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Designer Pranks

Mar 30 2017

Designers love a good side project—Halloween costumes, fancy proposals, Rube Goldberg machines—and April Fool's pranks are no exception. Check out some of the over-the-top pranks IDEO designers have pulled on their friends, family, and coworkers—and steal an idea for yourself!

1. How hydrated are you?

I pulled this April Fool's prank on the Palo Alto office a few years back. People remarked that it was surprisingly useful and actually led to behavior change. (Download the PDF here to use on your coworkers!) —Albert Leung, IDEO Palo Alto

Leung 1

2. Spreading the Silicon Valley love

I loved this video that the Palo Alto Police Department and Tesla created to jointly spoof each other for April Fool's Day a couple years ago.
—Peter MacDonald, IDEO Palo Alto


Tech and design firms love pranking and poking fun at themselves—some of our favorites from years past include Google's self-driving bicycle and Mark Zuckerberg's collaboration with H&M, including a "collection pack" of seven gray t-shirts and one pair of jeans.

3. Homecoming surprise

Back in 2012, I decided it would be fun to "redecorate my roommate's bedroom while she was away for work. It took 18 hours and 76 rolls of Saran Wrap to pull off, but every aspect of her life was covered in bright plastic wrap when she returned. I may have gone a bit over board: Each shoe was wrapped individually, then as a pair; I wrapped each piece of makeup, then wrapped them all together in a group; each thing on her wall was wrapped and rehung; every single book and article of clothing in her closet was accounted for. I honestly think—and I say this in a non-sarcastic way—that pulling this off was one of the things I'm most proud of in my life... which may say something about me. —Adam Moulter, IDEO Cambridge

Moulter 1

4. Fluffy biscuits

When I was a kid, my parents made homemade buttery biscuits for us on April Fool's Day. The catch was they embedded cotton balls in the center. When we bit in, we got quite a mouthful!
—Sarah Buchanan, IDEO Palo Alto

5. Puppy love

April Fool's Day is a well-observed holiday in my household. Last year, I put this ad up on Craigslist in three different cities with my father's and two brothers' phone numbers. They received upwards of 100 phone calls and texts (each!) within the hour. —Em Havens, IDEO San Francisco


6. Not-so-current events

My mom was a prank legend in our house. April Fool's Day was a standard spectacle. She had a simple guiding principle for her pranks: Prank them early in the morning before they realize what day it is. One year, my dad, who routinely read the morning paper before work, was sitting with his coffee flipping through the day's events. My mom could hardly contain herself, but Dad didn't quite catch on. When he got to the business section, he suddenly said, "That's odd, I thought the markets went down yesterday and this says they went up." Mom burst out laughing—she had saved last year's April 1st paper for an entire year! 
—Chris Waugh, IDEO Alum

  • 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.