9. About Responsibility

To wrap up our discussions on Design Thinking I want to talk about responsibility. The good intentions of a Designer are still dangerous when they fail to think responsibly. Many of the past units discussed responsibility within its context. For example, the political nature of infrastructures and how Designers have the potential to shape them. As a Designer you will need to be reflective about the ethics and values you stand for, then be critical of them. For a Designer to Design responsibility, it helps to understand the political theory of Agonism.

Agonism, from the Greek word for “struggle”, emphasizes that there are benefits of certain forms of conflict and disagreement. Agonism does not claim that the conflict will necessarily be easy to go through or that it is all good, but it does reframe the way we think about conflict. Conflict is necessary in Designing because it is conflict that often serves as the best form of critique. It means that ideas that are very core and central to us are being challenged and refined. There is much to learn from letting others fight your ideas as well as fighting back. This is no excuse to be aggressive or disrespectful, but it is an acknowledgement that the people I need to learn from are sometimes going to be the people I disagree with most, the people who share the least of my perspective.

When thinking about different perspective, one has to acknowledge the reprehensible but real history of colonialism in Design. Design has often been the way for a dominant culture to assert its own values and culture onto another by dictating how they live through a built environment. There are incredibly profound ways in which different cultures can blend and interact through Design, but there has also been a savior complex in much of Design. Design almost always comes from privilege and it is important to understand the biases that privilege can bring. Do not buy into the thinking that Design can solve everything or that the “empathy” you have as a Designer allows you to transcend cultural or social class barriers. There are limitations to Design and as Designers we must have to have the humility to admit that.

I think that much of being a Designer is learning to accept uncertainty. At a day to day basis, there is so much complexity to dissect as Designers that we are bound to make mistakes. Design thinking must encapsulate the willingness to admit mistakes and faults as it is about doing right.

Hope you learned a thing or two about Design Thinking from all this, and thank you for being a part of my Design pedagogy as a reader. Best of luck for your future endeavors with Design!

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