Ideo CEO Tim Brown, who helped popularize design thinking, steps down

Tim Brown, the CEO of the global design firm Ideo, is leaving the role after a 19-year run. He announced the move in an open letter on Ideo’s site. He will be replaced by Ideo alum Sandy Speicher, who is Ideo’s first female CEO. The transition will take place this August, and Brown will stay with the company.

Tim Brown ,  Sandy Speicher , and  David Kelley  [Photo: courtesy Ideo]

Tim BrownSandy Speicher, and David Kelley [Photo: courtesy Ideo]

Brown helped transform Ideo from a more industrial design firm known for projects like Apple’s first computer mouse into a systems-thinking organization, analyzing the systemic issues inside sectors like healthcare and management. Under his lead, the company became skilled at not just building products but building services. He also helped Ideo launch new organizational arms focused on humanitarian efforts, venture projects, and education.

Alongside Ideo founder David Kelley, Brown’s books and talks are largely responsible for popularizing the term “design thinking,” or the concept that even bean-counting Fortune 500 CEOs could think more like designers and put design-based methodologies at the core of any business operation. While Brown is leaving his role as CEO, he’s not actually leaving Ideo; he’ll stay around for some partnerships and working with the Kyu collective of companies Ideo has been part of since 2016.