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From IDEO U

Design not doing

Can we please, please, please stop berating Design Thinking for “not doing” or “just thinking”. These are phrases that might sound nice but are absolutely meaningless.

I do have my own reservations about Design Thinking (a lot of reservations actually) and I’m well aware about its limitations but doing (or not) is not one of them.

Design Thinking is its name not its scope. It’s a set of tools and methodologies to carry out a design project from start to finish, including the doing. If it’s got thinking in its name it’s because it references the thought process behind the design “doing”.

This is like criticizing “Critical design” for being just critical and not proposing anything. Or saying that since you are a designer and you form thoughts in your head then you are practicing Design Thinking.

Instead of looking at how we are trying to grow as a profession we are shifting the blame to a label. I believe this is blinding us to other possible causes and shortcomings that go beyond a methodology.

So could we please stop using the name of a methodology as an argument and instead steer the debate to more useful areas?

Yes, there is a real problem with designs often being shelved or half-implemented. This happens independently of Design Thinking or any other design approach. The thing is that Design Thinking got popular, got a lot of visibility and thus we are more exposed to projects in that vein. Maybe it is a problem of badly applying the methodology, maybe it’s a problem with the designers themselves or maybe it’s another thing altogether.

As I see it, the main issue with design not doing is actually the incapability of designers to deal with organizational politics. Pushing an idea forward means convincing stakeholders, removing barriers, getting a lot of people out of their comfort zone and actually justifying the impact of the project, making a case and getting the budget for it.

If you want to get things done then you need Design Politics not Design Doing*.

*Or any other catchy name you want to use to belittle Design Thinking.

(Sorry for the catharsis).

Designer with a passion for design and culture

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