Design writer Bruce Nussbaum delivered a speech at Parsons a few weeks ago whose controversial refrain was “designers suck.” Read the speech on his Business Week blog. Nussbaum claims that designers are slow to embrace the democratization of design. They still want to keep the “sandbox” to themselves, rather than inviting their clients, users, and audiences in to play with them. Designers are protecting their own egos (and expertise), rather than opening up their way of thinking.

Nussbaum points out that people want to be part of the design processes that define their lives: “With more and more tools, we, the masses, want to design anything that touches us on the journey, the big journey through life. People want to participate in the design of their lives. They insist on being part of the conversation.”

That’s a big theme of this Triennial, which features D.I.Y. renegades such as Make, Readymade, Howtoons, Processing, Blik, Natalie Jeremijenko, Ron Gilad, and many more.

Another theme Nussbaum touches on is the slowness of the design professions to take on a cradle-to-cradle ethos of sustainability. He assaults the beloved iPod, also featured in the Triennial, as falling short of the ideal of long-cycle product design, which allows consumers to open up a product and upgrade it rather than replace it altogether.

Nussbaum calls on us to approach design as a mode of thinking: “Design has evolved from a simple practice to a powerful methodology of Design Thinking that, I believe, can transform society. By that I mean Design, with a capital D, can move beyond fashion, graphics, products, services into education, transportation, economics and politics. Design can become powerful enough to be an approach to life, a philosophy of life. But it can do so only when Design by Ego ends and Design by Conversation begins.”

May the conversation continue!

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