Screen Shot 2016-07-12 at 8.55.02 PM

Hey everyone. Limassol Zok here, curious creative strategist with experience in design thinking!
This site is about the intersection between what is viable, desirable, and valid in the business of design world. You will find reviews of books and articles on design thinking, innovation, strategy, design research, and future trends.
Scroll down to read and please feel free to leave me a comment!

Limassol Zok


From Cloud To Ground: Co-Creative Sketching

Design is the craft of translating what’s imagined in the clouds to what’s experienced on the ground. As designer and design thinker, I use my research, prototyping, and sketching skills as a tool to translate ideas that promise viability in business, validity in technology, and exciting new experiences for people.

For walkntalk, my thesis project at the MS in Strategic Design and Management program at Parsons, I spent time engaging designers and professionals in workshops to test those sketched concepts and co-create compelling stories for what it feels like to be on walking meetings. What do users care about and need? What features excite them and engage them and what experiences help color and animate their day, adding meaning and substance? I ventured to sketch the first features that came to my mind.

walkntalk is a mobile app for walking meetings. Simple right? While wellness programs encourage walking to be part of corporate culture, only 50% of the people I surveyed had been on one and 10% did not even know what that meant. My job was therefore to translate the concept to a digital experience that enables a physical action.

Lots of feedback was generated from 2 hours and 2 volunteers who were willing and excited to try the concept out. While they really enjoyed taking a walk and grab a coffee on the way, several unmet needs were highlighted and several features were perceived as unnecessary.

I needed to step back a little to the main features and hold another workshop to test the assumptions I had made. This time, smaller squares, 7 slides, and big-picture thinking.

This time, 4 volunteers from a tech startup in Manhattan engaged with the sketches and proposed exciting ideas that grew to concepts for partnerships and business development. That was a moment when it became clear how UX is the bridge between business and design and how collaboration between team members is mandatory for the success of a product and its brand name.

Taking the design to the computer, I then started crafting a UX that translated the feedback and sketches to actual mobile app pages, which I could further test and develop into UI and a brand style guide for better user testing. The aim? MVP a version with a web programmer.

The project was a result of 6 months of qualitative and quantitative research including interviews, video editing, surveys, and workshops. I engaged several designers, strategists, and professionals and pivoted on at least 3 iterations of ideas that could be viable businesses. The end result is that I created a business model canvas, an investor’s pitch deck, and an executive report.

Want to learn more? Want this for your colleagues, friends, or employees? Email me on, like the app’s Facebook page, and help me get this off the ground in any way possible. Subscribe on and stay tuned!

Future Scenario: A Multiple Gateway Love Story

Screen Shot 2016-02-29 at 4.21.45 PM

Inspired by the book The Tomorrow Project Anthology: Conversations About the Future and The Tomorrow Project Seattle Initiative, A Multiple Gateway Love Story was born. 

Building the World
It is 2100 and Sandy is a 22 year old residing in Staten Island in an apartment on the 30th floor of a condominium located on a busy street that overlooks the New York Bay. Sandy’s home is uber connected and she owns three robots that she operates from anywhere in the world as long as she has her mobile phone and access to wifi. R2D4 grows vegetables in Sandy’s balcony garden, cooks her daily meals and makes sure it has all the recipes that she loves. R3F6 designs and develops websites for her clients, manages her finances, and looks for freelance jobs to make sure she has a steady income. R4Z8 cleans her apartment whenever it gets really dusty.

Inserting Technology Inflection Point
While Sandy’s robots, which she inherited from her grandfather, are busy managing the logistics of her life, she operates in another dimension a couple of lives through her VR contact lenses which she got implanted into her eyes when she was a child. Google which was once a search engine is currently focusing solely on those micro interventions that people are absolutely loving. Sandy who was able to afford MGVRLs (multiple-gateway virtual-reality lenses) is now able to maneuver 2 lives by simply double tapping on her wrist. The movement activates a screen that gets projected in front of her and she can easily switch between both of her lives. Between spending time on a beach in Cancun with her boyfriend Jeff enjoying the scent of body oil breezing with the wind through her nostrils and spending quality time with her dad eating french onion soup at their favorite local virtual french restaurant “Mademoiselle” life cannot get any better.

