David Kelley’s company IDEO helped create many icons of the digital generation — but what matters even more to him is unlocking the creative potential of people and organizations to innovate routinely.

Why you should listen

As founder of legendary design firm IDEO, David Kelley built the company that created many icons of the digital generation -- the first mouse, the first Treo, the thumbs up/thumbs down button on your Tivo's remote control, to name a few. But what matters even more to him is unlocking the creative potential of people and organizations so they can innovate routinely.

David Kelley's most enduring contributions to the field of design are a methodology and culture of innovation. More recently, he led the creation of the groundbreaking d.school at Stanford, the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design, where students from the business, engineering, medicine, law, and other diverse disciplines develop the capacity to solve complex problems collaboratively and creatively.

Kelley was working (unhappily) as an electrical engineer when he heard about Stanford's cross-disciplinary Joint Program in Design, which merged engineering and art. What he learned there -- a human-centered, team-based approach to tackling sticky problems through design -- propelled his professional life as a "design thinker."

In 1978, he co-founded the design firm that ultimately became IDEO, now emulated worldwide for its innovative, user-centered approach to design. IDEO works with a range of clients -- from food and beverage conglomerates to high tech startups, hospitals to universities, and today even governments -- conceiving breakthrough innovations ranging from a life-saving portable defibrillator to a new kind of residence for wounded warriors, and helping organizations build their own innovation culture.

Today, David serves as chair of IDEO and is the Donald W. Whittier Professor at Stanford, where he has taught for more than 25 years. Preparing the design thinkers of tomorrow earned David the Sir Misha Black Medal for his “distinguished contribution to design education.” He has also won the Edison Achievement Award for Innovation, as well as the Chrysler Design Award and National Design Award in Product Design from the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, and he is a member of the National Academy of Engineers.

What others say

“We're focused more and more on human-centered design; that involves designing behaviors and personality into products.” — David Kelley

David Kelley’s TED talks

More news and ideas from David Kelley


David Kelley on the need for creative confidence

October 16, 2013

In 2012, IDEO founder and longtime Stanford professor David Kelley took the TED stage in Long Beach and shared a deeply personal story. It was the tale of his own cancer diagnosis, of finding a lump in his neck and being told he had a 40% chance of survival. This was clearly a sobering moment, […]

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