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This is a repost of my answers to the question “What urgent matters in design” for the Next-D Journal.

The promotion of design thinking

First, I see too many designers brainwashed by the promotion of design thinking. Unfortunately, they end up practising the marketing of design. In this cargo cult, toolkit fetishism and method Darwinism drastically limit their ability to overcome challenges. We need to have a conversation about the effects of promotional noise on designers.

The straitjacket of the ideation phase

Second, the design community needs to understand that they are part of the creative community. To address this problem, it needs to free itself from the straitjacket that the ideation phase is the only “creative moment” in our processes. When we have ideas. We need to teach designers to be creative in every aspect of the design journey.

Vertical design

Third, we must fight the meritocratic contempt of design elites who practice vertical design for “unwashed masses,” “mainstream users,” and “uneducated people” who are systematically perceived as clueless about what is good for them. It is well known in the design research community that the contextual intelligence held by people directly affected by problems is invaluable. We need to be more humble about this.

Merchant dominant logics

Fourth, I see many designers who are fascinated by social innovation and making a positive impact on the world. However, their knowledge of design is severely limited by merchant dominant logics and their ethnocentric worldviews. They end up approaching social issues with commercially oriented tools and western universalism that performs poorly on wicked problems. We need to equip them with a different mindset coming from social sciences, and with different tools.

Sprint culture

Finally, we need to address how these problems lead to sacrificing depth of inquiry and breadth of imagination in favour of speed and visibility. This strategic trade-off leads to a failure to address the structural reality of the problems, and ends up rewarding “business as usual”.