Design language… A confusing mess

Arne van Oosterom
2 min readNov 18, 2022


This short rant was triggered by reading one of those articles on the difference and how to align one buzzword (say UX) with another (say Service Design)…

It is interesting to see how the design language and meaning changes over time.

When I started to be active in Service Design it was meant to be the holistic way of value co-creation, this was back when Service Dominant Logic became popular. It was meant to be the universal language of value co-creation. Well… at least it’s what I had in mind. Reality is (fortunately I should say) chaotic and never linear. Service Design emerged at a time many other languages were born.

So now we have a long list of buzzwords, models, frameworks, canvases, process maps and so on and so forth. And it’s still growing.

This is the way I understand UX, Service Design, Design Thinking, Lean Startup, Agile (etc.). All these ideas/ skills/ methods/ mind-sets emerged from different professional communities trying to solve the same challenges in a similar way.

It left us with a confusing mess of jargon and buzzwords. Ever since we are trying to make sense of this by connecting and ordering these ‘methods’ in a logical step by step sequence.

Also, every year someone will write a provocative article to declare the death of Design Thinking or one of the other methods, after which we simply carry on.

Consultants, Academics, and whom ever wants a piece of the market, have been fighting over who invented and owns which label or correct order of buzzwords to position themselves as the go-to-guru… I have been guilty of this myself. It’s an addictive game.

Result: a massive amount of Frameworks, Canvasses and Process maps. I think this is all natural and ‘how things work’ in our competitive world.

However, it takes a special skill to make sense of all this stuff… I would almost create a Framework to map all the Frameworks… god forbid.

I’d rather argue that we need the ability to step back, recognise and call out our own BS (not someone else's), see the bigger picture, understand patterns, forget buzzwords, methods and canvasses and focus on the underlying problems we are trying to solve.

The methods are not relevant. What’s relevant is the underlying changes and challenges we are facing.

The world is your toolkit. What is the question?



Arne van Oosterom

Podcaster, Founder Future Skills Academy, Blue Sky Republic, Creative Leadership Coach, Founder DesignThinkers Academy and Group