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Design Strategy, Trends

The recent past has seen many companies, big and small, leverage on the rapid advancements in artificial intelligence, voice recognition, computer vision and motion sensor technology that the world has seen in the past few years, to bring pathbreaking, innovative new products into mainstream, everyday use.

One of the areas such technology has the potential to create meaningful social impact is in its use to improve the quality of life of the differently abled community. However, ‘designing’ for this community is sadly often reduced to nothing more than an appendage to the original design, added on as an afterthought.

So, as a venture design company that is heavily embedded in design thinking, it is refreshing to come across products that are developed using the design thinking framework, where the end user’s experience is the focus of the problem solving process, and technology is integrated as an enabling tool that enhances the user’s experience.

Today we’re sharing 3 products that we feel are excellent examples of this, featuring one product each designed to assist the deaf, the blind and the mobility impaired.

Seeing AI

Microsoft’s Seeing AI (free) app is designed to assist people with poor or no vision. The app, which is VoiceOver enabled, uses artificial intelligence to help blind people make better sense of the world around them by*:

– Speaking text as soon as it appears in front of the camera.
– Providing audio guidance to capture a printed page, and recognising the text, along with its original formatting.
– Recognising friends and describing people around the user, including an estimate of their age emotions.
– Providing audio beeps to help locate product barcodes and then scanning them to identify what they are.
– Generating an audible tone corresponding to the brightness in the user’s surroundings.
– Reading out handwritten text.
– Identifying currency bills when paying with cash.

Here’s the demo video of the person recognition feature:

The app is currently available for download in 70 countries, including India.

Eye Gaze Controlled Wheelchair

A person who has a physical disability that prevents them from walking, would usually be able to move around with the help of a wheelchair. But what happens when the user also doesn’t have the ability to use his hands and arms to steer the wheelchair? Using its eye tracking technology, EyeTech, in collaboration with Quantum Rehab has designed a system to overcome this. Here’s a video that explains how it works:


This free app from Huawei uses a combination of artificial intelligence and augmented reality to scan and display text alongside sign language, via an animated character, helping young children learn to read.
This could potentially revolutionise the ‘storytime’ experience for the world’s 32 million deaf children. This video shows you how, and is also sure to bring a smile to your face.

How do you feel technology like artificial intelligence and virtual, augmented and mixed reality could be utilised to make a difference in the lives of people living with other forms of disabilities? Do share your thoughts in the comments below.

To help the creative juices flow, we leave you with a quote by Charles Eames that draws from the basic premise around which the design thinking framework is based:

Recognizing the need is the primary condition for design


Design Strategy, Trends

Twenty years ago we sat on the cusp of the mobile phone revolution. The advancement in technology at the time opened up endless possibilities for designers from various fields. From new possibilities for existing design disciplines – product designers for example – to entirely new design job profiles, like application designers, the design world was headed towards a new era.

Today we sit on the cusp of another revolution. Advancements in technology today are paving the way for virtual, augmented and mixed reality to become a part of everyday life. Where does this leave designers? What is the current scenario and going forward, what are the new roles where designers will be able to add tremendous value? What are the skills that designers should begin to hone?

In this article, we take a look at the overall scenario, and in the following week, we will take a specific look at certain industries, to see what the future could hold. If you are a designer, perhaps the time is ripe to ask yourself – Am I ready?


In case you’re not absolutely familiar with the terminology, here’s a succinct explanation from Wikipedia that sums it up nicely:

Virtual Reality (VR) immerses users in a fully artificial digital environment.
Augmented Reality (AR) overlays virtual objects on the real-world environment.
Mixed Reality (MR) doesn’t just overlay, but anchors virtual objects to the real world and allows the user to interact with the virtual objects.

Besides our smartphones and tablets, hardware such as Google Glass and Microsoft HoloLens present us with a whole new range of possibilities. Coupled with this, is the soon-to-be-ubiquitous 5G and the yet-to-be-realised potential of IoT, which push the boundaries even further.


