For more than a decade, organizations as far-ranging as Procter&Gamble, the Mayo Clinic, and NASA have sought inspiration from Ideo, the Palo Alto-based design shop that David Kelley launched in 1991 along with two other firms. Described by the firm as "part art, part science," Ideo's brainstorming method pushes the boundaries of traditional design practice, inviting the world at large—psychologists, engineers, and even a linguist—into the creative process. The result: a vast suite of breakthrough products that includes the first PC mouse for Apple, a mechanical whale for the film Free Willy, and the Palm V. After 31 years in the design business, Kelley is now taking on his greatest challenge: redesigning the way designers are educated. Stanford's engineering school recently asked Kelley to codify his craft into a multidisciplinary design curriculum for its new "D school," which he will head. Classes commence in the school's new building in 2007.
A version of this article appeared in the June 2004 issue of Fast Company magazine.