IDEO Interview

We caught up with the team from IDEO that created the graphic statement for our [i]Design Solutions[/i] issue.

IDEO is one of the world's most decorated design consultancies. Apple's first mouse was IDEO's work. The firm employs experts from disciplines as disparate as graphic design, mechanical engineering and anthropology to create human-centered design solutions for some huge clients.

And they did some work for us too. For GOOD 006 we asked an IDEO team to create the graphic statement-a blank canvas to interpret the issue's theme: Design Solutions. You can see their piece here. We recently caught up with them to learn more about their work on this project and their process.

Hi. So IDEO is known for its diverse teams. Could you introduce the core team that worked on the GOOD project?

Roshi Givechi: The core team consisted of Ian Groulx, a graphic/communication designer; Beau Trincia, an environments designer; and myself, a new media/interaction designer and storyteller.

What were the very first meetings like?

Ian Groulx: There was a lot of buzz. People wanted to get involved. It wasn't just a graphic design exercise. We included people from several disciplines in the early brainstorms. The core team then trimmed back down to filter and focus, and when it came time to make it real, we brought in a group of designers to explore the possibilities of how we might execute the final concept.

Did you have any guidelines as you began thinking about the project?

RG: Guidelines? Not so formally. We did aim for a couple of things though: Make it a call to action-an invitation-and make sure the end result reflects that there's a designer/problem-solver in all of us.

IG: Also, we wanted to stay true to the theme of the issue, and try not to get too deep with content. Our job was to be a spark…an intro to the issue.

You ended up using a café scene and overlaying a wide range of handwritten design improvements. How did you settle on that picture?

RG: It was partly driven by composition, partly by the serendipity of the people in the view frame, and partly because of the context (a café). It's a place that a larger population of people will relate to.

The GOOD > GO DO label in the top left: why?

RG: We wanted to leave the page intact because of the existing GOOD logo. It's a subtle "entrance" and it seemed to respect your magazine as well.

IG: The whole idea that it's a call to action for those "people who give a damn" seemed fitting. The play on the name of the magazine was the icing on the cake.

I noticed some of the ideas in the piece incorporated sustainability improvements. To what extent is green, or sustainable design becoming synonymous with good design?

RG: To me, in order to design well, we need to consider many threads, and sustainability is thankfully becoming one of the usual suspects.

IG: Our thinking is that sustainability is not just a trend. We think it's a long-term change in the ways that companies are doing business and people are living their lives. One of the nice things is that a lot of it is happening by choice. People are really motivated to make a difference. Sustainability is part of being good these days. It's on the checklist, right before kerning.

One of the ideas from your piece is having a billboard double as a climbing wall. That would be a legal nightmare to get done. Even something like getting more street plants would probably get all tied up in a city council. How could the relationship between business or government and design be improved?

RG: Promote human-centeredness as a way to instill trust and promote understanding. Find ways to "see" the same situations together, like swapping roles for a day or two to gain empathy. Communicate the differences in policies or structures and clearly identify the areas where all three can more naturally participate. We've found that using design to refine processes and systems is extremely effective.

IG: In general, we tend to like to see "problems" as opportunities for change and improvement. Call us optimists, but we feel we have the collective mindshare to do something and make a difference. In terms of the GOOD issue, we wanted to highlight the importance of finding opportunities before they become a problem. Having a human-centered approach allows for that kind of anticipatory thinking.

Why are we still surrounded by this many potential design improvements?

RG: Products and environments tend to have lasting power, but they don't necessarily align with current expectations around interactions-thoughtful ones anyway. It's also in all of our natures to reflect and make better anything that can anticipate and support our next move.

Were there some other compelling ideas for the project that you toyed with?

IG: Absolutely, whenever you have a smart group of people, there's going to be a lot of ideas on the table. One idea I really liked was a spin on the "This is your brain. This is your brain on drugs." ad campaign. Spread #1 would have shown the problem and spread #2, the solution. The text was going to read something like "This is a design problem" and "This is a design solution." Another favorite idea was to supply your readers with a stencil that read "opportunity area" that they could use to signal to others that there is potential for design to make a difference in a particular spot. (Think guerilla marketing).

What was your last home-improvement or DIY project?

RG: I'm on the brink of upgrading all the windows in my place. Aside from the saving energy part, the additional peace alone will be sublime!

IG: I co-planned…organized…designed my wedding. My wife and I are both graphic designers, so you could imagine how detailed and well, detailed, we were. That was quite a project. It was all worth it though. So far…the best day of my life!
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