“Design Thinking”: Defending Silicon Valley at the Apex of Global Labor Hierarchies

Lilly Irani

Abstract


This paper examines the emergence of “design thinking” as a form of technical expertise. It demonstrates that “design thinking” articulates a racialized understanding of labor, judgment, and the subject and attempts to maintain whiteness at the apex of global hierarchies of labor.

“Design thinking” is a form of expertise that poses design not as form giving, but as a form of empathic reason by which executives can plan products, services, and accumulation. Silicon Valley, business schools, and reformers promote it as a form of caring technical expertise by which some guide futures for others. The paper will examine the history of the concept of “design thinking” – a category forged by Silicon Valley designers in the face of mounting competitive pressures on design professions in the United States in the mid-2000s. By drawing on artifacts, documents, public debates about the design profession from this period, I will demonstrate how champions of “design thinking” responded to expanded availability of design labor globally by figuring Asians and machines as the creative subject's Other.


Keywords


design, expertise, labor, globalization, race

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References


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DOI: https://doi.org/10.28968/cftt.v4i1.243

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