Graphic designer Natasha Jen poses six questions for design thinkers

During her Design Indaba Conference talk she expands on her thinking since declaring: Design Thinking is Bullshit.

Graphic designer and Pentagram partner, Natasha Jen, gave a talk last year called 'Design Thinking is Bullshit' that caused quite a stir. Speaking at the Design Indaba Conference earlier this year, Jen said the reaction to her talk got her to do a lot of soul-searching.

This is why she decided to expand on her thoughts on design thinking by framing it as a list of six questions that she expanded on as part of her talk.

For her the role of a graphic designer can be summed up as follows: “I always try to think about my role as a graphic designer through the lens of playing with words, symbols and images. It’s really about making information tangible and understandable and if we can make things delightful, that’s really the goal.” 

The three-time National Design Award nominee has been recognised for work that makes innovative use of graphic, verbal, digital, and spatial interventions that challenge conventional notions of media and cultural contexts.

She tracked the history of design thinking, pointing out that its popularity began to rise around 2011 and then peaked in 2015.

For Jen, who also teaches at the School of Visual Arts in New York as well as at the Harvard Graduate School of Design where she is a guest critic, design thinking tends to oversimplify really complex concepts.

She says that the jargon used in design thinking involving words like co-creation and ideation or the idea that design thinking is something you unleash or unlock is also problematic.

“It’s kind of terrifying to see that design is being presented as this kind of beast that you can just let go and attack the world... I think there is a kind of attitudinal problem here,” she says.

“It’s sort of like wanting to become an Olympic athlete without wanting to be trained,” she later added.

Watch more speaker talks:  

Morag Myerscough on transforming spaces with colour and embracing the unknown

Landscape architect Peter Veenstra on the importance of bringing nature into our cities

Lonny van Ryswyck on the importance of looking after our diminishing resources as designers