What I Learned As An IDEO Design Intern: Day 02

Bibiana Bauer
May 31, 2018 · 5 min read

Appreciate The Simple Things

This is actually completely non-IDEO-related, but I took a different route on my bike ride to the office today and discovered a wonderful tree-lined path. It was just really nice to find a small pocket of nature that I can include as part of my commute now. And yes, I can ride my bike with no handlebars :)

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask Questions

I feel like this is kind of a no-brainer, but often times when you’re in a new and unfamiliar place, surrounded by new and unfamiliar people, it can be intimidating to speak up and ask questions you might think are silly or stupid.

I’m typically an incessant Question Asker, but I’ve noticed that even I will quiet down if I’m in a new environment. So I made a conscious effort today to ask myself, “Hey, did you get to ask all the questions you needed/wanted to?”

Because, at the end of the day, chances are: A) Someone else is also thinking the same question you are, and/or, B) You’ll get an answer to your question much quicker by simply asking someone than if you wait for it to come up at some uncertain point in the future.

Point being: Ask the questions. All of ‘em.

People Will Make Time

Something I’ve always struggled with is feeling like I’m somehow bothering people or distracting them from their work if I ask them to meet with me. So a lot of the time I just…don’t. But the reality is, people are actually very open and willing to chat over coffee or grab lunch! For example, today I was sitting at my desk trying to figure what I was going to do for lunch…

Should I go out? Should I scavenge from the snack bar? Should I wait until leftovers show up in the kitchen?

…when I ran into one of the other designers from my team. She invited me to go get lunch with her and as we ate and talked, I mentioned my anxiety around inviting people out and taking time away from their work. She told me it’s nothing to be worried about and, in fact, a lot of people are actually flattered when someone else asks if they can grab lunch or get a coffee together. When it comes down to it, everyone likes to know that other people are interested in what they have to say and think.

Asking someone out for coffee is really just a way of saying, “Hey, I think you’re a cool person who does cool stuff and I value your advice and opinions.” It’s a compliment.

To be honest, it’s something I should have realized already, given all the design research work I’ve done over the past two years: when presented with an invitation or opportunity to do so, people love to talk about themselves.

San Francisco is THE Place to Be

Okay, let’s go back to lunch again for a minute. Because IDEO’s offices are just a 5-minute walk away from San Francisco’s downtown financial district, there’s a plethora of foods spots to explore. Per the recommendation of my aforementioned lunch buddy, we walked over to a self-serve restaurant called ‘eatsa’ where you order your food on a tablet and then wait for it to arrive in one of the cubbies along the wall. Pretty cool, but not something I hadn’t seen before. The real mind-blowing thing was that the door to each cubby was a transparent, high-resolution, touch-sensitive LCD display. Kind of like every other touch screen ever, except NOT because it’s freakin’ see-through! As an interaction designer with a keen interest in augmented reality experiences, I found this all to be very exciting (much to the amusement of my new friend).

eatsa prompts customers to order food to the left and then retrieve it on the right

Make Like A Sponge and Soak It All Up

This is probably the most important and relevant learning for the day. Almost every new job involves a period of time at the beginning where you have to work to catch up to everyone else: you have to learn and build a working understanding of what the organization does, how it works, who to talk to, where to go, and of course how you fit in to all of it as well. IDEO is no exception to this and neither am I. Fortunately, because I don’t start on my first project until tomorrow, I had the privilege of being able to spend almost all of my time today acquainting myself with all things IDEO. I read up on articles and case studies, looked through previous projects that my team had worked on, and took lots of notes—with sketches, of course. If there’s one thing Christina Wodtke drilled into me for sure, it’s the power of visual notetaking.

Over the years I’ve recognized that one of the most effective ways to learn (at least for me) is by complete immersion. I just dive in and get going and with every new piece of information I get, my knowledge base grows, and before long the dots start to connect. I soon find myself being able to relate This Thing back to That Thing, which also ties in with This Other Thing, which in turn is somehow magically connected to The First Thing. If you catch my drift.

In slightly more technical terms, I like to think of my brain —and the knowledge it contains— as a kind of distributed relational database. Learning and remembering things is really just a matter of finding and solidifying the most efficient path between two points or more points. The more connections there are between points, the easier it is to find and make those paths.

TLDR; today I immersed myself in the task of catching myself up and learning as much as I could about things that will be useful to me while I’m at IDEO :)


  • On Wednesdays there is Tea Time at 4 O’Clock and today we had popsicles
  • I may or may not have crossed paths with one of the Kelley brothers ;)
  • There is gluten free bread in one of the fridges! For those of you who don’t know me, I’m gluten intolerant, so this is actually kind of a really big deal.

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