The obvious roles for designers are in the more areas of traditional design, like graphic design, user interface (UI) and user experience (UX) design.
But beyond this, more and more designers are finding a spot at the biggest decision making tables across organisations, and not just at those within the design sector. With design thinking as a process gaining more popularity, the huge value a designer can add in helping to arrive at truly impactful and viable solutions is being recognised.

Companies are putting designers at the head of the table…The user’s experience of technology these days is even more important than the tech itself. The UI is what distinguishes a product; a company. That’s one reason why designers are being employed across industries.

– Scott Belsky,
Chief Product Officer, Adobe
Co-founder, Behance

Venture design services that incorporate the design thinking framework, where problems are looked at from a macro level, and proposed design solutions are crafted from end user insights along with other factors in their environment, will come to play an important role.

An interdisciplinary approach that views the problem from various angles and seeks the inputs of experts from different disciplines will lead to the most comprehensively designed solutions. For example, when planning a commercial building, an architect would create a more effective design if he clearly understood the market segment he was designing for, the demographics of the area and the needs of each specific age group of the end users.

This would require intensive research and an in depth analysis by the architect, requiring him to go beyond his domain and should ideally be a collaborative effort with other experts, such as a social anthropologist or social psychologist.

Furthermore, venture design enabled through design thinking, allows the business to discover and tap into latent needs that the end user might not even realise he has, leading to a more comprehensive solution. With technology evolving at a speed that’s hard to keep up with, organisations will have to integrate new solutions rapidly. Venture design helps firms focus on the right thing at the right time, to take advantage of opportunities when they arise and to constantly deliver meaningful solutions. It also addresses the need for adaptability and answering the “what ifs”, by providing pivot strategies that enable the business to move or change the direction of their solutions to better fit the end user’s requirements, as they evolve.

Designers who wish to be at the forefront of pathbreaking designs, will have to engage in continuous learning and experimentation, to be able to understand, manipulate and employ new technology optimally.

The designers of the future need to look beyond just their field of speciality and also remind themselves to understand things from the point of view of a layman using that product or service. Design, be it of a product, space, user experience or of an organisation can no longer be looked at in isolation, if it is to be truly impactful.

As a designer, are you ready for the impending revolution that is upon us?

What are your thoughts – we’d love to know in the comments below.



Two of the major trends of the past decade that have contributed to the rise in the demand for eco-friendly and health conscious products have been sustainability and health & wellness.

What Consumers Want

A survey published by Nielson a few years ago revealed that 66% of consumers are willing to spend more on a product if it comes from a sustainable brand. With millennials, the percentage was even higher at 73%.

Another report by Unilever last year indicated that 88% of the shoppers surveyed in India “feel better when they buy products that are sustainably produced.”

The Nielson Global Health & Wellness Survey of 2015, which polled 30,000 respondents from 60 countries revealed that 65% were cutting down on fats, 62% were cutting down on chocolates and sugar and 57% were opting to eat more natural and fresh foods, in an attempt to become more healthy.

What do all these statistics tell us? In a nutshell, that most consumers today want the companies they buy from to incorporate:
a) sustainable, ethical and responsible practices and,
b) practices that help the consumer stay healthy.

This article examines how these two prevailing trends have pushed some companies – including giants in their respective industries – to alter their strategies to fall in line with the demand for sustainable and health conscious practices and/or products.


High street fashion brands like H&M, Zara and Marks & Spencer have begun to offer recycling opportunities in their stores globally, where customers can trade in their discarded clothes for in-store discount vouchers. Some companies recycle some or all of the clothes to actually make new items of clothing out of them, while others hand over the clothes to charitable organisations that distribute them to people in need. In India, consumers can now recycle clothes at H&M and Marks & Spencer stores across the country.

