Director, Design Research & Strategy at Highland
Amrita Kulkarni is a design researcher, strategist, and writer with work experience across four continents. With formal education in architecture, industrial design, and innovation strategy, she has spent the past 12 years in the innovation and consulting space, helping imagine new futures in collaboration with her clients. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Architecture from RVCE, Bangalore, and an MA + MSc in Innovation Design Engineering from the Royal College of Art + Imperial College London.
Amrita is the Director of Design Research & Strategy at Highland, a digital product and innovation consultancy based in Chicago. In collaboration with other directors, she has helped establish a seamless research + design + build process that begins with exploratory design research, followed by identifying design opportunities, strategizing user experience, interface design, MVP definition and development—culminating in digital product launch. Prior to Highland, Amrita worked at Gensler and IA Collaborative in Chicago, leading multidisciplinary teams on curious, analytical, and empathetic searches for game-changing insights.
Her foundational driving force lies in defining the right thing to do before doing it the right way, and this directive reflects in her research questions, synthesis frameworks, and team conversations. Whether working on a patient data management app for the US market, prototyping digital experiences for subway riders in London, aligning disparate global teams around a user growth journey, building culture-sensitive solar lamps in west African villages, or designing new food experiences that celebrate crafts in India, her focus on ‘user’ behavior—whether that of a customer, consumer, manager, teammate, client, or other—drives a holistic understanding of all the forces at play.
Her prior employers include Hager, Coca-Cola, and eLand Foundation, with work locations in Strasbourg, France; London, England; and Mali, Africa. Her work has been recognized through awards from Adobe, Ford, James Dyson Foundation, Royal Society of the Arts and Association of Commonwealth Universities.
Speaking and Publishing
Amrita is the Assistant Editor of My Liveable City magazine, an exploration into the rapid growth and development of urban realms around the world, with a goal to make our cities sustainable, inclusive, and liveable for all. She has contributed to the magazine as a columnist since 2014, spanning topics ranging from Industrial Design, Service Design, and Design Process. In collaboration with the Gensler Research Institute, she and her team published a white paper on the Evolution of Creative Learning at work. She also co-authored a blog, Toward Humane Healthcare, reflecting on patient considerations in gaining trust through the pandemic.
Amrita co-authored “Foroba Yelen: Portable Solar Lighting and Sustainable Strategies for Remote Malian Villages,” which was presented at the 14th National Conference on Engineering and Product Design, Belgium, in 2012. Her exploration into how India’s modern history has shaped the perception and value of design within its borders—an 8,500 word dissertation published in 2011—is titled “Design in India: Who Cares?“