THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE WICKED

CRITICAL THINKING ABOUT DESIGN THINKING
Author:
Herb Bentz
Company/School:
Form3 Design Inc.

 

INTRODUCTION

If there are wicked problems, there must also be good problems and also, perhaps, bad problems – those not quite so wicked. If there is such a thing as design thinking, there must also be other types of thinking. Is there a form of thinking that is used by designers that is different from other forms of thinking? Is it possible to design without thinking? The phrase design thinking originally referred to how designers think, a way of thinking about complex (wicked) problems – problems that are poorly defined and intertwined with solutions, a definition suggested by Horst Rittel, a mathematician, design theorist, and university professor at the Ulm School of Design in Germany in the 1960s (Rittel, 1973) and later elaborated by Richard Buchanan (1992). Such thinking is routinely used by expert designers, artists, and craftsman. However, in recent years, the phrase has been hijacked by the likes of IDEO and Stanford University’s design school (called d.school), to refer to a simple design process that can be easily taught to novices in a couple of days. Blogger Lee Vinsel compares the corporate spread of design thinking to the spread of an infectious disease, and suggests that design thinking as it is now taught in schools is “not about innovation in any meaningful sense; it is about commercialization – a package sold by consultants and universities.” (Vinsel, 2017). Natasha Jen, a partner at the design firm Pentagram, in her talk “Design Thinking is Bullshit,” (...read more).

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