Design Thinking is a Rebrand for White Supremacy

How the Current State of Design is Simply a Digitally Updated Status Quo

For all of the progress proclaimed by evangelists, little has changed from the previous century for design today. Designers still are overwhelmingly white with most executive positions continuing to be occupied by the 36% minority of men within the industry. This demographic truth, however, reflects a more urgent issue that manifests itself in structures that reify its status quo.

Modernism’s Ode to White Supremacy

While Design Thinking has only recently taken the spotlight, its essence takes precedence from the Modernist movement. Pioneer Tim Brown frequently references Modernist practitioners including Charles and Ray Eames, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Isamu Noguchi as precursors to the Design Thinking dogma. But at what point of intersection intertwines Modernism to Design Thinking? Why is it that Modernism has acted as such a reference point for the Design Thinking doctrine?

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Herman Miller demo for Aeron chair size comparison. Left being Size A — Small and right being Size C — Large.
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Evolution for Google, Airbnb, Spotify, and Pinterest towards an indistinct rebrand. By OH no Type Co.

Flat Design: A Homogenous Design Ideal

Today, visual design no longer solely exists for example on the canvas of a poster nor the printed matter bound into books. It exists intangibly, embodying products completely removed from physical space. It works to represent businesses with no offices, or technology with no hardware.

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