Design Thinking Critics

By Rachel Won / 8 Jul 2019 / Tags: Design Insights

About Natasha Jen
Natasha Jen is an award-winning designer and educator. Born in Taipei, Taiwan, she was invited to join Pentagram’s New York office as partner in 2012. In 2014 she was acclaimed by Wired magazine as one of nine ‘Designers Who Matter’.

Jen’s work is recognized for its innovative use of graphic, digital, and spatial interventions that challenge conventional notions of media and cultural contexts. Her work is immediately recognizable, encompassing brand identity systems, printed matters, exhibition design, digital interfaces, signage and way-finding systems, and architecture. Her clients, past and present, include Harvard x Design, Phaidon, Kate Spade, Chanel, Nike, First Round Capital, MIT, and the Metropolitan Museum, to name just a few. Pentagram made headlines in 2016 for their bold brand work on Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.

After watching the video, I feel that Natasha Jen has issues with design thinkers, who do not dive deep enough in the thinking process. People who just touched and go (fast-food mindset) and thinking that it is the solution for the end users, may not be able to solve the issues eventually. It becomes a new set of problem. (Yes, we have to face the consequences.)

Design thinking its self is a concept, Good or bad is not depending on itself but depending on how people use it. I personally feel that Design thinking to me is just a basic framework for people to identify these areas:
(i) Life – what are people challenges are / understand people lives and how they can make their life more meaningful.

(ii) Work – where are business challenges are / understand business process and how can they can make their work easier and more productive.

(iii) Community – what are the people are facing and how they can make better cohesive organisation, teamwork and support the community much better.

People need to see the whole picture first and then dive deeper in the process. Using more design thinking and UX research tools e.g. customer journey mapping / user interviews to find the information that are relevant. It has to relate to people and how it improves and impacts people lives.

Empathy: People can use customer journey mapping / interviews to understand the why and process better. It is the questions that we ask that makes a difference.

Define: there are design challenges to resolve, we need to identify the scope of work. I do agree that we can’t solve all issues in half day workshop/5 days course. However, we can identify what are the most critical issues that need to be sorted out.

Ideate: It helps to opens one minds. Come out with concepts and ideas. Encouraging wild ideas. Often, we go with the safe ideas – Ideas that has been proven to work. However, risk aversion limits experimentation and growth.

Prototyping: The experience at an early stage can help to sort out the desirable and useful ideas from the ones, users don’t want or need.

Testing: Test with the users who most likely using the product / services and gather feedback. How to improve the quality and the user experience.

“Learn Design Thinking by doing it. Understand the constrains of every project before designing, by focusing on people needs.” Natasha Jen

What Natasha Jen has brought up are relevant and valid. Currently successful design thinking case studies are very rare. Design thinkers need to do more research and dive deeper in design thinking. Most of the agencies just explain how they put design thinking into their projects, without explaining what are the outcomes. However, I believe as time goes by, with more design thinkers do more research, execute more projects, receive constructive critics with an open mind, and do reflection on each project, there will be a shift in the value of Design Thinking.

To conclude: Learn Design Thinking by using it. Understand the requirements of every project before designing, by focusing on people desires and needs. Remember, to test with real users to gather feedback and iterate the services or products.

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