Exploring the Ramifications
As much as her favorite professional friend R3F6 is trying to design day and night to bring in a steady income, Sandy is running out of bitcoins. The capabilities of R3F6 are limited by Sandy’s actual physical and mental skills. Whatever Sandy learns, she learns too. This limitation in technology was imposed by The Office of Science and Technology Policy at The White House in order to make sure control stays within the political power. Technology is advancing but at that day, Sandy wished she was living in the past. She had to make a wise decision now and get back to school to expand her opportunities and continue living the life she can afford to live. She had to leave one of her lives and end a relationship she never thought she would end. It was either her dad or Jeff. She knew exactly what she needed to choose and with an immense heartbreak, she bid farewell her lovely 3-year boyfriend who could only afford an OGVR (a one-gateway virtual reality lens that kept him in one life scenario only).

Inserting Human Inflection Point
Sandy is furious about the policies that are affecting her real virtual life. When her mother implanted the contacts in her eyes, she thought this was access to infinite happiness to her daughter. Little did she know that politics was still the game of few who control the lives of many, and bitcoins were in the possession of those who lived far away from the lands where World Wide Robo War II happened in 2092. With a heartbreak as big as her love to her dad, she decided to take R3F6 and head to ROBOLAW School and get the knowledge she needs in order to make change and live at least one more day sipping pineapple at the beach with Jeff.

Revealing What We Learned
From her decision, Sandy learnt that although technology advances, there is still so much to be done on the economy and politics level and that living a life with dependance on her robot friends will not sustain her happiness and self growth. Humans are still the main force of knowledge and betterment, and as long as there is war and prejudice, there is work to be done for the sake of great humanity.

Adopted Techniques in Scenario Development
I held a workshop with Design Strategist from Parsons on Virtual Reality, Cyborgs, and Human-Technology Interaction. We explored What If scenarios and from our knowledge and research, we predicted possible scenarios into the future. Therefore the build-out scenario type is explorative following qualitative research of the possible external factors that will influence human behavior and internal conflicts in the future.

Strategic Thinking in New Economies – Snippets From Great Authors

Disruptive Innovation

A disruptive innovation is usually introduced to the market by small startups with great leaders and a sustaining innovation is usually lead by good managers whose aim is to introduce profit for a company. In Innovator’s Dilemma, the concept of dealing with disruptive technologies is presented in economic terms. A company is advised to adopt a disruptive innovation when the curve of increasing demand and the curve of evolving technology both seem to meet in the near future, in which case big companies need to create small independent companies with a different value network that works on strategies for adopting disruptive innovations.

Electric cars are a great example of current disruptive technologies.

Short Term and Long Term Jumps

In companies of varying business landscape, short-term and long-term jumps implicate their growth. While short-term jumps may be rewarding on the short run, long term jumps are usually more rewarding and require patience and long-term vision from the company’s management.

The Chicken and Egg Scenario

In the tech world, the decision for companies to adopt 1GB drives and upgrade from 200MB drives implied a chicken and egg scenario since demand for 1GB was not established yet.

Abductive Reasoning

Abductive reasoning is the reasoning of what could be instead of what is absolute truth. In the mystery stage of the knowledge funnel, the first stage, the choices are many and abductive reasoning helps the design thinker ask the right questions. In abductive reasoning, the thinker balances intuitive thinking with analytical thinking and that supports a strong freedom of choice.

What is opportunity cost?

During the weekend, I did the readings for this week instead of going out, The time and energy I invested in this task were a choice that canceled out an opportunity cost of investing my time and energy in another project.

Information is about disorder

Information according to Shannon is entropy because it is surprise. What we knew in the past no longer applies and information is the step between what we knew and what we will know. With surprise comes innovation which implies great value on an economy. Information is not a scarce resource and therefore the more people explore this field, the more opportunities of creativity and business arise.

Information Cascade

Information cascade happens when people let go of their own rationale in favor of the interference of other choices or ideas. This concept explains virality in social media networking, where the market’s effectiveness is maximized.


Energy returned on energy invested is the ratio or relation between the outcome of investing in energy and the investment itself. The decrease in EROEI is alarming and suggests the importance of reconsidering the needed resources and the available resources so we know what to invest in and participate in the growth of the economy.

My POV on NYC Yellow Cabs

Screen Shot 2016-02-26 at 3.32.38 PM

To the New York City’s Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC),

While TLC has been operating for 43 years selling medallion permits and staying the taxi market leader, this age has been witnessing a sea of taxi apps like Uber and Lyft that are disrupting traditional taxi economies. It is crucial for TLC’s future survival as the industry’s leader that it adopts a marketing strategy that reassure to its customers the wisdom of their choice, hence retaining them and gaining new followers. TLC should therefore further ground its roots in the market and present itself in its media outlets as safe, regulated, and respectful of the privacy of its passengers.

