Uh, I think you spelled “Idea” wrong


I went to the Palo Alto Art Center today and checked out a cool exhibit called “IDEO prototypes the future” (.pdf press release).  If you’ve never heard of them, IDEO is a Palo-Alto based company that has a creative take on engineering and product design that has made them the cause celebre of CEOs looking to grow their companies (including GE and P&G).  Here’s a somewhat recent cover story in BusinessWeek.

This exhibit was fascinating because it focused not just on what they’ve designed but also how they designed it.  They are firm believers in getting out in the field to fundamentally understand your customer’s problems (they hire cultural anthropologists and sociologists amongst others) and then they rapidly prototype (working) designs to actually get the client to experience the solution rather than just see it on paper.

The net result is some very cool products. I took some photos above and you can see the design for the original Apple mouse and all the prototypes for the Palm V.  There are also a bunch of products that never hit the showroom: a mock-up of a child’s laptop, a variety of consumer goods and an iron.  Incidentally, it was the people at IDEO who designed the original folding screen laptop.

There’s a lot more to this exhibit and fortunately you can get a lot of it online.  The folks at PodTech.net have covered this exhibit quite rigorously.  There’s a recording of the gallery reception where an interesting panel discussion was had amongst the principals of the firm; they discuss their unique approach to design.  Similarly, there’s a gallery walk-through with the head of the firm where they describe a lot of the items and the background to them.  Two last articles here and here.

Incidentally, if you’re a fan of innovation, I’d also recommend you check out these three podcasts from PodTech.net.  Clayton Christensen talks about innovation (what the hell would he know about it?).  Ray Kurzweil discusses the future and how we constantly underestimate trends because we don’t understand power laws.  And finally Andy Kessler chimes in on how silicon valley is changing medicine.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

# Exception: TypeError
# Message  : contentDiv.getElementsByClassName("comment-manage-link").each is not a function