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Global Innovation Design (MA/MSc)

Nikolas Grafakos

I am a design engineer and a systems thinker interested in deconstructing big questions that explore the future of humanity through the lens of technology and science.


Product Designer @ Long Distance, LA (2021)

Design Fabricator @ Entocycle - London (2017-2019)

Designer @ Design Academy, Design Council - London (2018)

Product Designer @ International Council of Design - Chengdu, China (2017)


MSc/MA Global Innovation Design @ Imperial College & Royal College of Art (2021)

BA (Hons) Design Products @ Ravensbourne University (2018)

Foundation Diploma in Art and Design @ UAL: University of the Arts London (2015)


San Francisco Design Week 2020 // “Designing the Future of Music”

New Designers Exhibition 2018

Ravensbourne Degree Show 2018


“Remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see and wonder about what makes the universe exist. Be curious” - Stephen Hawking 

I use design as a problem-solving tool to investigate big philosophical and systemic challenges that create and inspire a better future for humanity 

Product design as a practice has taught me the critical thinking necessary to identify and address everyday problems through the creation of objects.

Through GID, I’ve integrated my knowledge in product design with systems thinking practices and engineering methods to augment my practice to work at a larger scale and address more impactful and challenging issues.

My work thus far has focused on navigating and designing for machine problem solving, future space habitats and safe online environments.

Thesis Project 

Zero-G Cutlery is an ongoing research project, that has received validation and interest from multiple stakeholders and domain experts from  MIT Media Labs, SpaceX and NASA. 

If would like to know more details or collaborate please feel free to get in touch.

ZERO-G Cutlery is a series of redesigned, food-related space products that explores new ways of designing artefacts that shape the human experience in long-duration missions. It broadens the space paradigm to address not only the basic but also the emotional needs of astronauts.

Human needs are currently being retrofitted and adapted into the technology through rigorous training instead of being an equal element of consideration during the mission development. It is an effective method for current short duration missions but we need to incorporate humans needs equally into the mission development if we want to make long-duration space journeys a reality. This entails that there needs to be better facilitation between design processes and engineering disciplines in order to achieve this long term goal. 

This project uses food as a principal tool to explore the methods and process used to design everyday products for microgravity. Through a series of experiments, the three tools were developed to enhance the eating experience in zero gravity. The proposed methodology behind these products attempts to bring the technical requirements of space and human-centred design together to address both the physiological and psychological needs of astronauts. 

Spoon — A spoon designed with a flexible structure to capture the food substance, giving the astronauts a lot more control during their meals.
Interaction — It could potentially open the possibility of introducing a broad range of food textures as it does not rely on the water surface tension like the existing ones.
Packaging — The second object is the packaging of the food, which is also used as their dishware. It is built on the same design as the existing packaging with the improvement of an easy to access opening.
Interaction — This provides for a better eating experience and giving the confidence to astronauts to open multiple packets and create a more enjoyable meal.
Drinkware — The last artefact is a more speculative redesign of the drinking container. It assumes that through genetic modification we could utilise the roots of food that is grown in the spaceship as flavouring agents for drinks.
Interaction — So the user has the freedom to create their preferred beverage while at the same time making use of an otherwise wasted element.
ZERO G CUTLERY — Context and methodology
Stakeholder Engagement
Addressing human needs in space
Design methodology
Development through co-design workshops
Development through prototyping and testing
How could we develop machine intelligence capable of tackling complex real world problems?
There are two kinds of learning environments that intelligence performs: Kind and Wicked.
— Broad Thinking allows human intelligence to turn obstacles into pivot points and therefore perform both in Wicked and Kind environments.
— To begin to understand how human intelligence utilises broad thinking, I conducted an experiment designed to create a narrow problem solving environment while pushing people to think broadly
Problem 1: How long of a line can be drawn using a new ballpoint pen?
Problem 2: How many heartbeats are in an average human being?
Problem 3: How many words are in Encyclopedia Britannica?
— A summary of the data of the experiment, outlining the characteristics of the three personas.
A visualisation of the data from all three problems, grouped by participants.
— In the end, it's not about accuracy. It's about teaching machines the process of asking the right questions, to begin to navigate Wicked Environments.

Fermi "Machines" explores the idea of building machines to think broad instead of deep. It investigates how humans use broad knowledge to solve fermi (broad) problems within machine constraints. 

Fermi problems are a common practice technique to help humans develop a broader way of thinking. They allow you to formulate an approximate answer to a problem based upon a sequence of questions and logical assumptions. Used in engineering to help people learn how to break big problems into manageable parts by asking the right questions, they ultimately build resilience. 

Our human ability to think broadly has allowed us to thrive in Wicked learning environments, such as politics and ethics, by understanding how to solve complex problems. Unlike us, Artificial Intelligence has been limited by its performance to solve problems only in specialised and narrow fields, defined as Kind learning environments, such as games like chess or Go. 

If we could understand how humans utilise their broad thinking to solve complex problems it may lead to expanding the capabilities of machine intelligence.

Swarming online sex trafficking with AI-enhanced cyber stings
In a survey of trafficking survivors, 55% of respondents who were trafficked in 2015 never met their trafficker face to face.
Generate — Cyber operators can generate and embed fake personas of potential victims based on specific parameters such as location, characteristics, etc.
Engage — Once deployed, the personas can support operators and/or engage directly in conversations with the individuals reaching out to these fake victim profiles.
Monitor — AI models trained on historical trafficker-victim conversations will flag interactions that fit trafficker behaviour for further analysis.
J{AI}NE DOE Platform Demo

J{AI}NE DOE is a digital tool that allows law enforcement to augment their ability to reach, identify and convict traffickers by streamlining, automating, and scaling the deployment of AI victim personas to engage with online sex traffickers.

The Internet is a hospitable environment for traffickers as they can easily scale their recruiting and grooming operations, law enforcement presence is minimal, and anonymity helps them avoid detection while abetting the deception of potential victims. J{AI}NE DOE seeks to make the online environment more hostile for traffickers and serve as a deterrence by supporting cyber operations.