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Anijo Mathew

Dean, Professor of Entrepreneurship and Urban Technology, & ID Academy Director

Anijo Mathew

“The role of the designer is not to romance the technology. It is our job to critique the technology in both positive and negative ways so that it can be applied in the context of human activity.”


Anijo Mathew is Dean and a Professor at the Institute of Design focused on entrepreneurship and urban technology. He is also the director of the ID Academy. His research evaluates new models of innovation enabled by technology and media convergence through the lenses of design fiction, design-led innovation, and entrepreneurship. He works with global organizations to adapt and change strategic responses to transforming technologies.

Anijo is the founder and board member of Vamonde, a Chicago storytelling app operating worldwide and named by Built in Chicago as one of six Chicago startups shaping the future of virtual reality.

A native of India, Anijo holds a PhD in Design Computing from The Open University in the United Kingdom, a Master in Design Studies from Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design, and a professional Bachelor of Architecture from Birla Institute of Technology Mesra in Ranchi, India. He has taught at Harvard University’s School of Business, the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, and Illinois Tech’s Stuart School of Business. Anijo served as Head of Department of Art and Design at the College of Architecture, Art and Design at the American University of Sharjah in the UAE from 2019 to 2021.

Activities at Illinois Tech

As the first Academic Director for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Illinois Tech’s Kaplan Institute in 2017–18, Anijo helped the Provost plan and build a new campus-wide academic platform to teach multidisciplinary educational and entrepreneurial strategies.

Anijo has developed and taught courses at ID since 2008. These include Multidisciplinary Prototyping for Entrepreneurship, an initiative that brought together students from different academic units at Illinois Tech to work in multidisciplinary projects. He conceptualized and led the immensely popular Global Immersion Program for over seven years. These programs connect students and faculty members with global corporate and government entities to design for projects of strategic importance in various regions around the world. He also helped develop a curriculum for prototyping at the Institute of Design (with Martin Thaler) that continues to be a critical part of ID seminars, lectures, workshops, and studios.

Anijo’s research at ID has aimed at understanding how organizations can develop information access platforms embedded in physical environments in urban and local neighborhoods, as well as evaluating how social connectivity and user behavior in such environments affect these platforms. With the coming of interactive technologies and ubiquitous computing, the notion of “placemaking” has evolved, and Anijo has been involved in various interactive placemaking projects in collaboration with the City of Chicago, Chicago Loop Alliance, the Chicago Architecture Center, and the Tribune Company (2007–15). Anijo also focused on engaging prototyping and sketching methods at the early stages of design as part of an AutoDesk-sponsored project through ID (2008–14).

Industry Experience

Anijo has served as an advisor and consultant to several global organizations and startups. He works especially with Asian organizations such as the Dubai Future Foundation in the UAE, Godrej & Boyce in India, the Far Eastern Group in Taiwan, and Finablr in the UAE, advising company senior leadership on strategic innovation projects.

Before joining the Institute of Design, Anijo was a tenure-track faculty member at the College of Architecture, Art and Design at Mississippi State University (2003–08). During this time, he helped prototype smart technologies for rural populations in collaborative projects with the Center for Advanced Vehicular Systems and the Raspet Flight Research Laboratory. among other research facilities. Anijo also was Founder and Principal at 3 Design Studio in Mumbai, India (2001–2002).

His time in the UAE enabled Anijo to work with Asian and GCC leaders on planning, policy, and governmental initiatives in technology development projects. Through collaborations with the US State Department, Dubai Future Foundation, and Palmwood, Anijo applied his expertise in futures thinking as a strategic tool for organizational decision making in large-scale urban interventions.

Speaking and Publishing

Anijo is a recognized speaker at national and international events. His many keynote presentations have been at the National Building Museum, University of Chicago, Google, Capital One, Wipro, Motorola, Gensler, IDSA, Knowledge of Design Week in Hong Kong, Confederation of India Industries (CII), Urban Land Institute, and the International Downtown Association. He has also published articles in a variety of journals and books, and received numerous research grants and funding for sponsored research. In 2012, Anijo was recognized as a Fellow of the Urban Communication Foundation (UCF), a leader in promoting scholarship in the area of communication within an urban context. In 2007, Anijo was the Architectural Research Centers Consortium (ARCC) New Researcher of the Year, recognition intended to acknowledge and reward emerging figures in architectural and environmental design research that demonstrate innovation in thinking, dedication in scholarship, contributions to the academy, and leadership.

Recent Work


Mathew, Anijo. “Four Cities, Four Speculations: Using Design Fiction to Imagine New Urban Futures.” Learning Futures – Futures of Learning, Helsinki, Finland. 2021.

Mathew, Anijo, S. Kumar, R. Huvard, R., and J. Yu. “Learning from Yesterday’s Tomorrows: Extending the Futures Cone for Design Fiction.” Learning Futures – Futures of Learning, Helsinki, Finland. 2021.

Miller, C., V. Kizhakke, X. Li, T. Manjarres, and Anijo Mathew. 2019. “Research in and through Design: Prototypes as Forms of Investigation to Explore Energy Efficiency in Low-Income Communities.” Dialectic/Dialogue.

Forlano, L. and Anijo Mathew. 2014. “From Design Fiction to Design Friction: Speculative and Participatory Design of Values-Embedded Urban Technology.” Journal of Urban Technology, Special Issue on Urban Informatics.

Erwin, Kim, and Anijo Mathew. September 2012. “What’s After the ‘Transfer’ Model? Constructed Story Environments as a New Method for Communicating Design.” In Proceedings of the 8th International Conference on Design & Emotion, London, UK.

Book Sections

Anijo Mathew. 2015. “Urban Research Machines: Engaging the Modern Urban Citizen.” In Smart Cities as Democratic Ecologies. Daniel Araya, ed.; Palgrave Macmillan.

Anijo Mathew. 2008. “RFID Tagging and the Design of ‘Place’.” In RFID Handbook: Applications, Technology, Security, and Privacy. Syed Ahson and Mohammad Ilyas, eds. CRC Press.

Select Grants and Sponsored Research

2020 Extramural Research Grant, Dubai Future Foundation
Methods and Tools for Design and Futures Thinking ($26,500)

2020 Extramural Research Grant, US State Department/EXPO 2020
US Pavilion Installation ($98,000)

2019 Faculty Startup Grant, Office of Chief Research Officer,
American University of Sharjah ($6,800)

2020 Sponsored Research, IRTHI: The Contemporary Craft Council
Developing Perfume Craft in the UAE ($27,200)

2020 Sponsored Research, Finablr
Engaging the Edge of the Company in Innovation Processes ($13,500)

2019 Sponsored Research, Franklin Energy Services
Engaging Technology to reduce natural gas consumption in underserved communities ($50,000)