Combatting Short-Termism in Design

I couldn’t agree more with a piece from ‘Fast Company’ on short-termism in Design. Beyond the Cult of Human Centred Design argues that as Design Thinking increasingly informs society’s choices, practitioners bear (at least some) responsibility for what ensues.

Residents campaign against Airbnb and the rising cost of housing

Examples of short-termism are easy to come by, and as we embark on more mainstream use of AI, the stakes are raised. Lots of well intentioned ideas built on insightful research will have narrow benefits and widespread repercussions. We need to extend our context beyond the immediate person and situation we’re designing for.

At SPARCK we’ve been thinking about Circular Design. How can we create products and services without a shelf life, that don’t negatively impact the planet, and ideally get better over time? I believe that embedding these ideals into our standard approach will force us to confront the wider impact of our decisions.

A consumption timebomb (2010–2025), McKinsey

As the article I posted suggests, System Thinking is a must have skill for those in Service Design. But in commercial projects it can be challenging to find the time for such expansive, quality research. I find that the Beautiful Constraints methodology can be useful here because it does three things:

  1. It surfaces the blockers and constraints that exist (and have to be addressed) within an organisation, or wider system.
  2. It frames constraints as an opportunity to facilitate divergent thinking. Just as a small budget can unlock a new and exciting partnership, so too can protecting mental health, or achieving a carbon footprint target.
  3. It asks participants to adopt a different mindset, rather than just come up with some ideas. This cultural shift sustains the process over the long term, and proliferates more broadly.

If you haven’t read the book, I highly recommend it. Or even better, get in touch with the SPARCK team to create abundance through Circular Design and System Thinking.

BONUS — for those of you that read to the end, check out this incredible piece on System Thinking in music


SPARCK combines the best creative innovation of a strategy house with the experience and capability of a leading, privately owned, technology consultancy, BJSS, with over 900 technologists. We help companies shape and delivery new products and services — and create their future.

Get in touch at