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It's our 5th birthday at IDEO CoLab. Starting in 2015 with under 10 people, we've built a powerful worldwide network, join us in a look back at some special events from our history.
A ragtag team of IDEOers comes together to build what would become IDEO CoLab.
Bits + Blocks Lab
We began with a single member company and 16 amazing fellows. Today, 3 of those fellows are part of our full-time team.
In 2015, we gave each fellow 10 Bitcoin to use on experiments and prototypes. Little did we know how much Bitcoin would be worth 4 years later.
First Fellow hired Full-time
After loving her prescence and expertise so much during Bits + Blocks, Becca Carroll (at the time Becca Chacko) was hired full-time onto the CoLab team.
Over 5 years, we befriended and connected with over 952 interdisciplinary designers through our fellowship program.
After two name changes, we settled on IDEO CoLab as the new name for our emerging network.
We created the first blockchain powered solar renewable energy credit marketplace (With a car battery, a solar panel, and a few lines of code).
Food + Future
We launched a future food technology incubator that prototyped Good + Gather, a transparent food brand that 3 years later would become one of Target's largest organic food brands.
First Pun Name
Plug’n’Paid became the first CoLab prototype with a “punny” name. Little did we know the outsized role puns would play in CoLab’s history.
Our first blueprint brought together 9 societal domains of focused work and prototypes into a single event. We also made a 90 page book, one of the only times we've ever come together to make a printed piece of content that long for any event.
Reid and Gavin developed our first open-source software release. Nomad is a decentralized messaging system that sends instant, non-networked, encrypted messages using IPFS to create nodes that broadcast across a mesh network.
Debuting at blueprint, we created a merkle-tree powered identification system that allowed for the creation and management of an on-chain digital identity. The proof-of-concept presented a new method of requesting information in which more sensitive personal information was stored further in the tree, allowing recievers to only give away information necessary in a given situation.
12 Annual Events
We've hosted 12 annual events, amassing over 3,000 unique attendees.
During the build sprints prior to the first perspectives event, Jacob coins the phrase "Push Markets" without knowing what it actually means, Matt and Gian start saying it with much more authority.
We took Nomad for a test-drive, hooking our coffee pot to the café down the street, prototyping what a futuristic symbiotic business relationship could look like. Myko evolved later into a button that could be pressed to create dynamically priced products online using the stripe API.
1 Ridge Taken
At our Cayucos offsite, the team hiked up a large ridge overlooking and Avocado farm to get a view of the surrounding land. The more active team members have a tradition of hiking up ridges at later offsites.
78 Acrylic Nametags
For our first Perspectives event, later called hard problems, we created unique acrylic painted nametags for each attendee to symbolize reflection and diversity of opinion and background within the group.
At Farmhouse Thai in Chatham, MA, a running prank started where we always tell the staff that it's Matt Weiss' birthday. Matt is now 78 years old.
First CoLab After Dark Series
During the summer sprints, Jacob runs the first CoLab after Dark learning programs in hopes of helping increase the passion for craft among summer fellows and the CoLab team.
Showcased at blueprint 2017 was Guibot, a real-time, mesh-networked traffic notification app that would tell you the most delightful way to get to your destination. If there was rain it might tell you to leave a little bit early to avoid getting wet. If the trains home were crowded it might tell you to bike home or get an uber (Or chill for another 30 minutes til they empty out).
Also showcased at blueprint 2017 was Blokmotiv, a blockchain powered prototype that sought to connect physical assets to digital counterparts. The system could be used to identify fraudulent or stolen airbag systems in the auto repair industry.
2 Bitcoin Miners
After our second blueprint, we purchased two Antminer S9 bitcoin miners, one for each coast. We promptly sold 9 months later after making only about $33. During the time that we had them, we created Homestead, a design-fiction prototype that imagined what it would look like to use a bitcoin miner as a space heater.
A Pillpack build sprint results in CoLab building a data model for call center employees that identified the possibility of a Pillpack subscriber churning out of the service. In an effort to humanize the anonymized data, we created a generative system of portraits, names, and bios that could be associated with the reading.
We hosted our first Circular Economy Sprint in London, led by Arianne, Rhys, and Chris. The sprint focused on Textiles and food systems. This is also the first time we worked with Dominic, who would later be entwined with the CoLab family much more tightly.
Car inside the lab
When the Xchange prototype team was designing for how gig-drivers could be insured, they brought a car inside the lab to simulate an uber ride inside. The fellows played characters in a scene for the demo where the participant acted through an app on their phone as a persona that they chose randomly out of a hat.
Over the last year the east coast team has pranked pretty much everyone in the studio. Our CoLab pranks are aided by our use of Littlebits circuitry as triggers for different sounds and movement as actuators triggered by the target person's everyday habits.
We create the first iteration of Snackpals, an augmented reality prototype that would allow users to discover magical creatures on their food in stores. The experience would evolve into a multi-player experience played inside the kitchen when making food to inspire co-creation and play in the kitchen between children and parents.
Parker & Joanne launched the collaborative cities portfolio in collaboration with Gehl Architects.
Scout organized IDEO Cambridge's first Futurefest, a public night of future art and experiences hosted by CoLab and IDEO Cambridge. Our fellows showcased past projects and created art installations for the show, we also played in a massive inflatable ball-pit.
We held a makeathon on Halloween, of course everyone was allowed to dress-up.
Over the years, we've worked with 36 landmark level member companies, amassing a powerful network of influence across a large number of industries.
After our first venture studio project ends, Augur launched on mainnet and gained global acclaim for their prediction market platform.
