By Anijo Mathew
Head of Department of Art and Design/American University of Sharjah + Founder/Vamonde

This year, an alumna of the Design Management program at the American University of Sharjah was hired by Palmwood. Palmwood is a collaboration between the UAE Government and the global design consultancy, IDEO. On their website, they claim [we are] a design-led movement creating new solutions for governments and organizations, developing creative capabilities in the people of the UAE, and opening up new conversations about what is possible through design. The mandate of Palmwood is to collaborate (through design) and develop human-centred solutions for problems…


By Anijo Mathew
Head of Department of Art and Design/American University of Sharjah + Founder/Vamonde

A few weeks ago, Her Highness Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Chairperson of Dubai Culture & Arts Authority, described a vision for the future of art experiences in the UAE. I was especially thrilled to see her challenge to the community to come up with ideas and proposals for projects and events in a post-COVID-19 world. As we slowly emerge out of this crisis, this is a great opportunity for the UAE community to take a leadership role in this new…


Tea, Opium, and the Future of Information Politics

By Anijo Mathew
Head of Department of Art and Design/American University of Sharjah + Founder/Vamonde

1840. The Politics of Geography

Tea, as everyone knows, is a quintessential part of British culture today. In fact, over 60 billion cups of tea are consumed by Britons every year. The British had their first taste of tea towards the end of the 17th century. By the late 18th century, the British were completely intoxicated by the drink and its demand grew manifold. There was just one problem. Tea came mostly from China. And China was not interested in trading with Britain.

In the 18th century, China was the…


How the Indian giant, Godrej used design-led innovation to create a whole new product category.

By Anijo Mathew
Head of Department of Art and Design/American University of Sharjah + Founder/Vamonde

Our story begins over a century ago when a young Indian entrepreneur started playing around with safes. Ardeshir Burjorji Sorabji Godrej was not new to innovation. A few years ago, he founded a company with a loan of 3500 rupees (about US$45,000 today) because he believed that merely boycotting British goods was not enough. Instead, he wanted to create a modern Indian enterprise that understood and designed for the needs of the Indian people. Today, his legacy, Godrej, is a giant of the Indian economy…


How companies can innovate beyond their founding competency

By Anijo Mathew
Head of Department of Art and Design/American University of Sharjah + Founder/Vamonde

Most companies are founded on the premise of either technology or business innovation. While no company falls squarely into any one of these buckets, it can be argued that the DNA of every successful company is based on one of these two directions:

1. a Technology-centred evolution, where the founder invents a new product, process or service that is significantly better than a previous product or service. This innovation starts off small but eventually dominates the market. Ford, Nike, Godrej, Apple, Google, Facebook are all…


It’s that time of the year. Students are starting to talk about jobs, job interviews, career choices, hopes, dreams, student loans, and such. As a professor at the IIT Institute of Design, one part of my job is to counsel students on their career decisions. My students are arguably some of the best design students in the world (or I believe so), but like all students, they struggle when it comes to searching for jobs.

How do you, straight out of school, decide which career choice is best? What constitutes an excellent opportunity and what constitutes a mediocre one? Should…


A couple of weeks ago, I had the good (or mis) fortune (depending on how you look at it) of traveling halfway across the world and being in five major international airports in less than three days. During my travel, I noticed something interesting. It appears as though all of the world’s major airports have built retail experiences that look the same. In fact, I could pluck you from one duty-free shopping space in one airport and drop you into another one anywhere in the world, and it would take some time before you noticed the difference.

Destination Marketing Organizations…


By Anijo Mathew
Founder and Chief Experience Officer/Vamonde + Academic Director of the Ed Kaplan Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship/IllinoisTech Chicago

We all know how Apple Stores have mapped out a whole new level of retail experience for their users. I recently walked into the flagship Apple Store on Chicago’s Michigan Avenue and, as usual, everything in this store, from the personalized concierge service and the minimalist graphics to the thoughtful blend of modern aesthetics and wood furniture, is designed to make you feel special. The store design itself blends into the surroundings so that public and private spaces coexist…


Biograph Theatre in Lincoln Park, now called Victory Gardens Theatre (photograph by Marc Heiden)

My name is Anijo Mathew, and I am an Associate Professor at IllinoisTech’s Institute of Design (ID) in Chicago. Two years ago, I founded Vamonde because I saw that most institutions did not have a way to engage their audiences through technologically enabled cultural narratives. For these institutions, Vamonde provides a unique ability to present their narratives through temporal and spatial extensions that go beyond the four walls of their establishment. We then empower these narratives through a multi-channel network where partners can connect to the cultural traveler through very unique hyper-local experiences. No other platform does what Vamonde can…

Anijo Mathew

Academic, startup founder, and innovator who works with organisations globally on design-led innovation and urban technology.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store