topic? Ok that’s I think where the champs separate from the chumps, IDEO from IDP. I guess some of these rules require more practice than others. It’s no wonder that I feel home at IDEO, we were breast-fed these brainstorming rules and more methods since day one at our beloved design faculty of the TU Delft. In that I am grateful. Yet sometimes I’m pissed when I realize how little we have put emphasis on communication design (or Comm design as they call it here). Typography, lay-out, reports, badass renders even. A fellow intern here (and my favourite so far) pointed out that at least graphic design is easier to catch up on than say, engineering. Still, you’d think they could slip some in our milk in those 5 years of TUition…

Anyway, this week flew by which means the next 64 (I haven’t counted) will pass by equally fast and so I should make lists. (Me being me, I could easily start a sentence with ‘We’ve run out of bread’ and end it with ‘so I made a top 3 list…’) My list contains things I shouldn’t loose sight of in the whirlwind that is IDEO. Die-hard things like Come in early, leave late, work at night, come back with results in the morning, and other stuff like Frequently seek feedback (something one always forget to do before it’s almost over) and even Investigate career opportunities. A pretty long list that flew out of me at a surprising speed. You know how sometimes you start a to-do list and you can’t believe you already have 13 items within 60 seconds? You think ‘that much, eh?’. My ambitions for the next 6 months are multitudinous (I couldn’t come up with more multiple-expression word, even though I am certain in my bones of the existence of one that is).

But what’s new eh? I like the expression of how ‘you can’t have your cake and eat it too’, but come on, just one cake? I want to have and eat some thirty-four cakes, and that’s just for 2011.

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