When Design Pushes Boundaries

Tarun Durga
1 min readJul 6, 2022

85% of the total mass of the universe is dark matter. It cannot be seen directly, but we know it exists because of the effect it has on the objects we can observe.

Dark matter in design is composed of people across the value chain, organizational policies, rules and regulations, government bureaucracy, the environment, existing infrastructure and status quo. Any product, service or process we design is subject to rejection or acceptance by dark matter. And because we can’t see it, it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t acknowledge it. That’s why most prototypes are weak representations of reality — they only focus on the product, leaving a lot to fate.

Strategic design is not just cognizant of dark matter, it aligns with it. The outcome is shaped by customer insights, internal capabilities and also by the system it exists in. While systems provide context to the product, sometimes the product will change the system too- new rules come into play — iPods changing the music industry for example. This is different from Change Management where we apply tremendous pressure to alter the behavior of an organization or the government — in strategic design we weave it in.

Finally, if your design doesn’t face much resistance from the system — the organization, people or governments — it’s not pushing far enough. That’s a good litmus test — great design truly pushes boundaries.

I read about this in Dark Matter and Trojan Horses by Dan Hill and think it’s a wonderful metaphor. Your thoughts?

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Tarun Durga

I help people think clearly about the problems they want to solve & more creatively about the options they might not have considered. I also draw obsessively.