New paradigms

for the end times


Image: Adbusters

Climate action

Image: Unknown


Design and



Design and



Design and


From local to global optimisation

Image: iammrjinks (Flickr)


Design is emotionally


Image: Nicholas Mottola Jacobsen

Active listening

Advocating for users

Finding patterns

Deep work

Image: Alfred Lape

Empathy debt

Considering the future

Predicting consequences

Educating about design

Image: Shelby White

Emotional labour

Translating to business

"Not commercial enough"

"Too emotional"

Image: Sarah Cooper

Image: Getty


The mental load

Image: Katie Kosma

Is human centred design emotional labour?

Image: Slate

Empathy As A Service

Empathy vs technology
Empathy vs business

Image: Johannes Ippen

Empathy vs psychopathy

Feelings vs dollars

Users vs shareholders

People vs profits

Empathy destabilizes capitalism by distributing power

(to users and workers)

Image: Richard Correll

Is human centred design a capitalist appropriation of empathy in service of profit generation?

"Any movement (be it a countercultural group, protest movement, meme or activist ideology) that is looking to destabilize capitalism is viewed as

a potential market to exploit."

Oli Mould

Short term-ism

Image: J Henry Fair

Is the goal to solve user problems, or 10x profits?

Just a similar shaped graph, nothing to see here

Design thinking is linear



Image: The Ocean Cleanup

"Many companies pride themselves on credentials of recycling, yet overlook the consumer experience of off-boarding. Sustainability needs to move beyond a discussion about materials being recycled at end of life to helping consumers off-boarding to the end. Helping them engage and reflect upon the benefits of their consumption and action clean up and dismantling."

Joe Macleod

"Designers have a responsibility, not only to themselves and to their clients, but also to the wider world. We are designers because we love to create, but creation without responsibility breeds destruction. Every day, designers all over the world work on projects without giving any thought or consideration to the impact that work has on the world around them. This needs to change."

Mike Monteiro

Image: New York Post

Climate crisis

Patriarchy +
Capitalism =
Climate crisis

"Multiple studies have found that women outperform men – across age group and country – in virtually every type of environmental behaviour:

Naresh Ramchandani

"Under the patriarchy, women and girls are expected to be more selfless, other-oriented and socially responsible than men. They are socialised to value and express empathy more strongly, which ‘prepares’ them for lives as mothers, teachers, carers and other woefully underpaid roles in our society. Their altruistic impulses also mean women are more likely to make choices to help protect the planet for future generations.

At the same time, research suggests men influenced by the patriarchy and toxic masculinity may reject eco-friendly behaviour for a similar reason: because environmental altruism and selflessness make men feel less macho, and they fear that green actions will brand them as ‘feminine’."

Naresh Ramchandani

“I’ve come to understand that climate justice is a way out of the capitalist and paternalist way of living that’s gotten us into this climate change mess in the first place.”


Mary Robinson,

former President of Ireland


Long term



Short term



We must recognise the value of the feminine

Image: Do The Green Thing






Men's Rights

"Both men and women can exhibit feminine leadership qualities, but the tendency, both biologically and culturally, is for women to embody them more.  These include a host of characteristics such as long-term and global perspective taking, nurturing, empathy, conversational turn taking, credit distribution, inquiry, networked thinking, etc. Promoting feminine leadership is less an issue of male vs. female, but a question of whether we are overlooking qualities that may be crucial to navigating 21st Century business challenges."

Janet Crawford

Image: Laura Berger


Image: Jennifer Ambrust

Image: Jennifer Ambrust

Image: Jennifer Ambrust

"All over the globe, people realize that masculine structures no longer work. Traditional institutions and thinking build on dominance aggression and hierarchy are succumbing to a transparent, collaborative and codependent world. In this time of socio-economic, political, geographic, generational and technological upheaval, the most innovative people are deploying feminine strength and values to make the world better."

Image: CNBC

John Gerzema

Feminine leadership

is already here

and human centred design is already feminine

If empathy is a feminine trait, is human centred design a capitalist appropriation and weaponisation of feminine power?

Image: Jerod Harris/Getty

Either we fight it or it exploits us

Image: Star Trek

"Somewhere along the way toward female liberation, it was decided that the most effective method was for feminism to become universal. But instead of shaping a world and a philosophy that would become attractive to the masses, a world based on fairness and community and exchange, it was feminism itself that would have to be rebranded and remarketed for contemporary men and women."

