The design innovator whose company is responsible for the first stand-up toothpaste tube and Apple's first computer mouse talks to Charlie Rose about the field he helped pioneer that gave birth to such ingenious products in a 60 Minutes profile to be broadcast Sunday, Jan. 6 at 7:00 p.m. ET/PT.
David Kelley takes Rose on a tour of his Palo Alto, Calif., company, IDEO, the place where thousands of inventions have been created through the concept of design thinking -- incorporating human behavior into design. He demonstrates how the most brilliant designs are those that simply pay attention to human behavior.
He sits Rose down in a new classroom chair IDEO designed for the venerable Steelcase company, furniture makers for over 100 years. "This is one of my favorite things," says Kelley, as Rose folds his 6-foot-3-inch body into the chair made for a school student. "So when we looked at the old wooden thing with the dogleg kind of stuff and you just watch kids...what do they need? Well, the main thing they need is a place to put their backpack," he tells Rose, pointing out the round shelf rimming the chair's support stem.
And attached to that support stem where it meets the floor is a set of wheels. "They're fidgety, they want to move around, so you put in wheels, right?" asks Kelley. When Rose says, "It's not rocket science," Kelley replies, "It's empathetic to people...what they really value."
The design and the thinking behind it is very simple, but the man and his firm that Apple founder Steve Jobs and major companies like Procter & Gamble have paid to make the perfect connection with their customers runs a sophisticated operation. The hard part is getting the right group of people together to brainstorm. Rose encountered designers with backgrounds in aerospace engineering, business, software engineering, and journalism in his visit to IDEO, but they also use designers with backgrounds in opera singing, anthropology, and even doctors, to collaborate and come up with innovative solutions to everyday problems.
Says Kelley, "The big thing about design thinking is it allows people to build on the ideas of others. Instead of just having that one thread. You think about it, I come up with an idea, and then somebody from somewhere else says, 'Oh that makes me think we should do this and then we could do that.' And then you get to a place that you just can't get to in one mind," he tells Rose.
The company that Kelley founded in the 1970's that eventually became IDEO is now working with clients all over the globe. They're using that same intuitive human point of view to improve the world, in one instance, with a better way to access safe drinking water in India and Africa.