What it’s like to be a designer at IDEO

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This is the first in an ongoing series highlighting MMM summer internship experiences.

Name: Michael Chen
Industry: Design Consulting
Company: IDEO
Function: Business Designer
Location: Chicago, IL

I spent summer 2015 at IDEO and had a wonderful time designing, strategizing, and barreling through boxes of Post-It notes in efforts to rapidly ideate product and business model concepts for my projects. I was one of a few MBAs at IDEO Chicago, and I was surrounded by some of the most talented designers and engineers I’ve had a chance to work with.

Although my title was of a business capacity and I held an expertise in the “viability” portion of the diagram below, I was — at first — a designer.

This designation had two very important implications for the job.

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First, I was fully integrated in the innovation and idea generation process that IDEO is known for. I used many of the concepts learned in the MMM Program, particularly in our Research-Design-Build class, to take a fully human-centered approach to the solutions I would come up with.

Secondly, being a designer meant that the way I communicated business concepts to my team also needed to take a design-driven approach. This encouraged me to make data heavy spreadsheets user-friendly so that they could easily be explained and quickly adopted by individuals who were outside of the analytical process.

These methods came to life throughout my two projects over the summer.

My first project was for a healthcare client seeking to use new smartwatch platforms as a tool to help individuals with diabetes better monitor their daily lives. Through an empathetic approach, my team and I wore five sets of smartwatches around to understand the utility and nuances within each brand, in addition to logging daily intake so that we could begin to understand the rituals of our target users.

The second project kicked my business sense into full gear as I engaged in a market and opportunity assessment for the commercial launch of a popular household product. Here, I combined left brain thinking in the analysis of markets and right brain creativity in product concepting to arrive at ideas that were desired by consumers and possible for the company to manufacture, while all making sense financially.

All in all, I found that a job in design consulting strongly leverages the skill set and classes that the MMM Program embodies.

Read student reactions from IDEO Chief Creative Officer Paul Bennett’s 2015 speech at Kellogg.

Learn more about the MMM program

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