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Dark Matter and Trojan Horses: A Strategic Design Vocabulary
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Dark Matter and Trojan Horses: A Strategic Design Vocabulary

4.35  ·  Rating details ·  165 ratings  ·  22 reviews
We live in an age of sticky problems, whether it’s climate change or the decline of the welfare state. With conventional solutions failing, a new culture of decision-making is called for. Strategic design is about applying the principles of traditional design to "big picture" systemic challenges such as healthcare, education and the environment. It redefines how problems a ...more
Kindle Edition, 86 pages
Published May 22nd 2012 by Strelka Press
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Sep 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
The case studies and the suggested strategic design vocabulary save this from becoming a too hand-wavy affair. It is also nice and short, which radically increases the chances of people reading it. And it should be read—by designers interested in more meaningful work, and by anyone looking to change the organisation they work in or the society they live in. Even though I was already familiar with these ideas from Dan Hill's recent lectures, having them all written down in one place for deeper co ...more
Kyle Cameron Studstill
Aug 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing
A concise, 90-page definition of the difference between strategic design and it's shallower cousins: design thinking, management consulting, scenario planning, et al. By "dark matter" he means something like "the oft-overlooked politics between the stakeholders of any system which strategic design hopes to address." ...more
Jul 07, 2016 rated it really liked it
Though the author jumps from partial case studies to broad generalizations a bit quickly, the core of the argument is sound and the concepts introduced are useful and sticky.
Jennifer Liu
Oct 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
Must read for designers or anyone who has engaged in design training. Definitely put the thoughts I've had for years on papers (in a much more eloquent manner) about how design should not be confined to projects that are essentially "putting lipstick on a pig." If designers held positions in public institutions and had the power to use their strategic design toolkit/mindset to address structural/systemic issues that plague our societies, we'd all be much better off. The only reason I didn't give ...more
Douglas Sellers
Aug 09, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: business-books
20% wheat, 80% chaff. An extremely dense, mostly designer pretentious, book about using strategic design to change the works. There are some interesting and useful concepts but the majority of the book seems to be recounting design war stories and speculating about how impactful design could be in different social and political situations.
Jeffrey Humble
Apr 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
An excellent intro to systems and strategic design for anyone that's interested in how design can define and tackle the problems of the modern world. This really helped me as a UX/UI/Product Designer to understand how design can do more. After reading this book, I think you will see that strategic design is the design we need for 21st-century problems. ...more
Mar 08, 2020 rated it really liked it
Nice short and good description of strategic design embedded in the current cultural and political situation. I really love the analogy to dark matter, it is very fitting. A little bit to much focus on urban planning and civil service
Massimo Curatella
"we need to believe that reorienting our various cultures of decision-making may be the only civilised way forward." ...more
Nov 17, 2020 rated it it was ok
I found the book incoherent. It may have some interesting metaphors.
Feb 20, 2016 rated it really liked it
Dan Hill gets to the heart of a meaningful frame & vocabulary for the type of design that deals with the messiest of societal / systemic problems. Includes quick case studies to illustrate major themes and a slightly self-referential set of definitions for the realm of strategic design. I want to hear more about embedded design practices taking the strategic design approach, and the outcomes of their efforts. Recommended as a higher level systems point of view for anyone thinking critically abou ...more
Dec 14, 2014 rated it really liked it
This book was so relevant to the things I experience as a designer at Microsoft. I often tell people that designing for a canonical software product like Excel is more like urban planning than any other form of design. Dan Hill lays out a vocabulary and framework for thinking about how best to affect change when designing for large, complicated systems.
Jason Bootle
Sep 16, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: abandoned
I enjoyed this up until a point. Some very good thoughts about society and a designers role in applying design at a higher strategic level than we do but around half way I found the going tough and it seemed to get bogged down in too many examples. Reading it on the iPhone Kindle app didn't help as the screen is too small for reading. ...more
Alper Çuğun
Sep 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Brilliant little book that makes the case for designers doing more than making things pretty. I especially found it useful to frame the things we had already been doing as activists into terminology that makes it easier to communicatie and apply.
Aug 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing
easy to understand, powerful ideas, excellent primer for role of strategic design in transforming organizations. makes clear the need for both powerful theory and rooted projects and ways to transition back and forth between the two
Ankit Bhardwaj
Dec 05, 2016 rated it liked it
Fascinating theoretical framework, and explored in some very unique design contexts, but I wish it was taken to more critical ends. This book has opened up excellent room to explore, a topic it could not possibly cover in its short scope.
Kyle Calian
Jan 26, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I already want to read it again. It gives you a wonderful vocabulary to use as a designer who works outside of only the field of graphics.
May 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: business
Must read for everyone who are interested in the next step following DesignThinking.
Emily Hamilton
Oct 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A well written, short read for anyone interested in systems thinking and strategic design. Provides a critical view of design thinking with some great case studies sprinkled throughout.
Number 41 Media
Aug 05, 2016 added it
Shelves: design
Apr 19 - Megan
Vuk Trifkovic
Sep 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
Excellent, well-argued and grounded primer on design in the broadest sense. Very good mix of theory and practical tips. Loved cheeky football references too. Go read!
Gitamba Saila-ngita
Jul 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing
A great primer on the reach of Design as a practice, its struggle in leveraging capital to earn a seat at the table of problem solving, and how "Design thinking" was a complete failure. ...more
Adam Guzman
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Designer. Urbanist. European. Associate Director, Arup. Visiting Prof Bartlett. Adjunct Prof RMIT. Author of 'Dark Matter & Trojan Horses' (Strelka) ...more

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