Natasha Jen has a serious problem with Design Thinking, in fact she thinks its bullshit.
For 99% of the people sitting in the Design Indaba in Cape Town who love it, this came as quite a shock.
This is because Jen’s work is recognized for its innovative use of graphic, verbal, digital, and spatial interventions that challenge conventional notions of media and cultural contexts. She is one of the top visual communicators of the world; a partner at Pentagram, the world’s largest independently-owned design studio; and spearheaded her own design practice Njenworks.
So when Jen thinks something is bull, people take notice.
“When you type in Design Thinking... what you will see at the end is a series of five diagrams we are all too familiar with. When you search for architecture you see buildings. What I really get worried about is when you search for Design Thinking it’s just words. It doesn’t matter, you always more or less get the same result,” says Jen.
Design Thinking is a creative strategy problem-solving trend that started in 2011 and picked up speed in 2015. It is a five-stage process – empathise; define; idea; prototype; and test – meant to empower anyone, by throwing your ideas onto Post-Its and solve complex problems in business.
While she agrees with some of the steps in the process, Jen explained, she is unsure is has any real outcome. According to her design should use research, looking at photos, precedence, looking at history and other case studies, in order to build a more holistic understanding about any problem.
In her view it has become a killer of Post-its and another form of “on-demand-business-consulting hucksterism repackaging common sense problem solving as a shortcut to consumer-friendly form of disruption innovation”.
Her talk gave an alternative voice to this method of problem solving, asking viewers to be critical of what methods they use to probelm solve in the office.
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