“Design Thinking is Bullshit”

We did the reading. What is this Design Thinking everyone is talking about, and why is it so wildly popular? And why is it having a major backlash moment? Read on for a point-counterpoint.

Ever come into a office covered in post-its? Sure you have. That’s Design Thinking at work.

Boiled down, Design Thinking means we should all think like a designer. Meaning that the process used by a designer to solve a problem, is the way anyone should solve problems and  break out from ingrained patterns of thought in order to come up with something brand new.

At the heart of Design Thinking is  improving products by understanding how users interact with products and the conditions in which they operate. Here is a good video from Think Academy explaining what Design Thinking means.

Emperor’s new clothes?

In a provocative presentation called ‘Design Thinking Is Bullshit’ at a conference last year, Pentagram (developed visual identities for MasterCard, Windows and MoMA) partner Natasha Jen argued that design thinking was little more than a buzzword tha we are are beginning to see a lot of derailed versions of Design Thinking trying to promote the idea that anyone can design.

“With 3M Post-it Notes–a hallmark of design thinking–you can do a lot of quick brainstorming and collaborations, right? But if you actually look at what’s on the stickers, they are all just thoughts from our heads, right? I would like to go back to some of the old ways of working.”

The only way to go

Arguing the counterpoint, Adobe’s Khoi Vinh thinks Design Thinking may have its problems, but that it’s a crucial tool for democratizing design. “When I hear backlash against design thinking, it sounds to me a bit like territorialism. It sounds to me a bit like designers protecting our turf,” she writes.

“Designers, to some extent, want design to be an exclusive domain. We want the process to be mysterious because it preserves the perceived value of design. The thinking is that the more difficult design seems, the rarer good design seems, the more good designers will be able to charge for it. But […] like technology, it becomes most powerful when it’s democratized, when it gets out there in the world. 

[…] Do we want design to be as small as it is today – an insular community with a really obscure language? Or do we want it to be as big and as influential and as inspirational as everyone in its room knows it can be?”

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Interaction Design

What is Design Thinking and Why Is It So Popular?

Some of the world’s leading brands, such as Apple, Google, Samsung and GE, have rapidly adopted the Design Thinking approach, and Design Thinking is being taught at leading universities around the world, including d.school, Stanford, Harvard and MIT. But do you know what Design Thinking is?

Co.Design

Desighn thinking is B.S.

In a recent talk at the School of Visual Arts, Pentagram partner Natasha Jen argues against the cult of design thinking.
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Co.Design

The Skeptic’s Case For Design Thinking

Design thinking may have its problems, but it’s a crucial tool for democratizing design, Adobe’s Khoi Vinh says in a recent talk at the School for Visual Arts.

Medium

What the Heck is Design Thinking Anyway?

or How to Creatively and Consistently Solve Any Challenge Set Before You