Yellow taxis have flourished in Manhattan, a borough where hailing a cab is a simple gesture that is instantly fulfilled by a sea of yellow cabs. New York people’s minds are marked with the yellow cabs and their long history displayed in movies, books, and in front of their eyes every single day. The cabs were branded with the color yellow in 1967 for easy recognition, a decision that has proved successful every day until today. Whereas the emerging competition, Uber, has been operating under very subtle branding, while paying more attention to its customer service. The only off-mobile brand item it uses is the Uber sticker on black cars’ windows that is not quite visible from far and does not act as street advertising and has therefore very mildly infiltrated the minds of the general public. While it is very simple to download Uber app on their smart phones and with one tap get a car waiting outside their door, the majority of people in NYC and passersby still prefer the quick hail. How long will this trend continue is the critical question of the taxi industry.

Uber is valued at $18 billion and Lyft is valued at $700 million, hence the threat is real and in recognition to that, TLC attempted incorporating the Hailo app into its yellow cabs, the revenue of which did not top $100 million in 2013. Although thriving in cities like London, Hailo fell through in NYC due to intense taxi regulations, untrained and unequipped drivers, and the failure of the app to integrate with the car service. TLC’s political bonds are strong as the industry contributed to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s campaign more than $300,000. It seems then unlikely that TLC would venture into rethinking its heavy regulations and upgrade its technology, leaving little room for changes in the company’s infrastructure. This reasserts the need for a marketing strategy that further strengthens its brand and its political market roots.

Uber announced in July 2014 that it slashed the price on its ridesharing service UberX in New York City by 20 percent, becoming more affordable than the yellow cab, and leaving the future uncertain. However, the “Who’s Driving You” public safety initiative labeled Uber and Lyft as unsafe as they refuse to obtain licensing and purchase primary commercial liability insurance coverage, and do not even conduct fingerprint background checks on their drivers. This is a major weakness that is perceived as a strong point from the yellow taxis’ perspective. Yellow cabs, on the other hand, enjoy a reputation of safety, a fact that is easily manageable to advertise. This reputation is embedded in its rigid infrastructure and not communicated to the public in an age when communication has become a major converter of fans. While tech-savvy millennials are letting go of their privacy for the sake of easy services, a phenomenon witnessed on Facebook and on all free apps, it is important to raise awareness around this topic and promote yellow cabs as one of the main surviving pillars of the city’s history. TLC’s pride in its modes of conduct and background checked drivers should therefore be marketed to the public, for it to reassert itself as the leader of New York’s taxi market.

TLC’s pickups cater to different needs and locations, the most dominant of which remain to be airport pickups. The second category is 4pm commutes around the city by people going to meetings, resolving the chores of the day, or shopping especially on occasions like Christmas and Valentine’s day. Night commutes are currently low on the graph. For TLC to attract more night riders, it must view the weaknesses of MTA and of services like Uber and Lyft as its own strengths and capitalize on them to open its new customer segment’s eyes to the possibility of offering them solutions to their currently dormant needs. Who is catering to night riders who are looking for a safe drive home? Currently, although not anywhere as viral as TLC or Uber, SheTaxi is a new initiative that hires female drivers for females wanting to commute safely. This customer segment would be reassured when the yellow cabs are marketed as safe instead of converting to the unregulated taxi apps.

In NYC, 51,398 drivers are licensed to drive medallion taxicabs. They operate 485,000 trips per day and service 600,000 passengers in the five boroughs of the city. This is an already-built infrastructure that will be very easy to build upon. A slogan printed on the taxis’ signage would be the easiest way to promote safety to the wide public, especially at night when the signs are visible when lit. In addition to that, names of the best drivers along with their photos and a personal friendly note may be displayed on TLC’s website. Making that information pleasant and accessible to the public, TLC may also open up a Facebook page that uses safety and privacy as the main theme of its daily posts.

TLC has been serving a niche audience of mid-high income passengers, that it needs to retain and not lose to its competition. The yellow cab drivers perceive their medallions, which they buy at more than $1 million, as an investment better than gold, bonds, or stocks and NYC’s financial plan is depending on $1.2 billion in medallion sales for the following years. The drivers are not going anywhere and certainly hope their customers do not either. This massive investment and fleet of yellow cars deserves reassurance and wealth. TLC should therefore maintain its quality, maintenance, and insurance services, and invest in a marketing strategy that will be paid off by the reassured public and will further guarantee the company’s future survival. This is a sensitive moment in the history of the taxi industry amidst a rage of speedy and aggressive technologies. TLC must be aware of its position in the market and plan accurately for a future as rich as its past.



