Is Legal Design Bullsh*t?

Joshua Kubicki
20 min readAug 22, 2020

Is legal design bullsh*t? Now is the time to answer this. While the design community within the legal market is still relatively small, it is time to turn the lens onto ourselves. Reality checks and critique are the accelerants of maturity. If the growing number of design enthusiasts in legal want to be taken seriously by their organizations, deepen their capabilities, and speed up adoption, they need to pivot from revelry of events to demonstration of evidence. We need to temper the celebrations and amplify the measurements.

Over the last decade, design has become quite popular across the global economy as organizations seek to find new ways to grow and strengthen their ability to innovate. It has become a management trend to help spark innovation and more effective problem-solving. Large incumbent companies like IBM, Ford, Infosys, Capital One, 3M, UnitedHealth Group, Pepsico and many others have invested heavily in design talent and programs. High growth startups such as AirBNB, Pinterest, Kickstarter, Blue Apron and Buzzfeed all have founders that come from a design background. The large consulting and strategy firms like McKinsey, IBM, EY, PWC, Deloitte, BCG, KMPG and Accenture have been acquiring design agencies at a quickening pace. And not just one or two, we are talking five or six each over the last several years. Rigorous academic studies are presenting evidence that design thinking is central to solving significant world problems; issues such as global warming, disease, and terrorism among others. Design is certainly having a moment.

With any management and business trend, there comes the inevitable backlash and contrarian movements. These are healthy as they help flesh out what is real and works from what is pure vanity and vapor.

In 2017, Natasha Jen, an award-winning designer, stepped on stage at one of the design industry’s more notable events to give a talk called “Design Thinking is Bullsh*t.” Beyond the provocative title, her remarks sparked fierce debate across the global design community.

This tension I best sum up like this: Seasoned designers surround themselves with evidence. Newcomers embrace decorations. Seasoned designers define their value based on output. Newcomers base it on input. Seasoned designers remain students. Newcomers proclaim expertise.

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Joshua Kubicki

Business designer for the legal markets. Co-founder of Bold Duck Studio. Professor of Law. Director of Legal Innovation & Entrepreneurship