In this example, large global brands have been pushed to come up with ideas that tie in with their consumers’ desire to contribute to sustainability and/or the ‘feel good’ factor that accompanies it.


When you think of health conscious brands, McDonald’s is not the first name that comes to mind. But earlier this year, the fast food chain announced that its Indian menu would now offer healthier options, with the company tweeting “We’re listening to all health-conscious people out there.”

Some of the changes the company has made to its Indian menu include:
– Whole grain, instead of refined flour wraps
– 25% more dietary fibre in its patties
– 40% less oil in its mayonnaise
– A reduction in the fat content of its Soft Serve cone, which is now 96% fat free.

This is another example of a global giant engaging in activities quite far removed from their regular practices, in an attempt to retain market share and offer new products that are in tune with the changing times.

Globally, many other fast food chains such as KFC, Burger King and Taco Bell also offer healthier menu options in addition to their regular menus.

Is It Enough?

Admittedly, many companies, including some of the ones mentioned in this article, have come under the scanner for merely ‘greenwashing’ and not ensuring that their overall strategy is truly in line with greener (or healthier) practices. Some companies have also been accused of using such strategies to merely charge higher prices and/or to encourage consumerism.

But the moves made by these companies do at least indicate a step in the right direction.

Any company that wishes to survive in the market must sit up and take notice of what its consumer wants – which is exactly what these examples indicate has happened.

One hopes then that the moves highlighted above are just the beginning and that it is only a matter of time before such companies begin to innovate and incorporate long term strategies that are truly sustainable and healthier.

The examples also highlight the power that lies with the consumer to bring about innovation. If enough consumers demand products and practices that are sustainable, ethical and responsible, companies who wish to survive will have no choice but to figure out a way to supply them…a win-win situation for the consumer, the company and our planet at large.

Is it time to change things at your company? Zeitgeist uses the platform of design thinking to develop innovative, long-term solutions that are relevant today as well as in the future. Reach out to us for all your Design Strategy and Design Management requirements.

Gitanjali Singh Cherian
Marketing Manager


Design Strategy, Trends

Technology has become cheaper and thus more accessible over the years. Low cost mobile phones, computers and the Internet, coupled with tools such as social media and data analytics have resulted in the following outcomes:

Shift in Power

The growth of platforms like Facebook, Google and Youtube, primarily enabled by low-cost Internet, has enhanced cyclical connectivity and feedback loops which enable transparency. The common individual’s access to information has played a major role in shifting where the power to influence lies.

Today’s potential customer is more likely to believe the reviews of an online community and less likely to be influenced by a company’s advertising efforts. Power now lies with social groups or communities. Customers are able to gain more knowledge about a particular product, as well as of its competitors’ and interact with each other quickly, giving them the power to demand customised products that better suit their needs. Today’s customer is motivated to play a key role in the innovation process. Ideas for innovation are also able to come from sources such as vendors, partners and other key players, and are no longer limited to the traditional internal source – the R & D department.

Global Collaboration and Enhanced Mobility

The World Wide Web has enabled a global civilization connected by an invisible force – the Internet. Information travels rapidly, and distances no longer feel intimidating. The world is literally at your fingertips.

Information Sharing and Analysis

Individuals can collaborate in an intangible environment enabled by high-speed Internet, social media platforms, inexpensive computers and mobile phones. People from different parts of the world, with different areas of expertise, can all sit at the same virtual ‘table’ and co-create.

Social media platforms allow for rapid two-way flow of information between creators of products/services and end users. Further, the information is no longer limited to just text, but also has visual aid. This means understanding problems or needs becomes much easier, potentially allowing for better solutions to be developed.

Because of technology, large amounts of information can be quickly shared and the same data set can be analysed by people with different areas of expertise. Big data and data analytics allow firms to better understand and segment the market, identify new trends and needs, and eventually help in developing mutually beneficial marketing strategies.

In short, technology today enables:

– Access to various problem solvers from different backgrounds and with diverse expertise

– Rapid communication and information sharing.