Jessa Crispin

"Any movement (be it a countercultural group, protest movement, meme or activist ideology) that is looking to destabilize capitalism is viewed as a potential market to exploit."

Oli Mould

We must de-centralize design


Ecology (from Greek: οἶκος, "house", or "environment"; -λογία, "study of") is a branch of biology that studies the interactions among organisms and their biophysical environment, which includes both biotic and abiotic components.

"Centricity is anti-ecological."

Thomas Wendt

Feminine design principles for an ecosystem-driven approach

1. Be collectivist

"Studies demonstrate that men are more likely to contribute with visible behaviors — like showing up at optional meetings — while women engage more privately in time-consuming activities like assisting others and mentoring colleagues."

Adam Grant

Image: Philadelphia Magazine

2. Be emotional

"Vulnerability is the birthplace of trust."


Brene Brown

3. Be open

“You may be worried about earning their respect, and that’s natural. Unfortunately, though, being overly focused on respect can backfire because it’ll make you feel extra defensive when criticized. If, on the other hand, you can listen to the criticism and react well to it, both trust and respect will follow.”


Kim Scott

4. Think long-term

"Good design is long lasting.

Good design is environmentally friendly."


Dieter Rams

"The chief premise common to both technology and science is the notion that there are no desirable limits to the increase of knowledge, of material goods, of environmental control; that quantitative productivity is an end in itself, and that every means should be used to further expansion."

Lewis Mumford

5. Do more with less

Image: Dieter Rams/Braun

"Less, but better."

Dieter Rams

Discard everything that does not spark joy

Marie Kondo

"Forget that 780 million people in the world, give or take, don't have access to clean drinking water, or that more than half a million people are homeless in the wealthy United States. We moved way past "mundane" social issues and collectively propelled the technology field — where disruption and innovation have a proven track record of changing everyday lives — to giving the world what it really needs: more mobile apps."

Golden Krishna

Design must scale

Image: Matthias Weinberger/Flickr

True scale is efficient

The goal is

sustainable growth


What's the


We must distribute the work of caring about our


We must distribute the work of caring about our


We must distribute the work of caring about our


If you're feeling tired, like I am...

  • It's tiring being the underdog.
  • It's tiring being the assigned Empathy Team, the Emotional Labourers, the people who care about the users, the humans, the future... and have to politely ask their masters to help.
  • It's tiring seeing your superpowers watered down and used against you.
  • It's tiring thinking how many journey maps and card sorts we'll need stop the world from ending...

Huge problems require radical solutions

We need to go all-in

  • It is not enough to do more with more, we must start doing more with less.

  • It is not enough to understand the user impacts, we must consider the ecological impacts.

  • It is not enough to ask "how might we", we must ask "what happens if..."

  • It is not enough to be assigned the job of caring, we must pull together in one direction.

  • It is not enough to be human-centric within a profit-centric organisation, we must change the organisational models.

Beyond "human centred design" - principles of a radical, femininist, ecological design practice



How To Be Successful Without Hurting Men's Feelings, Sarah Cooper

Feminism for the 99%, Cinzia Arruzza, Tithi Bhattacharaya, Nancy Fraser

Proposals for the Feminine Economy, Jennifer Ambrust

Why I Am Not A Feminist, Jessa Crispin

The Athena Doctrine, John Gerzema

Fed Up, Gemma Hartley

The Managed Heart, Arlie Hochschild


Ruined By Design, Mike Monteiro

The Best Interface is No Interface, Golden Krishna

Ends., Joe MacLeod

Less But Better, Dieter Rams

Design for Dasein: Understanding the Design of Experiences, Thomas Wendt


Against Creativity, Oli Mould

Against Empathy, Paul Bloom

The Psychopath Factory - How Capitalism Organises Empathy, Tristam Vivian Adams

Doughnut Economics, Kate Raworth

The Value of Everything, Mariana Mazzucato

Climate action

Drawdown, Paul Hawken

Man-made disaster: How patriarchy is ruining the planet,

This Changes Everything, Naomi Klein



New paradigms for the end times

By Amelia Schmidt

New paradigms for the end times

Prototypes and popcorn October 2019

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