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A Designer’s Valentine

Feb 13 2017

When choosing a gift for your Valentine, why settle for a store-bought card? Drop that box of chocolates and steal these IDEO designers' crafty, hacky, wacky ideas for celebrating the holiday of love. Or better yet, try dating a designer! There’s bound to be a good gift in it for you.


My husband always writes me a little bit of Valentine's Day Code. The image above is one of my favorites—Charlie was learning 3JS, a 3D web development framework, and made me my dream: an exploding pink disco ball floating in space. He's made a 3D simulation of Big Sur (where we took our first road trip together), a "Charlie Bot" (forking off of hubot, creating a fake Charlie for me to talk to when I was traveling a lot) and an Adventure-style text based game, where I got to achieve my dream of meeting Prince with my dog Hudson.
—Ashley Holtgraver, IDEO Cambridge


As a Biodesigner + Cardiologist at IDEO Palo Alto, I led three classes of 5th graders at Covington Elementary School (Los Altos, CA) in their annual sheep heart dissection this Valentine's Day. I introduced them to the fundamentals of cardiovascular anatomy and physiology, including the structure and function of each chamber and valve, their relationships to surrounding conduits, and the hemodynamics and electrophysiology that drive the system. You know, just the basics. All of the kids experienced a hands-on exploration of the heart’s surface and texture, then under the supervision of volunteering parents, dissected their ways into the depths of the organ. Accompanying me was my rockstar hostess and sidekick Celia Wedner, future doc and daughter of Palo Alto’s Grant Wedner.
—Farzad Azimpour, IDEO Palo Alto

Christina Sh Cross Stitch

I’ve been doing cross-stitch for more than 10 years. Cross-stitch is an ancient form of embroidery that’s very intricate—it takes a long time to finish a product! The time I spend making a pattern is one of my favorite ways of expressing love on Valentine's Day.
—Christina Shen, IDEO Shanghai

Rohini 2

For our third annual Galentine’s Day gathering, we started by designing postcards to send to our district representatives. This was followed by whiskey tastings and a fancy dinner hosted in a room decorated with posters of inspiring power-women. Everyone left with a "treat yo-self" care package, complete with home decor, "Make Your Mark" to-do lists, homemade biscotti, and soothing teas.
—Rohini Venkatraman, IDEO San Francisco


At IDEO London, we held an office-wide Valentine’s Day celebration with activities and treats under the theme of Random Acts of Love. We set up areas to collect clothes and food for those more in need, and a station to create a heart chain of messages to people across IDEO locations, hoping they’d continue the chain. Prior to the event, we asked everyone to send us one song they’d take to a desert island and why. Over a selection of strawberry daiquiris and fresh cupcakes, we filmed people talking about their chosen song. We had tears and goosebumps. Interestingly, most people chose songs to remind them of someone they love dearly. Three others chose songs that have helped them get through life.
—Bobbie Brightman and Ryan Lovett, IDEO London


This is a fortune my boyfriend and I got on one of our first trips together, before we were "officially" dating. Something told me to hold onto it. Later, he had this greeting card printed for me for Valentine's Day. He actually had to print a minimum of 100 so somewhere we have a hefty stack of personalized greeting cards of ourselves. Over 3 years later, I still have the fortune.
—Becky Lee, IDEO San Francisco


I used to work for a company that was pretty hardcore about celebrating Valentine's Day. We would exchange gifts, play games, have a big party, etc. One year I made this clock for my good friend and former colleague Irene Pau. The design is inspired by an inside joke that's probably not worth going into here. But the main goal was really just to make something weird that would creep her out, and also help her get to meetings on time. Mission accomplished?
—Griffin Thomson, IDEO Palo Alto


I love giving people Spanish Sweethearts for Valentine’s Day. They’re unique (read: hard-to-find) and everyone learns some Spanish from my gift!
—Katie Clark, IDEO San Francisco

Njoki Ny Kiley

Kiley was our New York front desk concierge for a couple of years, and she decided to leave last year to head to Arkansas and pursue writing and graduate school. She always put a lot of work into making the office feel special, so we decided to throw her a big going away party to show our appreciation. The base of the K was cut from scrap foam core on the laser cutter. The colored fringe was created from discarded Post-it pad slivers that were collecting in the hallway, which were stuck onto the K then cut vertically. Try your own letter piñata for Valentine's Day!
—Njoki Gitahi, IDEO New York

Header image by Volkan Olmez on Unsplash.

  • Saige Perry

    Senior Digital Marketing, IDEO San Francisco
    Saige Perry is a digital marketer at IDEO and managing editor of this blog. She believes there is no such thing as too many exclamation points.