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IDEO Reviews

Updated January 18, 2019
157 reviews

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3.9
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IDEO President and CEO Tim Brown
Tim Brown
103 Ratings

Employee Reviews

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Pros
Cons
  • "Very low pay and little opportunity for advancement" (in 10 reviews)

  • "The culture is largely driven by a boys club/popularity contest, but leadership is in denial or aloof which makes this more dangerous" (in 5 reviews)

More Pros and Cons

  1. "Best environment"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO

    I worked at IDEO full-time

    Pros

    creative, intelligent and kind people

    Cons

    short projects, not enough time to get to root problems for long term impact,


  2. Helpful (1)

    "Great people, inexperienced management"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    No opinion of CEO

    I worked at IDEO full-time (More than 3 years)

    Pros

    You’ll meet some of the most interesting and nicest co-workers around. The culture team works hard to create a great environment and vibe. Work can be interesting if you get on the right projects or are chummy with leadership, promotions can come quickly if you’re one of the favored ones — an informal process that is more subjective and less merit-based.

    Cons

    The company is struggling to stay relevant in this digital day and age. The work, while thoughtful, is definitely far from cutting-edge. They also seem to do a lot of work with organizations that have dubious reputations — what seems more important is that they can write a big check. Over the years I’ve been there, I’ve seen a lot of really talented people leave, burnt out and overlooked because senior management are insecure or are unwilling to adapt with the times. The new businesses that are being incubated within IDEO seem even messier and are often badly run, with low quality offers or products.

    Advice to Management

    Be more intentional in strategy. Lead with a merit-based system rather than one based on favoritism. Get with the times and be less afraid to understand technology and work with it, or risk becoming a dinosaur.

  3. "Best place to be a designer"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO

    I have been working at IDEO full-time (More than 3 years)

    Pros

    Design-led and truly human centered, collaboration is effortless across disciplines. Low egos. Exciting and purpose-led projects that keep you inspired.

    Cons

    Moving up takes awhile, low pay compared to a tech firm


  4. "Coordinator"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Project Coordinator
    Current Employee - Project Coordinator
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook

    I have been working at IDEO (Less than a year)

    Pros

    Company culture, interesting projects, great people

    Cons

    I have not noticed any


  5. Helpful (2)

    "Great workplace, ambiguity in growth, low salary"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO

    I have been working at IDEO full-time

    Pros

    The people are brilliant, the work is interesting, and there is joy in the daily.

    Cons

    Ambiguity in growth, especially in new roles in the fringe business, and very low salary


  6. Helpful (1)

    "Increasingly corporate, more brand than impact but wonderful colleagues"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    Approves of CEO

    I worked at IDEO full-time

    Pros

    Really great humans. You will walk away with friendships that will carry on beyond your time at IDEO. Depending on what part of IDEO you work in, you can feel a deep sense of family & community. Certain parts of IDEO do lack a connective feel though, so it's important to know the culture of the studio you're joining.

    Interesting projects. You will stretch your skills as a designer and build creative leadership. You'll sometimes have the luxury of being able to think big picture/vision.

    Well respected. IDEO's brand and marketing efforts are world-class, and they've done a great job at building up its story. That can be leveraged to get you into places that will accelerate your career journey outside of the firm. Unfortunately, I'd say its brand is more powerful than the work itself.

    Positive work-life balance. It's unrivaled to many other consultancies, and is the justification for the low pay. Great for new parents, as an example, and the ability to take time off for creative pursuits so long as your client work isn't jeopardized. The Experience Teams plan moments for us to come together and connect outside of the office, but this can ebb and flow depending on how busy they are.

    Put a few years in and you'll walk away with experience and connections that can take you further in your purpose and career.

    Cons

    Highly disorganized and disconnected. None of the different studios are integrated in a meaningful way. Each location has completely different cultures that are very dependent on the leadership & most connected/popular people in that location.

    Feels extremely corporate, and growing in this feeling every day. In my years at IDEO, I've seen a steady decline of the creative, playful culture that the firm was built on. A lot of focus on money, clients, margins, business...less conversations on the craft, design, impact. I have been disappointed about certain clients brought in. For example, businesses that actively destroy the environment or societal inequities they create. IDEO still chooses to work with them because they bring in a lot of money despite the fact that most people working there are progressive.