Why a taxi app with $100 million in funding failed in the U.S.

Why a taxi app with $100 million in funding failed in the U.S.

Why a taxi app with $100 million in funding failed in the U.S.

Problems In Design Problems

In his paper “The Problem of Design Problems,” Kees Dorst, Associate Dean of Design at UTS, describes the problems in design problems, which is a necessary perspective for understanding how to reframe problems in design thinking, letting go of embedded assumptions that might blind the discovery process. These assumptions relate to the objectivity of the problem, the independence of its subparts, and its overview.

Understanding the problems requires looking into how designers perceive, interpret, structure, and solve problems from their own perspectives. The three dimensions of a design activity are therefore the designer, the design problem, and the dynamics of a design process. When the structures of problems are understood, they may then be matched to the way designers deal with them. This understanding enables us to create a taxonomy of design problems.

So what are those problems?

1- There is no closed pattern of reasoning to connect needs, requirements, and intentions with an outcome or a process of use. Hence the problem is underdetermined. It is a gradual process that is performed in patterns or design strategies. Moreover, design problems are not completely free. They are determined by hard facts and necessary input. They are underdetermined in the sense that they suggest a multitude of plausible scenarios or proposals of possible interpretations and hence solutions. They are also undetermined in that the designer may intervene with their own style and skills to quite a large extent.

2- In the rational problem-solving paradigm as used by some designers, the design is perceived as a rational search process, in which case the problem is defined in the problem space and is perceived on the same structure as the programs for the solutions as well. The task and problem solver are not in the picture and the problem solving process itself is the same independent of the actual problem. This paradigm follows the positivist theory.

3- In the reflective practice paradigm, the process follows the constructionist theory of developing knowing-in-action habits throughout the process journey. This requires understanding the structure of design problems and the important problem of linking process and problem in a concrete design situation. This approach takes for granted that there is a definable problem to begin with, and highlights the important role of the designer as the one who structures the problem and reflects on the task.

What are the various kinds of design problems?

In order to arrive at a topology of design problems, the paradigms of design methodology give a base for identifying them. The positivist theory claims that the designer lives in an objective world of scientific methods. In phenomenology, the designer an the design problem are connected as the person is perceived as dynamic and emotive. In both theories, the design problems are not fully understood and mapped out since they leave out the interpretations which define the basic operations in the acquisition of knowledge. These interpretations bridge the gap between the design and the design problem and may be categorized into subjective interpretations and objective interpretations. What is interpretation? It is the mental act of explaining what the thing points to and the value attributed to it by the interpreter.

Objective interpretation is how the problem solving methodology appears to the outside world. It is however controlled by a designer whose subjective perspective overlays the process of design. Objective interpretation is mostly seen when the goal of a design is to produce a cost-effective design within a strict timeframe. Subjective interpretation is then useful when the problem is ill-structured and when the designer is given the freedom of choice.

The problem of design problems

Design is a method of a dual nature, it is an action of understanding and producing at the same time, and a clear structure of design problems has not been arrived at yet. The design problem is not a pre-defined problem to which a clear method is applied and a solution is provided. It is a co-evolutionary process that is situated in the framework of a designer. It highly depends on the level of expertise of the designer assigned to the task and the links the designer makes between the different parts of the design problem.

Let’s See Abduction As A Coherence Problem


In their paper “Abductive Reasoning: Logic, Visual Thinking, and Coherence,” Paul Thagard and Cameron Shelley show how abduction reasoning aims to understand causes, effects, relations, interpretations, patterns and structures. The theory of Coherence lends itself as a strong model that explain how abductive reasoning works. Abduction can be conceptualized as a coherence problem in terms of maximization of constraint satisfaction. When explanations are found amongst causes and effects, these are positive constraints. When there is contradiction amongst elements or when they offer competing explanations, it is a negative constraint. If more than one element is required to explain another, the weight on the constraint between them diminishes. Hence this framework allows for decisions to be made on which hypotheses to be accepted and which ones to be rejected based on the maximization of compliance with two coherence conditions.

Seeing abduction as a coherence problems allows the openness to embracing a multitude of explanations that do not necessarily comply with the theory of deduction. The limitations of abduction are therefore reduced and maximizing coherence becomes an act of explaining as much as possible through positive constraints and displaying consistency through the negative constraints which would provoke belief revision. Perfection is not the aim.