Design or Design Thinking

2.5 minute read

I’ve always been a big fan of David Kelley. In 1997, the same year I founded Vista, a respected client shared an episode of ABC’s Nightline, featuring David and the“shopping cart challenge.” I was hooked and inspired.

For those who don’t know of David Kelley, it's no wonder. He’s not big on self-promotion. He is big on creating profound and interesting things, like the first “mouse” for Steve Jobs' Macintosh.


“David is the kind of person you aspire to become,” says John Maeda, former President of RISD. “He’s like a brainy Muppet. You want to hug him, stick by him, and support what he stands for. He doesn’t wear a fur stole or sunglasses. He’s like the guy you run into at the 7-11 getting a Slurpee. I like the idea that he’s an anonymous superstar.”


David Kelley is the founder of the world's largest and most successful innovation firm, IDEO. He is also the founder of Stanford’s design school. David is the friendliest nerd you will ever meet—a lanky guy with a bald head, a Groucho Marx mustache, and a Midwestern affability. But over the decades he’s gained perhaps his greatest credit—being the “father of design thinking.”

“We moved from thinking of ourselves as designers to thinking of ourselves as design thinkers,” he told Fast Company. “What we, as design thinkers, have is this creative confidence that, when given a difficult problem, we have a methodology that enables us to come up with a solution that nobody has before.”


"It is a radical notion, the idea that creativity can be summoned at will, with a process not unlike the scientific method. That contradicts what most people have always thought: 'That to be creative, an angel of the Lord appears and tells you what to do,' Kelley said, laughing."


To summon creativity at will. A process not unlike the scientific method. Nailed it!

For those of you who have worked with us at Vista Growth over the years, you undoubtedly recognize our approach and commitment to “design thinking.” We’ve been students of David's for over 20 years and we have enjoyed employing many of his exercises and techniques to summon creativity at will. We aren’t the only ones inspired by David’s approach. There has been a movement gaining velocity for years. Some believe, others doubt. But for us, these processes work every time.


The last time I spoke with David, he was fresh from his battle with cancer. He looked great—a bit thinner—and still had that skip to his step. He said his focus is to work with people he truly enjoys at IDEO and the I told him that we greatly appreciated him and thanked him for what he has done to help so many people, organizations, and businesses discover successful ways to make the world a better place. 

Vista Websites