    Very low pay and little opportunity for advancement. You can move from the individual to team level pretty quickly, but accelerating beyond that to the director level is a massive challenge if you do not have ins with leadership.

    Horrendously behind when it comes to diversity and inclusion. I was so surprised at how disconnected IDEO was when it comes to D&I. There's a deep lack of understanding from leadership, and while there are active initiatives to try to change this, there hasn't been meaningful shifts. If you identify as a member of a minority community, it will be hard for you to feel connected to the culture there. You will not see people like yourself reflected in leadership. You will experience micro-aggressions and complete disconnects about how some project teams carry themselves.

    Toxic culture. I've been screamed at by a partner in leadership, have heard others talk negatively about others behind their back, and a lot of favoritism which isn't always based on merit. There's certain spaces at IDEO that are very much a popularity contest and feel like high school, but I did a great job of staying away from that.


  7. Helpful (11)

    "Enlightening, yet troubling."

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Design Lead
    Former Employee - Design Lead
    Neutral Outlook
    Approves of CEO

    I worked at IDEO full-time (More than 3 years)

    Pros

    The designers are absolutely brilliant.

    The work is interesting and more meaningful than you are likely to find anywhere else.

    Benefits are generous.

    Work life balance is unprecedented.

    The exposure and opportunity to travel is exciting and enriching.

    If you’re selected as a favorite, your ideas are welcomed, respected, celebrated, and given a fair amount of autonomy.

    Cons

    If you are not selected as a favorite, you will struggle. You will never be sufficient. You will never be valued or appreciated. You will not be supported. You will be gaslighted, scapegoated, and/or blamed when things are challenging. You will invest your entire self in this work, and it will never be acknowledged. I have never, ever, felt so judged as a human being at any other job.

    The culture is largely driven by a boys club/popularity contest, but leadership is in denial or aloof which makes this more dangerous.

    There is often a distinct sense that the cobblers children have no shoes.

    The company is playing catch up on things like the ability to implement and execute ideas to go to market.

    Little room for growth and career trajectory. More and more leaders are joining without having ever practiced Design Thinking, bypassing the dues that some others have paid, often over many years.

    People are elbowing their way into management roles for a collective of very senior designers that don’t necessarily need to be managed. Those whi do not have experience in management are not given the resources or support to learn. Hierarchy for hierarchy’s sake.

    Lower than industry average compensation.

  8. Helpful (5)

    "Toxic culture"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Doesn't Recommend
    Positive Outlook
    No opinion of CEO

    Pros

    They think very highly of themselves

    Cons

    Incredibly toxic culture. If you are not one of the little darlings of this boys club, you will be made to feel subhuman. For example, as I was getting a cup of coffee in the break room, one employee screamed down another because she had tried to "rat her out" to a director. The basis of their fight was something as trivial as mis-booking a conference room for a client.

    I don't know a single person at the company how feels secure about themselves without being a pompous donkey.

    Folks also talk about the meaningful work. There are meaningful projects given in between paying customers to make sure that everyone is fully booked. No one is paying for this meaningful work and none of it will come to fruition. Most of the paying work is still nice curves on a surface.

    Advice to Management

    Stop telling folks the sun shines out of their backsides


  9. Helpful (2)

    "It's so hard to say goodbye"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Senior Designer in San Francisco, CA
    Former Employee - Senior Designer in San Francisco, CA
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO

    I worked at IDEO full-time (More than 3 years)

    Pros

    Everything you hear about the culture is true - it was truly a joy to go to work there everyday. Work hard/play hard mentality, sometimes you're cranking for days/nights on end, and then it's fully expected you can take a couple days off when the project allows. If you come from a more niche background, it can be tough to fit into the IDEO mindset at first, but you'll learn a ton and get exposed to an incredibly diverse set of clients and types of projects.

    Cons

    As with all consulting, it's a pretty unpredictable schedule, so sometimes tough to plan long weekends or vacations unless you do far in advance. Additionally, I can't really imagine being a parent there. There are plenty of parents there who make it work, but with the travel and often long hours, it has got to be tough. As others say, not a ton of upward mobility and you really have to advocate for yourself.


