Frequently Asked Questions

You’ve got questions; we’ve got answers. Here’s a bit more about IDEO.org and the work that we do, based on our most commonly received questions.

  • What’s the difference between IDEO and IDEO.org?
  • What do design/innovation firms/organizations do?
  • What is human-centered design, and how does it work?
  • How does IDEO.org select its partner organizations?
  • I’d love to be a part of IDEO.org; what opportunities are currently available?
  • I’m not a designer; is there still a role for me at IDEO.org?
  • Can I come by for a tour or workshop?
  • Where can I learn more?  

What’s the difference between IDEO and IDEO.org?

IDEO is a global for-profit design company that aims to create positive impact through design. They are known as a pioneer of human-centered design, or putting people at the center their work--an approach that has come to be known as design thinking. As their methods continue to evolve in response to new challenges, they’re launching innovation labs, creating pop-up incubators, live-prototyping new businesses, and designing in code. The firm was founded over 30 years ago, and now has 600 employees working in 13 locations worldwide.

IDEO.org is IDEO’s sister non-profit organization. We also practice human-centered design--imagining and implementing products, services, and experiences to improve the lives and livelihoods of people in poor and vulnerable communities around the world. Since launching in 2011, we’ve established four main program areas: Health XO, which focuses on re-imagining sexual health and contraceptive services for teens; Financial Health, to design financial products and services explicitly for low-income communities, in order to help them control their fiscal futures; Amplify, which is a series of innovation challenges that allow us to invest in early-stage solutions to tough problems through funding and design support to bring the winning solutions to life; and Launchpad, where we seek to understand where business and technology can meet the demands of poverty. When we’re not in the field, we problem-solve from our studios in San Francisco and New York.

What do design/innovation firms/organizations do?

Basically, IDEO, IDEO.org, and others like us are in the business of partnering with companies, governments, and organizations, to help \come up with what they’re going to do/make/offer their customers and clients in the future. This is different from advertising, which mostly worries about how to sell a product or idea once it’s created. It's also different from management consulting, which typically involves crunching lots of data and figuring out what path a company should take based on known information and trends. When clients don’t think the right answer is out there yet, they come to an organization like ours.

There are lots of ways to approach challenges like these. Some firms deal more with the “why” by providing insight into customer needs and behaviors and providing high-level strategy and sometimes concepts for new offerings. Some firms focus on the “what” by coming up with product and service ideas and then designing them (how they look, how people will use them) for launch or further development. Some firms focus on facilitating workshops and brainstorms to help organizations come up with their own ideas. Some focus purely on innovation theory and process. In recent years we’ve seen firms that claim to focus specifically on business model innovation. Many touch on a few of these and some, including IDEO, and IDEO.org, do it all.

What is human-centered design, and how does it work?

Human-centered design is a creative approach to problem-solving and the backbone of our work at IDEO.org. It’s a process that starts with the people you’re designing for and ends with new solutions that are tailor made to suit their needs. Human-centered design is all about building a deep empathy with the people you’re designing for; generating tons of ideas; building a bunch of prototypes; sharing what you’ve made with the people you’re designing for, and eventually putting your innovative new solution out in the world.

At IDEO.org, we've developed a number of resources including Design Kit and The Course for Human-Centered Design for individuals and organizations to learn and use human centered design. Check out our, with mindsets, methods, case studies, and more to inspire your own projects.

How does IDEO.org select its partner organizations?

Our Partners page has tons of useful information on what qualities we’re looking for in potential collaborators. If your vision aligns with our four most important criteria, we’d love to hear from you.

I’d love to be a part of IDEO.org; what opportunities are currently available?

Awesome! Please visit our Careers page, which it’s up-to-date with all our current employment and internship opportunities (with a bit of background of who we are and how we work). We also recommend that you read through this blog post about what IDEO.org's Talent and Experience team look for in job applicants. You can also sign up for Social Enterprise Jobs Google Group--started years ago by our own Executive Director Jocelyn Wyatt--which offers regular updates on cool jobs and opportunities in our industry.

I’m not a designer; is there still a role for me at IDEO.org?

Here, industrial designers, graphic designers, cultural anthropologists, engineers, and business people are all seen as designers and all of us participate in all kinds of design projects. We have come together from different backgrounds, and function as a tight-knit group fueled by passion, curiosity, and a desire for change. We love asking big questions, thinking with our hands, and learning from each other. We’re serious about creating impact through our work; we love what we do, and we’re looking for like-minded pros to join our growing team.

Can I come by for a tour or workshop?

Because we’re a small team working out of a small office, we’re unfortunately unable to host tours or workshops for groups or individuals. We invite you to stay informed about our latest news and new projects by signing up for our mailing list; we regularly offer insights into our human-centered design work, and its impact across the globe.

Where can I learn more? 

[About Design Thinking]

IDEO’s books Change by Design, Creative Confidence, The Ten Faces of Innovation  
Watch the Design Thinking Movie
IDEO.org’s +Acumen The Course for Human-centered design  
Practice the methods on IDEO.org’s Design Kit
Participate in an OpenIDEO Challenge
Take a class on IDEO U
Do Stanford's d.school's Virtual Design Thinking Crash Course

[About Business Design]

Misa's Medium article about business design
Kerry O'Connor's Medium article on how to design a business
Flipboard magazine curated by IDEO biz designers
Read about Live Prototyping on HBR
Watch Tom Hulme describe how to visualize a business model
Ryan Jacoby's Business Design Curriculum