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The Next Big Thing

For years, companies and marketers have looked to bring more and more choice to consumers. This exponential growth in choice has lead to situations where consumers are overwhelmed by options to the point they can no longer make decisions, or the decision-making process requires so much time that buyer fatigue becomes a real issue.

These factors have been distilled by Aaron Shapiro, CEO of the design agency HUGE, into what he refers to as “anticipatory design”.

The foremost aspects of this approach to design are:

• Choice is Overrated
• Convenience & Choice
• Efficiency & Freedom

The goal of anticipatory design is to unshackle us from the tedious choices we must make on a daily basis. In his presentation on anticipatory design, Shapiro uses the example of calling a taxi (Uber) after finishing the lecture to take him to the airport. In the “anticipatory world”, the Uber app would be aware of your schedule, be aware of when your meeting is finished and be waiting for you at the door to deliver you to the airport…all without opening a single app.


The future viability of anticipatory design rests in systems and apps that work seamlessly together, and in what Shapiro refers to as “bandwidth ubiquity”. As bandwidth becomes widespread, systems will be able to follow and anticipate habits to a great degree.

Of course, issues of personal security and privacy must be addressed when discussing systems that can adapt to your personal needs. Anticipatory systems will need to be seeded with credit card, calendar, password and other information. This is the key delineator between anticipatory design and design as we know it today. Design is for the masses, anticipatory design is personal.

If all this sounds a little too Star Trek-ish to you, HUGE are currently testing these principles an a cafe located in their Atlanta office, and hoping to mainstream them over time.

One such implementation of this in their cafe may be to track a customer via geolocation, recognise when they are in the area (for example, on their morning commute), sending an order (based on the customers past choices) to the barista via an iWatch app. The order is then prepared and waiting for the customer, who simply picks up their cup and walks out of the cafe. An RFID chip embedded in the cup signals when the customer has left the cafe, and their credit card is automatically billed.

Although this is a simple example of solving what most would consider a “first world problem” there are countless areas where these designs can bear fruit, with many others to be discovered.

In the future, data and design are inexorably bound, and as data and design merge, Shapiro says,

Data is becoming an Art.

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