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Hello, I’m Sally Madsen

Senior Design Lead, IDEO San Francisco

I’m focused on the world of education, working with clients to create systemic change by designing meaningful experiences for the people within.

What you won’t learn from my bio:
Sailing is my meditation. My kids are my favorite entertainers.

Joined IDEO: 
2005

Full Bio

As a senior design lead in IDEO’s Education studio, Sally Madsen is focused on creating social impact at scale. She leads clients and project teams through the design journey, from framing big questions to designing innovative solutions that help the education system progress.

As a system designer, Sally creates meaningful experiences for individuals in the context of larger ecosystems. She uses her understanding of system stakeholders’ diverse needs and constraints, relationships between them, and levers for change to inspire multifaceted design solutions. 

Sally worked with Innova Schools in Peru to envision an affordable, scalable, and excellent school system for the emerging middle class. She led the creation of School Retool, a leadership program that helps school principals enact change within their schools, with the Stanford d.school. Her experience at IDEO also includes improving access to safe drinking water in India and Kenya with the Acumen Fund, reimagining the way the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) manages fisheries’ data, and envisioning the future of large-scale energy systems. 

Sally has a passion for early childhood learning, which she believes to be the foundation for all learning, and the area where major equity challenges can first be addressed. She’s deeply immersed in the early learning world personally, through her own young kids and community.

Sally teaches at the Stanford d.school. She's a First Mover Fellow at the Aspen Institute Business & Society Program, a collaborator at IDEO.org, and advisory board member for the NPCA Center for Parks Management.

Before IDEO, Sally founded Cosmos Ignite Innovations, a startup based in India that provides solar-powered lights as a replacement for kerosene. She holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Stanford University in Mechanical Engineering.

Outside of work, Sally is an avid sailor, with a busy racing schedule in the San Francisco Bay; a crafty maker, lately fashioning toys and kids’ clothes; and a globetrotter who travels with open eyes (and mouth) and a camera around her neck.