January 2020

Q3: what common fallacy should we wake up to?

We asked our speakers, volunteers and organisers: what common fallacy — design, tech, or anything else — do you think more of us should wake up to?

Olafur Eliasson at Tate Modern. Photo: Simon Collison

Cennydd Bowles

London-based designer and futurist. @cennydd.

I always hear that design is about problem-solving. I suppose that’s not wrong per se, but it misses something important: design also causes problems. Ignore that at your peril. (Secondly, a pet gripe: there’s no evidence the golden ratio is aesthetically special or sacred to humans. It’s mathematically fascinating but worthless for design.)

Helen Joy

UX & UR consultant and diversity and inclusion champion. @LittleHelli.

It really bugs me when people refer to designers as “the creative ones”. I work within an interdisciplinary team of talented individuals who are all as creative as each other. Solving complex coding problems is equally as creative as designing a user interface. All forms of creativity should be celebrated equally across the industry.

Tatiana Mac

Independent American designer. @TatianaTMac.

The fallacy I wish to disrupt is there is a best way to do things. Daily people are fighting about let versus const, whether Typescript is a good or bad idea, etc. Instead of encouraging a wider array to approach things, we tend to want to narrow. It comes, generally, from a place of insecurity. If we can fight for the way we do it to be crowned “correct,” perhaps we can fend imposter syndrome off for another day.

Instead of crowning a best, we can create an environment where we share context and circumstances. What is “best” for one person, in one product team, with a specific audience is going to be worst for another person. Perpet- uating the idea of “best” also tends to lead into people, where we crown individual members of the community as heroes—a dangerous sport when we’re all so fallable.

Akil Benjamin

Biologist turned design thinker. @akilbenjamin.

Microsoft isn’t behind, I think they’re just busy doing something else radically different. Watch how they’re doing more and more infrastructure projects around the world. I think we should pay attention to that, just in case.

Laura Kalbag

British designer and author living in Ireland. @laurakalbag.

We need to stop pretending that Big Tech can be changed from the inside. The people running these corporations are unprecedentedly powerful, wealthy, and (by their own benchmarks) successful. They do not perceive a problem with their objectives or their funding models. By entertaining the idea that they’re interested in change we are, at best, gaslighting ourselves. At worst, we’re complicit.

Bastian Allgeier

Creator of Kirby CMS. @bastianallgeier.

What we are doing is not neutral, but way too many people in our industry want to believe it is. Every project has an effect on the people and the environment around us. We, as designers and developers, need to take responsibility for those effects and take them into account when we make decisions. We are facing problems in the next decade that cannot be answered with ignorance or by trying to stay neutral.

Simon Collison

Designer, writer, NA organiser. @colly.

The idea that art and poetry are irrelevant or pointless; that culture is not worthy of investment. In a world of closed down thinking, a poem is valuable because it doesn’t tell you how to think about it, and art helps by undoing the illusion of a smooth functioning world to expose the truth. There is propaganda everywhere, and it’s hard to make sense of things. More than ever, we need these open, democratised spaces in which to see ourselves. What matters is not always what you think, but how you think, and culture is an ongoing training plan for that.

Geri Coady

Designer, illustrator, NA organiser. @hellogeri.

Not everything has to tell a story. Learn to appreciate when people simply want to get tasks done without dealing with extraneous fluff.

Other questions


This article was commissioned for our January 2020 magazine. Like it? View all articles, grab our RSS feed, and subscribe to our newsletter.