Vinay Venkatraman: Data-driven innovation

The Copenhagen-based designer tells us why data and technology are fundamentally changing the way designers work.

The new material revolutionising the design industry today is invisible and intangible – yet we feel it every single day, says Vinay Venkatraman. That material is data, explains the CEO of Leapcraft, a product innovation company based in Copenhagen. 

“Data gives you a new lens to look at how to approach problem solving, opportunity seeking and creating new systems and solutions,” Venkatraman says in this interview with the Design Indaba video team at the 2014 Conference.

In this sense, data is to 21st-century design what Bakelite was in the 20th century. This early form of plastic, invented by a Belgian chemist in 1907, enabled the manufacture of freeform, lightweight structures such as the iconic black telephone.

For Venkatraman and his work at Leapcraft, data represents an opportunity to innovate in a holistic way “to create something more significant than just beautiful products”.

Leapcraft specialises in developing low-cost educational and healthcare products and services for emerging countries. “These are appropriately designed for the right context, bringing cultural context, nifty technology, pattern recognition and data visualisation together to create a new platform for products,” Venkatraman says. 

He brings a designer’s perspective to technology and data-driven innovation, but wants the design industry to stretch itself. “Really good design addresses the right strategy around how desirable a product should be and how it can be made as useful as possible,” he notes. “Aesthetics is important but more and more designers and design principles in general should start asking ‘what is the right thing to design?’.”

Watch the Talk with Henrik Vibskov, Nille Juul-Sørensen, Vinay Venkatraman, Mikal Hallstrup