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In The Future of Extraordinary Design, I give Human Centered Design a hard time. One of my big questions is, who is the human in Human Centered Design and can we segregate a human from their environment? I argue that too many designers use the term HCD as a stick to defend their designs with. If a critic or colleague asks how the designer can justify a wasteful or less than elegant element of the design, the designer can claim it is the best option for the user. But I’m not a fanatic about this. I know, sometimes, the ideas behind HCD can really pay off. …


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Image Credit — CNN

The new Amazon Go cashier-free convenience stores and Starbucks’ AR cafés are signaling the future in retail purchasing. This future is one, which belongs to those who don’t show technology just for the sake of it but use technology ‘invisibly’ to deliver amazing shopping and service experiences. Because after 20 years of seeing tech as sexy and cutting edge, tech is finally having it’s ‘doorknob’ moment. And it’s up to us to make sure it fits its new role well.

The Starbucks and Amazon approach

The Starbucks experience is constructed around the delivery of a personal connection between the barista and customer, and many would argue — it always has been. The explosion of branches in the ‘90’s went hand in hand with a grunge philosophy shift, one which wanted more social interaction. …


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Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Supporting your local economy has never been so hot and in recent years a real grassroots movement towards buying local has taken root. Consumers, and in particular food shoppers are seeing there are huge advantages to be had. But what are these advantages and how does buying locally effect our economies? And most importantly, is this trend sustainable?

Define small!

When we talk about buying local — what we’re often alluding to is buying from small suppliers. We want to shop at small suppliers where we know the owners and see the money being put to good use.

But on the flipside, just because it’s small doesn’t make it local. Banks usually call companies with an annual revenue of under $20 million, small, and small business advocacies work with businesses with fewer than 500 employees. This can include some serious global operators who do not reinvest in the community. And that’s really what buying local is all about — keeping the cash in the local economy. …


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Image Credit — Oleksandr Bereziuk

A lot has been written lately about the power of Dynamic Pricing, that is, using a number of different factors to determine the practice of charging different costs for the same product at different times, or under different conditions.

Commentators have been approaching this marketing strategy as if it’s brand new, but of course, it’s been around since trade began. Supply and demand, as well as preferred partnerships, affects the price we charge — even haggling is a form of dynamic pricing.

However, if we fail to see just how much Dynamic Pricing is written into our social DNA we run the risk of getting it very wrong or labeling it as unethical. So here, I want to look at a few good and bad examples of Dynamic Pricing, so we can see the benefits more clearly. …


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Illustration by Frank Springer

In the last few years, the politicians who challenged experts and scientists have fared very well. But exactly why many people have been so quick to turn their backs on science needs to be addressed. From the moon-not-existing to Jay-Z-as-a-time-traveling vampire, in the last decade, conspiracy theories (CTs) seem to have exploded in number. The Internet certainly plays some part in making information more accessible, but every action requires not just a means, but also a motivation.

In psychology, it’s said that humans are motivated to act for logical reasons. If the reason doesn’t appear logical, there is likely a secondary, unseen motivation at hand. For example, a climate change denier could be hoping to profit from the use of fossil fuels — either through their investments or by their associating with higher employment. Likewise, many people in the anti-vax camp find the movement attractive as it justifies avoiding a subjecting a newborn to a painful experience. …


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Photo by Fran Silvestre Arquitectos on Behance

My recent foray into the house buying market made me recognize one of the strangest aspects of the modern human phenomenon. Namely, while we’re all avid online researchers when it comes to buying a new car or even a new pair of headphones — while we would never dream of pressing the one-click buying option without the assurance of a returns policy — when buying a house we simply jump in feet first. Once we know it’s structurally sound, we simply use our eyes and hearts to make a relatively very quick decision. At first, I was thinking — why is this? But pretty soon my thinking was flipped on its head. …


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Efficiency has been a buzzword in business since 1913, when Henry Ford started up the very first industrialized assembly line. In 1937, McDonalds brought efficiency into the food service by offering the same method and adding a very limited menu. And for a long time we’ve been talking about ‘lean’ and ‘just in time’ operations to describe progress in efficiency. However, very quietly and from some unexpected sources, a new type of efficiency has been blossoming.

I’m talking about the highly efficient use of randomness to make processes easier and quicker. This may sound counter productive but everyone from Amazon to Southwest Airlines uses it. Amazon warehouse storage is famously random, and South West refuses to assign seats. However, both systems are highly efficient. …


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As consumer behaviors shift, with more and more people using their various devices and services to access unique content, new fitness equipment companies have shifted to a content marketing-based approach.

In 1996, Bill Gates published an essay in which he famously declared “Content is king.” Gates predicted the rise of the Internet would provide businesses of any size with seemingly endless opportunities to publish informative and entertaining content as a means of engaging customers.


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Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

Once upon a time, a bank was a place where you kept your money, where you went if you needed a house or business loan, where neighbors’ funds were used to benefit the community. There’s a scene in the Christmas movie, It’s A Wonderful Life, which describes this perfectly. But things have changed.

Over the years, banks have diversified their business and found opportunities to make money in a number of different areas. They charge interest on credit cards, loans and mortgages, a monthly account fee and various punitive fees such as late fees, returned payment fees and even inactive fees. From a commercial perspective, this is a truly beautiful business model. …


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Image Credit : Christian Lalonde

When it comes to food, the US is currently paying too little for too much. This has convinced us that we couldn’t possibly have healthy food for the same price — but perhaps we can.

No matter where you live, the word ‘organic’ is associated with goodness and sustainability. And even for those who don’t buy into the social or presumed better nutritional quality, organic usually means pesticide-free. And removing pesticides from our plates is desirable. However, many are quick to point out, not everyone in the US could afford to eat entirely organic. Simply put, by 2030–20 million more American’s will need to be fed and according to current organic outputs, there wouldn’t be enough organic produce to go around. Organic food needs space. It’s a question of math, they argue. No matter what you do, one plus one can’t equal three. But I would argue, by looking at the problem more holistically, we might be able to address the issue more effectively. …

About

Nik Parekh

Design Strategist I Service Designer I Author of The Future of Extraordinary Design

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