The Vine Salon Returns for a Second Round

By Greg Fuson

The first Vine Salon at IDEO was, well, pretty much everything you’d expect from a day with the world’s preeminent design firm.

One participant called it “The most stimulating, thought provoking exercise I’ve experienced in a very long time. I’m still trying to wrap my mind around all the concepts we explored.”

It was so successful, in fact, we’re doing it again.

On March 2, we’re holding a second installment of The Vine Salon at IDEO. This will be, once again, a collaborative workshop on user-based design solutions created and hosted by IDEO at their Palo Alto headquarters — a rare opportunity to go inside “Imagination’s Playground,” as the Wall Street Journal has dubbed it.

Attendance will be limited to 65 people, and seats will fill up well in advance, so you’ll want to sign up early. Registration and program details can be found here.

What went down on our first visit, you ask?

Our day began with a series of short presentations — provocations, in IDEO-speak — by a team of designers from a variety of disciplines. By exploring examples of design-driven change through different lenses (individual, organizational, behavioral, attitudinal, among others), we got insight into IDEO’s acclaimed design thinking process, which we then applied to the afternoon’s Town Design Challenge.

Breaking into small, cross-disciplinary teams, we were first given a town profile — based on actual cities throughout the country — with details about population, geography, demographics, economic conditions, and challenges facing the area.

Next the project got human, as it always does with IDEO, and The Vine. Each team was assigned a specific user (whose profile was drawn from in-depth interviews with an actual person), and we were challenged to create solutions that would address both the needs of the town and our user’s unique circumstances.

For example: a retired high school teacher with limited means but a deep desire to continue educating and shaping lives; a single mom struggling to balance the demands of work, money and time with her kids; an aging nurse practitioner who’s committed to staying active and helping others, while at the same time coming to terms with her own physical limitations.

Considering we packed what would normally be a multiple-week prototyping process into a single afternoon, the exercise was obviously frenetic — and very taxing. And yet it was an extraordinary learning experience that, even a week later, continued to unfold for me. Three things in particular stand out.

• Constraints can be a good thing. It’s remarkable how deadlines and competition (solutions were reviewed and voted upon by peers) will sharpen your focus.

• Our team’s diversity of backgrounds (by design, of course) greatly enriched the process. And the two most seemingly dissimilar members, the engineer and the artist, yielded the most interesting and symbiotic results.

• Small details matter. The solution that our team ultimately chose to put forward was drawn from a single comment in the user profile that, when we first read it, seemed idiosyncratic and irrelevant to the task at hand.

By the time we got to wine and hors d’oeuvres at the end of the day, my brain was exhausted.

I can’t wait to do it again in March. 

Greg Fuson is the Vice President for Content Development for PCBC and The Vine. He can be reached at