Innovation is the New Black Box: A Critical Review of Human-centered Design
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Human-centered design (HCD) is believed to be the pinnacle of design thinking and now is so well accepted amongst professional designers that it often escapes criticism. By using empathy as the first and often most important step in design thinking, human-centered design is often linked to social progress and yet solutions created by designers often fail to holistically address socio-political power structures and instead focus on technological innovation as complete solutions. In this exploration, I offer a cohesive theoretical framework called the Technological Forecasting Framework that explains how the introduction of design thinking as a strategy in pursuit of innovation only refashions racism and streamlines the creation of products and technologies to be commodified by the larger white supremacist capitalist patriarchy. In this framework, designers act as maintainers of white supremacy as hired toolmakers paid for by the elite. The products they design are formed in a theoretical black box that treats Black people as an infinite source of data to be used to build new products and services. The goal of this investigation is to help professional designers question their coveted methodologies and understand the responsibility of the designer in this larger system. This exploration will be conducted through literature review and analysis of various design case studies and cultural texts.