About me

Haiyan Zhang is a designer, engineer and maker of things.

She is Innovation Director at Microsoft Research Cambridge. Inventing cutting-edge technology to enable new “Connected Play” experiences. She is also an inventor appearing in the BBC documentary, Big Life Fix.

In her 18-year career in the Technology sector, Haiyan has worked hands-on in software engineering, user experience, hardware R&D, service design, Cloud platforms, design thinking and blue-sky envisioning. She continues to push on the boundaries where technology can transform people’s lives for the better.

Haiyan was formerly Innovation Director at Lift London, a Microsoft Game Studio; Co-Founder and Design Lead for the innovation platform, OpenIDEO. With over 50,000 users worldwide solving challenges for social good and used as the enterprise innovation engine for organisations such as British Airways, DeutscheBank, Harvard Business School.

Working at the design consultancy, IDEO, she has created innovative tech experiences for community building, entertainment, financial services. She has worked with leading video game makers on research and ideas for new play experiences. Clients have included Mattel, Electronic Arts, HBO, Citibank, France Telecom, Alcatel, Cisco, and AT&T.

Haiyan’s work is informed by her previous profession as a software engineer and user interface designer creating applications for the biomedical and data-mining industries. As part of a team of software developers from Excel Tech in Canada, she created an electroencephalograph (EEG) visualization tool for intra-operative monitoring which is currently being used in hospitals across North America.

Haiyan has a Masters degree with Distinction in Interaction Design from the renowned Interaction Design Institute in Ivrea, and has a Bachelor of Computer Science (First-Class Honours) from Monash University, Australia.

She has lived and worked in Australia, Toronto, China, Italy, San Francisco and now resides in London.


Things I Make


  • OpenIDEO – An open collaboration platform for solving the world’s tough challenges. Webby winner for Best Community, 2011.
  • Spectral Alphabet – A photo essay blog featuring my medium format photography.
  • Japan Geigermap – A crowd-sourced geiger map of Japan, featuring radiation measurements from a number of crowd and official sources. 500,000 visitors to date.
  • IDEO Make-a-thon – A lightning event where designers, makers, developers, hackers came together to create technology prototypes for social good.
  • True North – A personal compass app for your iPhone that points to the places you care about.
  • Playsettings – Playful crockery for dextrous dining.
  • BBVA ATM– A new ATM self-service experience currently being piloted in Madrid.
  • Control Freaks – My master’s thesis on turning everyday objects into opportunities for interactive play.
  • Future Currents – Ideas for reducing household energy consumption. With the British Design Council RED Team.
  • Tug Tug Phones – Telephones for haptic communication across distances. Featured in Wallpaper* (Oct 2005) and exhibited at the Salone del Mobile (Milan Furniture Fair), 2005.
  • Standby Energy Visualisation – Interactive widget for revealing your standby energy usage.
  • Big Conversations & Small Talk – IDEO’s ongoing conversation with the wider community about innovation and design thinking.
  • Inspired? Share – An IDEO Facebook app to share what inspires you.
  • Lost Paradise – Generative art piece inspired by the work of William Morris.