IDEO y el diseño

IDEO es una consultoría que ha tenido un gran impacto en el diseño industrial de nuestra generación: desde el diseño del primer portátil hasta el primer ratón para el Lisa y el Macintosh. También es el lugar donde se generó el término diseño de interacción.


Repasando una de las entrevistas a David Kelley, uno de los fundadores y reputado diseñador industrial, me ha llamado la atención ciertas ideas comunes que he visto en otras compañías como Pixar y sus pelis.

¿Qué perfil tiene un buen diseñador?

«Successful design depends on a design mindset: one that is open to possibilities and ready to take risks in a creative leap into possibilities that are not yet defined and whose consequences are not yet visible.»

Según Kelley, un buen diseñador sería un disidente, se siente cómodo en considerar ideas que a priori parecen locas o sinsentido: es pues alguien que debe tener confianza en sí mismo y amigos – un entorno que acepte su naturaleza y propicio al desarrollo de la idea. Es alguien también sin miedo a exponerlas ante otros por “el que pesarán”, ya que compartir es un método de obtener feedback y mejorarla. Finalmente, debe tener una cierta mirada abierta sobre el mundo, con una disposición continua a aprender, a no estancarse en lo que ya sabe:

People who are good inventors—good designers—don’t mind saying, “How about following this path, which doesn’t yet exist?” Most people have trouble doing that; they preface everything they say in a brainstorm with “This idea may be stupid, but here it is.”They are afraid that someone else will think that their leap is stupid.

Successful designers just send out their vision to the world; and then, when somebody else builds on it, that’s okay. They’re not protective of their ideas because they’re so used to having ideas. A creative designer has an idea a minute. Publicizing an idea is a way to improve on the idea—someone else can build on it, expand it.If you’re fluent with ideas, as most design people are, you don’t have to be fearful.You don’t protect your one good idea because your afraid you’ll never have another good one.

The other point about making the leap is being able to keep seeing a problem from new perspectives. Anybody who has a strong filter on the world forces everything to fit that filter. In our product-design courses, we assign exercises where you take an object and look at it backward, or you draw it from an ant’s point of view, or see it as material. For example, think about a computer monitor. It is just plastic with a piece of glass.Maybe I could do something completely different with it.

A central tenet of design is that you have to avoid stereotyping—the designer has to continue to say, “That’s interesting! Look at that!” That skill is hard to teach. All you can do is to give people the experience, and to let them extrapolate from it. A good designer has always had substantial experience.If you ask designers “What’s design?” they can’t tell you. But a designer who has had experience knows what design is.

De la organización del trabajo

En IDEO, el trabajo se hace por equipos. Ciertamente hay gente con mayor capacidad que otros para dar el salto creativo, pero ese proceso se da en una comunidad: entre iguales que no tienen miedo a decir lo que piensan ni a que se “apropien de su trabajo”. Principalmente en los inicios del proyecto, existen sesiones de brainstorming donde puede participar quien lo desee. La decisión y responsabilidad es del que inicia el proceso.

Successful design is done by teams. Creative leaps might be taken by individuals, but design thrives on the different points of view found in teams.You want a multidisciplinary team, what we call x-func (cross-functional). You want different brains working on the problem. Otherwise, the person with the power, or the person who speaks the loudest, sets the direction for the whole design.You have to keep a broad perspective at the beginning; you have to be uncomfortable with the fact that you’re not moving forward in a straight line toward the goal (and, project managers do want to move forward!); you have to feel comfortable with exploring.

In a company such as IDEO, where you have many creative people, when someone has a great idea, nobody ends up knowing whose idea it was. It’s not branded as George’s idea. Either nobody knows whose idea it was, because of all the discussion that took place, or everyone thinks it was his or her own idea.Either perception is equally good, and both happen frequently.

In our company, the person who owns the solution is the person who posed the question. If I’m the one who says, “Let’s create a new toaster,” I own everything that happens, because I initiated the discussion. In most cases, the clients are the owners, because they pose the question. You can hold a brainstorm on any subject you want, any time. Just send out a message that says, “I’m holding a brainstorm at 2:00. Will you come?” And everybody comes. You’d think everybody would say, “Oh, I’m too busy.” Not true: People know that they are going to need you to come to their brainstorm tomorrow. So the culture requires you to participate in other people’s problems.

You eventually get to the point where you look forward to the brainstorm for two reasons. One is that sessions are genuinely interesting. It’s like reading a book or reading the encyclopedia—you learn about a new subject. The other reason is that it’s not your problem. The guy who’s got the toaster problem has the client; he has to get the design done on time; he has to make that leap that makes us so uncomfortable. The other designers come in totally relaxed, totally free to generate ideas in the toaster area, because it’s just fun. They’re helping, and the only pressure on them is that they want to help their peer.

A diferencia de Pixar, que es una compañía de producto, IDEO es una compañía de servicios. Como consultoría sufre pues la tensión entre aceptar ciegamente lo que el cliente pide o tomar parte en la definición del problema para llegar a una mejor solución. La resolución de este conflicto es curiosamente similar a la de Pixar: inicialmente, el rango de opciones es amplio y se exploran alternativas (sesiones de brainstorming, prototipado, etc). A medida que el proyecto avanza, entra en otras fases de producción donde la capacidad de tomar otros caminos es menor debido a los costes.

Say that a company comes in and says “We want you to design a new toaster.” And I say “We’re going to study bread crisping in its generic sense.” They say, “Look, I told you just to design a toaster. Get going.” They think that the world of what a toaster could be is small. But we might say, “Look, our job is to begin by looking at the history of bread. “Maybe we want to see whether they had a better way to make toast in Renaissance France or on the Space Shuttle. We don’t want just to design the curlicues on the side of the client’s next toaster. Maybe what we’re going to find from looking at this history is that the best solution is to put more curlicues on the side, but I always say: “Think about how much more comfortable you’re going to feel that we are doing the right thing if we do a broad search and then narrow down.”

Breadth takes extra effort at the beginning, but that’s the best time—right at the outset of the product development process—to take a step back to see the situation. The design part of the product process takes a small portion of time. The next steps after design have 10 times the cost, time, effort, and emotional stress. Then, manufacturing incurs 10 times that. So time invested at the beginning isn’t wasted; we make up the cost in later stages easily, by doing the design right.

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