Chain Sequence Acquired
Six months after we created a brand for Chain's sequence product, they were acquired by Stellar for over $200 Million in Lumens, creating Interstellar.
The west coast team freaks out their IDEO U neighbors by throwing sticks and picking them up on Pi Day. The west coasters created a template for the Buffon's Needle simulator that allows you to try to estimate Pi by tossing a random amount of sticks and seeing how many crossed a line. A new nerd tradition is forged.
Shuya & Susan create dreamweavers of the team's five dynamics scores.
On the way to a California offsite, the East Coast team goes directly from car to plane without stopping for lunch. Gian suggests sushi and half the car agrees, but Matt refuses to stop, passing over many viable sushi options along the way. Gian and Matt's interactions escalate to full Fozzie/Kermit levels. Ironically, after passing a manure farm, Matt finally breaks down and a delegation places an order at a cozy hole-int-the-wall in the middle of nowhere. 30 minutes later, they're still waiting for the sushi and have managed to order several beers, which to this day Matt still does not know about. The team arrives at the offsite 60 minutes late. Matt never fully forgives Gian.
The crew comes together for the first large scale secondhand brands session, we created almost a hundred pun-driven brand and business ideas. This later led to the creation of the #secondhandbrands slack channel we know and love today.
8 Cowboy Shirts
While perusing Allens Boots and Triple Z Threadz on Congress Street in Austin, TX, the East coast gang buys matching Cowboy shirts to match Gian's aesthetic. He is both flattered and mildly bemused.
Our team loves finishing puzzles together, we've finished 7 puzzles across 6 different offsites over 5 years.
Last Mile Money Grant Approved
Becca & team recieved word before our third Blueprint event that we would secure a gates grant to fund several future CoLab projects which would design for users in developing countries as well as helping to empower marginalized user groups worldwide.
In 2019, Our SF began working with Kapor Center to bring Oakland and East Bay high schoolers into the fellowship program. In addition with supporting STEM education locally, the SMASH Rising fellows helped add fun and creativity to the explore sprints over two years.
$1.2 Dweb Venture Fund
We raised a our first venture capital fund to help promote growth and design investment in crypto-technologies that we thought were putting humans first.
Scout & Shuya hosted the first Hack Diversity Session at IDEO Cambridge as part of a partnership with NEVCA. Hack Diversity outreaches to marginalized designer, developer, and entrepreneur groups to work towards a level playing field in the industry. This partnership continues today.
We performed 6 covers of classic rock hits at the IDEO Battle of the Cover Bands.
Crypto Builders Day
Our startup studio hosted it's first Crypto Builders day bringing together 8 decentralized web technology startups to put their users first and sprint on how they could design or redesign parts of their product in a human-centered way.
Numina at Bow Market
In a partnership with Gehl architects and Numina labs we installed a computer vision foot-traffic sensor at Bow Market in Cambridge. We launched a separate experiment called vanishing point to see how people felt about their positional and gestural data being used publicly.
San José Knight Cities Grant
Joanne, Parker, Ali S., Rebecca, and Joe led a knight grant project to collaborate with the city of San José. Representatives from the city of San José CA, IDEO CoLab, and Gehl came together to launch the People-Centered AV Mobility Project—a 3-year initiative to co-create value for the public around autonomous vehicles and their integration into the current transportation system.
As part of our Last Mile Money CoLab, we hosted a one day design makeathon in Bangalore designing for new internet users.
San José Block Party
Joanne led a neighborhood block party in the city of San José to see how its citizens really felt about urban innovation and planning in their community. The team set up and worked in the neighborhood for a month inside a storage container.
Breakerbox sprints begin
Gian, Ryan Habbyshaw, and Jacob begin sprinting on the breakerbox concept along with Exelon member lead Christopher Buzby. The sprints consist of research, brand, and validation work for the concept.
8 Kyu Firms
We brought together 8 of the best design firms in the world together to design around health at the first cross-Kyu design sprint.
First CE Food Sprint
We hosted our first Circular Economy food sprint in San Francisco, starting a path forward for food forward prototyping. We would later follow up with a second sprint featuring fun prototypes such as Temptainer & Recipuzzles.
IDEO Hosts Blueprint
After 3 years of amazing events and high level design, IDEO Global partners with CoLab to host our fourth Blueprint, merging our work with the rest of the firm's working including IDEO consulting and IDEO.org.
18 Postcards from the Future
We crafted 18 stories of future worlds in a design fiction exercise, Postcards from the Future. The postcards featured bright illustrations and were presented as prints at Blueprint handed out by the Postman of the Future. The Postcards from the future website allows anyone to send a postcard from the future to their friends.
Breakerbox signs first customer
After it's 2019 initial launch, in early 2020, Breakerbox signed its first official customer, a group of Dairy queens in Texas.
Design for Digital Confidence
Funded by our Bill & Melinda Gates Grant, the Last Mile Money CoLab partnered with Google and IDEO.org to create a design resource that helps educate designers around best practices for building applications for the next wave of technology users in developing countries.
First Remote Sprint
Our first fully remote sprint was carried out in CoLab futures in the spring of 2020 during a global pandemic.
We collaborated with IDEO.org to empower girls around the globe, creating the first sprint for the next Billion Girls CoLab.
Our IDEO family Polaroid book broke the 400 mark, reaching 465 captured polaroids of CoLab exploits and portraits.
What might our future hold? We've had this much impact over the last 5 years. This is the time to take an hour or two and think about how much we've grown and daydream about our future.