Save you Post-Its on Design Thinking

  • Design Thinking is a trending five-stage process meant to solve complex problems in the office.
  • One of its key stages generates ideas on Post-Its, walls of them, to solve problems. 
  • Natasha Jen thinks Design Thinking is a load of bull. 
  • Jen says’s its simplistic and fails to bring out any real outcomes. 

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.

“In my role of a graphic designer and educator I am always interested in different ways to design. We work through the lens of playing with words symbols and images, it’s really about making information tangible and understandable. I get excited about working with people from other discipline. We learn tremendously from architects for example and their methods of problem solving. But there is one thing I can’t wrap my head around and that is design thinking. I asked myself why can’t I understand it? I started to dig into it and the more I dug the more outrageous it appears to me.”

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Designer Natasha Jen at the Design Indaba 2018 in Cape Town.

“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.

Can Design Thinking help us with Design Thinking? - Natasha Jen finds the method so problematic she designed a poster based on the principles of it.

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. 

For updates on the Design Indaba Festival 2018 and for ticketing information please visit is in partnership with Design Indaba 2018.

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