David Kelley on creative confidence and aligning teams

4 min read
Eli Woolery
  •  Aug 30, 2017
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I’ve had the good fortune of knowing David Kelley—founder of IDEO and Stanford’s—for more than 20 years, since he was my undergraduate advisor.

Over the years, he’s been both a mentor and an inspiration to me, and I feel honored every time I get to sit down to office hours around the corner from his office at the

During the time I’ve known him, he’s shared a lot of great stories from working in Apple’s early days for Steve Jobs to the first consumer mouse. And even convincing the German entrepreneur Hasso Plattner to fund the at Stanford.

The first consumer mouse, designed by IDEO for Apple (image via IDEO)

But I think the most powerful story is one he shared toward the end of this interview.

During one of his celebrated “bird walks,” or wandering anecdotes, he relayed a story about his daughter who recently entered college. I won’t give away the punchline, but as a father myself, it was very touching to hear how a simple text message from her outshined all his other accomplishments.

“Because our methodology…is so human-centered…as long as you focus on the human, that is something everyone can get behind. If you frame it from the human point of view, then everyone can sign up.”
– David Kelley

There are, of course, many insightful, funny, design-related nuggets of wisdom in this episode as well. You wouldn’t expect less from someone that John Maeda once called a “brainy Muppet.”

As you listen, keep an ear out for:

  • Some benefits that teaching brings to David’s work at IDEO, and vice versa
  • How our workspace influences our work and mindsets
  • The story of students in the class Liberation Technologies and how they used design thinking to help families in Nairobi save important documents

David is a great storyteller, and we hope you enjoy listening to this episode as much as we enjoyed sitting down to interview him.

If you like what we’re doing, and want to hear the stories of more great designers like David, it would help us out a lot if you subscribe to the podcast on iTunes and leave us a review.

Thanks for listening!

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