Silicon Vikings

Next-Generation Digital and Virtual Design

Blog post   •   Aug 14, 2012 16:54 EDT

We’re now in the preparation phase of our next SIG meeting and I am really looking forward to hearing our expert panel—in the process of being finalized, so stay put—discuss design issues that will separate winners from losers in the increasingly fierce batter for the hearts and minds of digital and virtual consumers. Especially as the “always-on” reality of most consumers is fast approaching, especially via smartphones and tablets, designing for ease-of-use, rich media experiences, great user engagement, and interactivity, while leveraging social media and collaborative technologies, companies that fail on this front will soon be out of the game.

The Nordic countries have long been known for design, including architecture (think the amazing Norwegian firm Snohetta that is now winning competitions around the world), electronics (think of the sleek design of Bang & Olufsen, but this company has also struggled to achieve the fantastic integration of SW and HW design that has helped Apple become the most valuable company–in terms of market valuation—in the world), and many others, such as BoConcept (Denmark), Marimekko (Finland), George Jensen (Denmark), and many others.

But as life at work and at home is becoming more digital and virtual—including of course education and learning, as we address regularly in this blog—Nordic firms recognize the growing importance of doing great user-focused, digital and virtual design, and IDEAN ( from Finland is the leading Nordic companies on this front, straddling the Nordic region and Silicon Valley. IDEAN not only has a great client list, which we hope will continue to grow with the addition of many large and small companies here in Silicon Valley, but it also runs a Design Academy, to teach clients about next-generation digital and virtual design. We will learn more about this, including what IDEAN has done in the past on this front but also what’s next, when their Chief Innovation Officer, and also Co-Founder, of IDEAN, Risto Lahdesmaki, will head the panel for our Silicon Vikings session on design.

Given my interest and work around technology for learning and education, I have for a long time been intrigued by the role of creating engaging digital experiences. And I have had many sessions around this topic with a good friend, Kenny Lauer, whose job as Vice President, Digital Experience, at George P. Johnson ( Kenny and his GPJ team have been involved in numerous large and exciting projects that involve the design of very engaging, interactive, digital experiences for a wide range of companies, including Cisco and a number of auto companies.  And I am convinced that user-centric engagement design will be  a key competitive differentiator among the growing mumber of players that are now competing to attract learners to their MMOG classes that we have discussed in previous blog posts.

Digital and virtual designers will continue to be facing a “moving target” in the emerging digital and virtual world, as they will need to address the following issues and developments:

  • The growing integration and convergence of the digital/virtual and physical world as a new hybrid environment become more common
  • Digital will increasingly become “virtual and immersive” as result of growing use of 3D immersive environments (if you don’t already know, the Nordic region has one of the leading players in this front represented by Habbo Hotel which has on average 10 million unique visitors per month, and reportedly has over 148 million registered users, with an average user age of around 15 years, according to the British media firm KZero)
  • Growing use of mobile devices, with apps and HTML5 becoming more common ways to consume media on these devices
  • Emerging user interface and navigation technologies, such as Kinect by Microsoft and other similar technologies that other startups are bringing to market to enable motion and gesture recognition for navigation
  • Augmented reality as one of the next generation technologies that Google Glasses and other similar interface technologies by Apple and others will bring to market in coming years

Clearly, lots of exciting opportunities, as well as challenges, will face startup and large companies on this front in the future, so come and join us when we explore these issues in our upcoming SIG session (stay tuned for the meeting announcement that will soon be made).