Capitalism vs. Good Design

A couple days ago Scott Berkun tweeted that there is an “inherent tension” between good design and capitalism. As someone who has opinions on both topics (and a pledge to start writing more) I thought I’d offer my initial reaction to his tweets.

Put another way: why would anyone choose to be a designer if they thought the world we live in was good enough as is? #ux #design –@berkun

Why would anyone choose to do anything if they were happy with the status quo? What makes humans unique and incredible is our ability to think about our thinking and challenge those assumptions. Much of the actions we take in life are a direct rebellion against the status quo. We want to learn more, get in better shape, have deeper relationships, make more money, etc. All of these require a change. Design is no different.

There is an inherent tension between the aspiration of good design and capitalism. You profit more from not completely solving problems. — @berkun

There is a remarkable amount of hubris displayed by someone who would say, “Yes, I have designed the the answer to a problem but I am going to withhold it in order to make more money from you with a later release.”

Firstly, I have never met someone who has completely solved any problem. As Thomas Sowell said, “There are no solutions, only trade offs.” Secondly, I have never met a high achiever who purposely sandbagged their work in this way. People want to release what they believe is their best work into the world. After receiving user feedback, they will iterate and create and new and better version. As user interviews and research show there are always more problems to solve.

And the beauty of capitalism is that it rewards those who solve problems through value creation. I don’t see the tension at all.

Originally published at on August 24, 2017.

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