  10. Helpful (14)

    "Craft-based professionals (non-designers), consider carefully before joining"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee in San Francisco, CA
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee in San Francisco, CA
    Doesn't Recommend
    Positive Outlook

    I worked at IDEO full-time (Less than a year)

    Pros

    IDEO is a special place with a bunch of talented, thoughtful, and insightful people. If you join, there's a lot to learn from the varied perspectives and a few novel processes.

    IDEO's workspace in San Francisco shouldn't disappoint anyone working in the tech space. It's not one of the absurdly-equipped outliers, but you'll never want for coffee, snacks, or an interesting office layout and location.

    Cons

    Every employer can be quirky or at times frustrating, but my experience at IDEO was unique and problematic enough that it’s worth sharing here so that folks considering similar roles can make a more informed decision about whether to accept an offer.

    This review is aimed squarely at anyone in the hiring process for a craft-based rather than design-based role. If you're a designer, take the job! This is the place for you to be.

    If you're a writer, a photographer, a marketer, an editor, or anything else of the sort: proceed with caution.

    Important note, I do not believe any of the issues below arose from intentional efforts to misrepresent the the role I accepted. Still, regardless of any empathy I might muster for folks at the company, these miscommunications or errors affected my working experience at IDEO in a real way.

    -----
    Before you accept an offer, push your recruiter and studio to clearly define the resources (time, collaborators, and budget) they have allocated or will allocate to support your craft. Get specific and practical about the tools, time, and approximate budget you'll need to complete work.

    In my case, my recruiter stated that the hiring manager wanted to have the resources conversation after I was through the door. Not pressing more was a mistake on my part, albeit a mistake informed by several comparable experiences at past employers where the employer and I were able to successfully acquire the resources necessary for me to apply my craft at my skill and experience level.

    I came to understand that studio leaders expected a role within my particular craft to function with the same resources as a design consultant. Take a critical look at the resources and support you need to do your job and consider whether a designer’s toolkit and relative autonomy will be sufficient.

    -----
    Push your recruiter and studio to clearly define the first projects you will work on. Ask your studio to clarify whether the projects are active and that the project teams are prepared to allocate time and budget to support you in taking on that project.

    In my case, with one shining exception, the five or six potential pieces discussed during two separate interviews were part of closed IDEO projects and therefore resources were not available to apply my craft. Studio leaders (while well-intentioned) then assigned projects that lacked actionable budget and fell short of the anticipated work that had originally attracted me to the position.

    -----
    If you’re joining the company in any kind of temporary role, assume that the benefits included in any offer letter or summary of benefits documents apply only to full time *permanent* positions. Clarify any benefits that are important to you as part of your offer, even if they're listed in your offer letter.

    In my case, major mistakes were made in terms of communicating benefits. Several significant benefits were (at best) clearly miscommunicated or (in the case of at least one) explicitly included in my offer letter, then rescinded. IDEO isn’t a startup, it’s a revenue-generating, self-sustaining business with international operations. These oversights are difficult to forgive.

    -----
    Finally, this is less of a specific interview-process flag and more of a personal assessment of IDEO culture: in my experience, IDEO management is less interested in integrating your craft and more interested in reinventing you as an IDEO-style designer who happens to have a background in a certain craft.
    I think that means that if you accept a role, you should adjust your professional mindset as you enter IDEO.

    Don’t expect to come to IDEO and work as a copywriter, a marketer, or a photographer. Come to IDEO as a junior designer who is better-than-average at writing, crafting campaigns, or taking pictures. And anticipate that while your conceptualization skills will benefit from immersion in IDEO's design process, most of what you are likely to produce will represent the "Minimum Viable Product" version of your craft.

    If that doesn’t sound appealing to you or if the opportunity cost that comes with pressing pause on demonstrable portfolio progress is too high for your profession, don’t take the job, no matter how tempting the work might look on paper.

    Advice to Management

    People aren't prototypes; a professional who chooses to join your company in a new role certainly accepts some level of risk in doing so, but should also be able to reasonably expect that a multinational, self-sustaining company has some pre-existing notion of what it takes to support that role and will be prepared to allocate appropriate resources.

    Sometimes, experiments fail. That's okay. In the future, though, I hope that you will do more research to better inform your hypothesis.