There’s a problem at the core of Design Thinking.

It is driven by the idea that something will be made.

A thing.

Humans and tools

However, this type of Design Thinking may not be appropriate now.

Preparing for the last war

Thus World War Two equipment was often designed to meet the needs of trench warfare. Or, for a modern example, new Royal Navy warships are having problems working in the hot Gulf as they were designed for cold North Atlantic conditions.

The Design Thinking bias of making of a thing is almost a flashback to the Industrial Revolution. A period of rampant manufacture of new inventions to meet actual and imagined needs.

That 19th Century drive to create a thing to fix a problem is the drive behind Design Thinking. Once you are in this system of thought and work management (like Waterfall and Agile), it is very difficult not to make a thing.

Social not stuff

As identities, intelligences and intents are smeared across places that are virtual/physical/digital, the problems are more about social meanings like trust and truth than things.

So maybe Design Thinking needs to really pay attention to thinking. The problems of ideas and philosophies – methods of thinking clearly not making quickly.


Meeting more people at the start of the process helps. Let them guide your awareness of both need and whether a thing is needed.

Read more about human behaviour. Not for the Dark Pattern/Nudge ideas but to explore how better social connection might be an answer. Not things, simply conversations.

Read some philosophy. I’d recommend Wendt’s Design for Dasein as one possibility. However, just start with Wikipedia. Just read the history of thought and how it has changed over the centuries.

Thinking & Design rather Design Thinging.

Sensory Design Consultant, usability researcher and workshop facilitator. Twitter @acuity_design & @visceralUX

Sensory Design Consultant, usability researcher and workshop facilitator. Twitter @acuity_design & @visceralUX