Design thinking is about creating a narrative of activity, or of
modeling a behavior and designing solutions that will ensure the
expected or anticipated behavior. We typically find ourselves telling
a story of how someone experiences or interacts with a physical device
or service. Much of what design encompasses is narrative.
I have recently been reading The Black Swan by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
and the implications this has on design thinking is striking.
The Black Swan theory tells us that we create narrative to try to
explain an unexplainable world; we reduce reality to a narrative of
comprehensible portions and tailor the narrative to fit our limited
model of the explainable. Our natural inclination is empirical.
Create a story from our experiences.
Are there examples of a design solution that were once thought to be
sound, catastrophically failing after performing as expected for
length of time? Are there examples of designs that failed and had
major negative impact? If so, what role did the designer play in
those failures (and the narrative that was created in the process of
Here are some that I came up with:
The Titanic not really, user error.
The Space Shuttle disaster (1st) - maybe.
9/11 Failure of the process of gathering intelligence.
A structural failure - translated: is this a failure in engineering,
not design (maybe)
A service would be more interesting, but I cannot think of an