Good Design is Not a Science

One of the problems of Design Thinking is that it has inherited some of the bad habits of the Business mindset. In particular the need for repeatability and for research data to help justify any design decision the organization makes.
Frog Design’s Ben McAllister has dived into this phenomenon on the reliance of data and research in the business word for an article for The Atlantic, which was reproduced by PSFK.

In the business world, I later learned, “the research” is quite a different phenomenon. As my interview so nicely illustrated, “the research” is not debatable. Apparently it’s capable of predicting people’s reactions to decisions that haven’t even been made yet. In fact, “the research,” seems to be capable of making decisions all on its own.
This simplistic view of research pervades our culture, the business world, and increasingly the world of design. According to this view, “research” is synonymous with science. And since science provides us with hard truths in the physical world, “the research” should do so in the business world. But let the buyer beware of such thinking. The real world is a complex system inhabited by autonomous individuals. It isn’t so simple or knowable, which is exactly why design can be so valuable.

He goes on to rightfully suggest that designers that rely on data to help justify their design decisions or to gain acceptance in the board room, may cheapen their value and lessen the importance of attributes such as “judgment, taste, and creativity”, all hallmarks of a good designer.
Check out the full article at PSFK.

4 Comments
  • jeff

    May 23, 2011 at 8:45 pm Reply

    Finally! I’ve been saying this ever since the cult of design thinking has started making it seem like product development is a paint by numbers process. The thought of solely relying on a process to design something and having it be successful is the equivalent of magic beans.

  • Shahar Klein

    May 24, 2011 at 8:58 am Reply

    Research is not “science”.
    Research is alchemy. Research is magic. Woodoo.
    If you practice research the gods will be with you.
    I’m sorry but I went to Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City yesterday: did you know that the winner of the games was sacrified?

  • Shahar Klein

    May 24, 2011 at 9:01 am Reply

    Voodoo, of course. It got me.

  • Brian

    July 7, 2011 at 10:48 pm Reply

    @Jeff, apparently the Design Thinking movement is dead. So expect tons of articles all over the inernet that continues the smack down! Not by me though, I said my peace a few years ago. Heh-heh.

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