These features form the pillars of a successful co-creative endeavour.


With artificial intelligence predicted to take over large chunks of the workforce in the future, algorithms developed from repetitive human patterns will influence innovation.

Augmented collaboration will also enhance the experience and efficiency of co-creation.There are multiple innovators currently working on trying to directly connect our brain’s neurology to technology.The day we can share our thoughts and ideas just by thinking of a specific person may not be that far away.

Augmented collaboration will also enhance the experience and efficiency of co-creation.There are multiple innovators currently working on trying to directly connect our brain’s neurology to technology.The day we can share our thoughts and ideas just by thinking of a specific person may not be that far away.

Advancements in technology are setting up a platform that will allow for co-creation and innovation to take place at an unprecedented pace.

Will you be ready?

Perhaps our article next week – The Golden Principles of Co-creation – can help. Stay tuned.



With the rampant synergy in tech and business development, Zeitgeist takes a closer look at tech integrations that are going to become mainstream.

Artificial Intelligence

AI seems to be slowly but surely replacing jobs that require technical computation and data analysis to produce more human driven conclusions through apps, devices and platforms. AI cannot mimic the empathetic human brain just yet, but already has the capability to beat the human brain in playing a game. Libratus just beat top class human poker champions at their own game, just like Deepmind with chess. AI can now also mimic racial biases. On October 17th, 2017 Sophia was introduced – an AI bot that rose to fame by being introduced to the U.N. and acquiring citizenship in Saudi Arabia. She can imitate human expression, though she is still learning what these things mean. Research firm Gartner estimates that AI will eliminate 1.8 million jobs by 2020.

And then there is the eternal question – could AI ever replace humans altogether?


We all know that IoT (The Internet of Things) has been hugely disruptive. Connecting smart sensors to connected devices has created a huge way of convenience and control to the user. Today we are able to control a small light switch, or a large off site generator through virtual assistants like Google’s Alexa. But the real magic is just about to begin.

By combining Blockchain Technology with IoT, tech is going to see a new wave of security and services for businesses. API’s will very soon come in to connect different databases with different computer services. This will drive efficiency and competition. For example a BIoT innovation could be shipment tracking devices with sensors embedded in them for real time data. Imagine the impact of quality in our supply chains if we could track heat, time, and traffic to ensure that our vegetables got to us perfectly fresh!

BIoT will assure companies that their most valuable data will not be hacked – a huge upward move for security in businesses across the globe.

Li-Fi and AR

Augmented Reality will take centerstage this year. The rapid pace at which AR has taken off will allow people to shop for things that fit to size. Augmented mannequins will create a customised shopping experience where body types will be easily created to match your own, along with online inventory that will rival any online store.
In addition to this, Li-Fi, a new light-based data connection, will bring speeds up to 100 times faster than a 4G wi-fi connection.

The retail experience is rapidly changing for the consumer – online stores, watch out!


Fintech will soon take over traditional methods of paying for things. With social and mobile payments at your fingertips it only makes sense to focus on pushing these technologies further for more efficiency. Soon we will be able to scan our eyes through our smartphone to make a payment, eliminating the need for credit and debit cards altogether!

With Cryptocurrency and Blockchain creating further security in finance, it will be a matter of time before we make serious attempts to reduce the energy used in quantum computing and secure mining – investors get ready! This will in turn create financial incentives for all major retailers to move into Cryptocurrency and all their digital assets will begin to behave similarly to traditional methods of finance, payments, loans and credits, at a scalable cost.

The landscape for business today is fresh and exciting. Operational changes and business offerings are rapidly being driven to integrate progressive tech in order to stand apart from competition. Consumers – dabbling in some reading to equip you with what the future holds could stand to benefit you in more ways than one. Business owners – if you aren’t tech savvy yet, watch out, you have a hurricane coming your way!

Madhuri Rao
Founder and Chief
Design Strategy