MANIFESTO ONTOLOGICAL COMMITMENTS
VOCATIONAL BELIEF SYSTEM
DESIGN IS NOT GOOD
There’s a tendency in design thinking to be a little presumptuous about conflating methods and intentions. We have to keep in mind that human-centeredness doesn’t per se ensure great design, and human-centered design isn’t virtuous in and of itself. It’s easy and natural, I think, by dint of human-centered design thinking having “human” in the name and human experience in its scope to slip into complacency about it being humane. But the world is full of products, services, and media informed by deep, precise understanding of human behavior, with that insight used carelessly – or worse, for human detriment or disadvantage. I try to check in throughout a project to be sure the outcome is going to be beneficial and positive, and remind teams not to assume that methodology automatically or inherently yields goodness.
METHOD DEVOUT, METHODOLOGY AGNOSTIC
This may be self-explanatory, but what it means to me is that working according to certain design principles is more important than any specific capital-M Methodology compliance. Of course, there are situations where literal compliance is necessary and valuable to be sure the design meets certain standards of non-lethality, non-felony, etc., but most methodologies (cooked up and evangelized by tech, often, because it’s so wild and complicated) are really just about establishing common vocabulary and frames of reference.
The truth is that rapid prototyping (whether you call it a “design sprint” or whatever else), clear documentation that isn’t uselessly pedantic, and so on are generally good principles, but the same exact methods aren’t suitable for every team in every situation and every goal. The realities of context and human tendencies are more variable than that. Standard methodological frameworks can be good starting places, but I believe in doing whatever it takes to get the best work done, and that sometimes means setting aside the standard methodology playbook.
EMPATHY IS THE BEGINNING, NOT THE END
If there is virtue to be found in design, the opportunities lie in the decisions and actions that follow from empathic methods and user insight – in using enriched understandings of people’s experiences to inform design methods and results that make verifiable improvements to those people’s lives, and in ensuring systematic and structural reinforcement of those improvements with requirements and policies of consistency, continuity, and accountability.
DESIGN IS 99% COMMUNICATION