Design Thinking is Bullshit? An Expired Argument

Bryan Alexandros
7 min readJun 4, 2018


My nonprofit, military, academia, and defense accelerator colleagues might’ve discovered a peculiar talk in their social feeds titled Design Thinking is Bullshit by Pentagram partner Natasha Jen.

If you are a casual observer or a heavy headline-reader of mainstream business journalism and tech tabloids, this might appear newsworthy. But if you are a practitioner, then you know this is a distracting rerun and an argument that expired more than 10 years ago despite this talk occurring several months ago.

Do we need to rethink the meaning of design thinking? At the Brainstorm Design 2018 in Singapore, notable experts weighed in at an interactive townhall debate for that very question.

Instead, here are two interesting questions to note:

  1. Why have countless designers failed to adjust to the further democratization of their field?
  2. Why have they ignored the expanding global context that governments, organizations, and businesses now operate?

It’s unsurprising that some designers persist in defending their legacy, preferring that the creative process stay esoteric and mysterious. This protectionism and infallibility of The Designer as the alpha and omega ended long ago.

If you’re new to this world, you’ll continue wading in the dark trying to figure it all out because there is no one whole cohesive “design thinking community” to show you the way, but multifaceted tribes and factions of varying histories and agendas. It’s a noisy cutthroat space with consultancies and academic sects competing to assemble the fragmented design thinking continuum through the lens of their own intellectual and experiential capital.

It also doesn’t help that many founding upstarts clone the same design processes with just enough remixing to differentiate themselves in the marketplace.

Most motives orbit around dollars, respect, and authority, not shared understanding.

Don’t rely on the business press to signal your next move, either. The mainstream business “journalism” machine — with its non-practitioners, gurus, junior associate writers, nauseating high-school-like superlatives, and distracting pageantry —…



Bryan Alexandros

Stories on running a high-tech advisory firm, self-mastery, and shaping the future through creative action.