Designerly ways of speaking: Unpacking the discourse of Design Thinking

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Creating knowledge allows research communities to claim intellectual territory. Knowledge created by communities is not wholly evidence based; it is skewed, allowing them to claim territory. Existing research suggests that skewed knowledge helps the Design Thinking research community to construct a contentious dichotomy between Design Thinking and scientific thinking. There remains a significant gap in knowledge on how the community creates territory. This paper reports on an empirical study of journal articles. It uncovers how the processes of classifying key concepts and creating frameworks enable researchers to claim territory. It finds that flawed use of methodology and a lack of coherence may contribute to the acts of classifying concepts and creating frameworks – and therefore the construction of territory. It also finds that focusing on the idea that Design Thinking is ‘complex’ may allow the community to downplay the need for rigour. These troubling aspects are termed ‘Designerly Ways of Speaking’.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)596-616
Number of pages21
JournalThe Design Journal
Issue number4
Early online date28 Apr 2022
Publication statusPublished - 4 Jul 2022

Bibliographical note

© 2022 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


  • Design Thinking
  • academic communities
  • classifying
  • complexity
  • content analysis
  • design cognition
  • design knowledge
  • evaluation
  • framing
  • ways of speaking

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Computer Graphics and Computer-Aided Design


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