The UK has created more unicorn tech companies – firms valued at more than 1 billion US dollars – than any other countries bar the US and China.

More than a third of Europe's fastest-growing tech companies are now based in Britain, with 45 unicorns based in London alone. As recently as Monday, Theresa May pledged £153 million to progress quantum computing.

Tech is EVERYWHERE and is disrupting EVERYTHING: our society and our buildings, our retail spaces and our workspaces.

Change is to be expected as old ideas become obsolete. But in today’s world, change isn’t unfolding at a constant rate - it’s unfolding at a faster and faster rate creating significant challenges for our society.


Yet, it’s not all doom and gloom. For Lara Marrero, Principal, Strategy Director and Global Retail Practice Leader at Gensler, “disruption can be an opportunity as well as a challenge.”

As she points out, “a decade ago, office workers worried about their jobs being outsourced overseas. Today, large companies such as Amazon, Microsoft and Google can easily assemble teams in the cloud to conduct sales and customer support among other things.”


That said, two questions remain:


(1) How can we ensure that we don’t forget about our physical experiences in the world?


(2) How do we design for the future of tech with human experience at the heart of it?  

Tech Disruption


The retail world is moving at a supersonic pace. But for Lara Marrero PEOPLE - and not technology - are the driving force behind this change.


The forever time-poor consumer is challenging traditional retail models and is now looking for authenticity and a sense of community in brands and their retail experiences – and retailers have to deliver on these expectations if they’re to thrive in the long-run.


As Lara points out, “49% of people are in task mode when shopping, and the remainder of the time, they can be in aspiration, discovery, entertainment and social modes and this is where technology can help create truly immersive and unique retail experiences for consumers.”

Digital and human experiences


In 1996, the world was analogue. Fast forward to 2019 and almost everything is now digital. But innovation has not always been in the service of the people, and we’re now witnessing the emergence of loneliness, among other societal issues, as a result of this.


For Hans Neubert Global Creative Lead of Digital Experiences at Gensler “design shouldn’t only be about creating news things, but should also be about finding solutions to address what’s happening in our society.”


Before adding that “humans should be the driving force behind this and not technology” if we’re to successfully inject humanity and authenticity back in our buildings and our cities.

Digital and the workplace


Tech has infiltrated our workplaces and is changing the way we work, taking human interactions away from the physical and into the digital space. However, people are now demanding choice and autonomy from their workplace environment; whilst companies are still looking to crack the productivity code.


For Becky Spenceley, Senior Associate and Designer at Gensler, “there isn’t a one size fits all approach to design that will help deliver on these points.”


Natalie Engels, Design Director of Gensler, adds that “we as a result need to create highly personalised solutions for our clients that are backed-up by data to inform the design-process and tailored to their employees’ needs.”


And finally, people are now looking for “beauty and wonder” in their workplaces, and this is where designers can truly shape the conversation.