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Pentagram Designer Describes Why ‘Design Thinking’ Might Be Mere ‘Bulls***’

By Prosyscom
In March 12, 2018


Image via Shutterstock

You’ve probably read up extensively on design thinking, a fairly new theory coined in 2013, that denotes a specific five-step creative process.

Unfortunately, some industry leads really don’t think the framework is all that incredible. Pentagram Partner Natasha Jen, for one, believes it’s just a buzzword and calls it “bullshit.”

Speaking at the Design Indaba this year, Jen said keeping up with this rigid process can be “extremely dangerous” for designers.

“I just can’t wrap my head around design thinking, and I ask myself—why can’t I understand it? The more I get into it, the more outrageous it appears.”

Firstly, Jen believes that there’s no one-size-fits-all method for design. Design thinking comprises five core steps: empathize, define, ideate, prototype, and test. In reality, design is more complex and requires a considerable amount of adaptability.

If creatives were to faithfully practice design thinking, however, they would risk falling short of one key step: “design crit”—getting together with your team to critique a project before it goes live.

“Presenting to colleagues is really lacking here. We see the same hexagonal diagrams coming up with the same five steps. It’s a very simplistic view that this can solve all problems.”

If the theory were written on paper, its brevity would allow it to be fitted in just one sticky note—and that spells trouble, Jen described. Walk into Pentagram New York’s studio, for instance, and you’ll see smatterings of ideas sprawled all over the workspace.

“Design needs to use lots of research, photos, images and more to build a more holistic understanding about anything.”

She also warned that there are numerous “design thinking boot-camps” on the internet—with at least one being priced as low as US$4. “It’s like wanting to become an Olympic athlete without wanting to be trained.”

“It is quite irresponsible to think that design thinking has nothing to do with how it might manifest in the real world,” Jen concluded. “What’s to say that it shouldn’t have to be beautiful? Beauty is precision and intelligence—not decoration.”

[via Design Week, cover image via Shutterstock]


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