Bookmark: "Want To Fight Inequality? Forget Design Thinking"

Sebastian Greger


The Creative Reaction Lab questions the fashionable “design thinking” mindset and instead focuses on truly inclusive participation in design processes. This FastCoDesign article describes how

the Creative Reaction Lab starts from the premise that design’s greatest value is in exposing the invisible mechanisms of inequality, many of which were by design themselves.

Three insights from Antionette D. Carroll’s work:

  • “Design Thinking Has An Exclusion Problem”: based on feedback of a selected few (commonly “users”, not for example others affected like non-users), people are invited to give feedback but otherwise excluded from the solution-finding process
  • “Act Fast—Then Keep Iterating”: The 24-hour-workshop format is shaped to be more than a forum to discuss; it’s aiming at producing initial tangible outcomes at the same time
  • “Approaches, Not Solutions”: Their design work aims to find approaches (something like solution spaces, that allow for iteration and variety) rather than solutions (i.e. the goal to find the one and final solution for an issue)

This work is so much more than a critique of “design thinking”. It is a textbook example of how a co-design approach can empower people and include those most affected by an outcome in its shaping:

Ultimately, CRXLAB believes that good design can help correct the harm of bad design—that systemic inequality can be best fought by exposing what gave it rise.

I'm Sebastian, Sociologist and Interaction Designer. This journal is mostly about bringing toge­ther social science and design for inclusive, privacy-focused, and sustainable "human-first" digital strategies. I also tend to a "digital garden" with carefully curated resources.

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