SOD is open source

profesjonal workshop1

From a workshop with design professionals in Tallin 2013


SOD is open source

Updated 17th march 2016

From the very beginning in 2007, the techniques and methodology of SOD were never thought to be precise descriptions for defined processes. In contrary, we emphasize that each process needs its own variation of the process. Process design is an integrated part of a SOD project. In that sense SOD is a "Methodology without Method".

Another aspect of this is that the research into SOD has always been shared in the academic context of the design research communit for others to build on.

What is different by announcing SOD as "open source" is that we actively declare this inherent nature of SOD and encourage others to participate in the development.

As an open sourced methodology, you are welcome to use any part of it and change it in any way you want. We ask you to respect the following:
Please make a reference to the SOD page with a “based on SOD” note.


Please respect the “kernel” of SOD.


If you find that your project is not anymore covered by the Kernel library of SOD please stop referencing to SOD.


The Kernel of SOD
The kernel of SOD represents the core values and perspectives that determine if a project can be seen as an SOD project. These are guidelines by us but we will not police these guidelines in any way. We ask you to consider them and respect the kernel of SOD.

If your project corresponds to all or most of the kernel parameter, we welcome you to reference it as an SOD project and we would appreciate that you send us a reference to the project or even material to publish on the website.

If the project does not correspond to most of the kernel parameters, we kindly ask you to not refer to the project as an SOD project. If the project is within the field of systems thinking in design we suggest that you refer to the project as a Systemic Design project. If your project is mostly on the systems side and does not contain an important element of designerly approaches, design thinking and design practice, we suggest you refer to the project as a systems engineering project, a systemic development project or similar.

The kernel of SOD is characterized by the following:

1) Designerly way of understanding and creating systems
2) The use of central SOD techniques, amongst them Gigamapping
3) Addressing complex problems independent on scale.
4) Responsibility for intended and unintended consequences of the design
5) Participatory processes with stakeholders, experts and all relevant organizations and individuals.
6) Ethical considerations. SOD is about improving things.


To be regarded a SOD project your project should check out on all or most of the points mentioned above.
Besides that we encourage you to help us developing SOD.

The Seven Mind Switches of SOD

Many people in general and designers specially don’t have a relation to systems thinking or systems approaches. It is seen as difficult and cumbersome and alien. We therefore need to address a bit of the mindset that is needed to appreciate reading this book.

When talking about systems people often think that systems are something specific and often something not related to them directly. We use the term systems in everyday language, e.g. “the system does not work”, or “I don’t understand the system” addressing large opaque and often public or organizational problems. One can also use the term system about smaller thing, like “I made myself this system for controlling my economy and it works wonderful”.

All those uses of the term system are indeed correct. Nobody has the copyright of the term system. The everyday use of the term is as correct as any other more specific use. In fact the everyday intuition of the meaning of the term system is a good starting point for understanding systems. But we need to take seven small mind switches to understand systems thinking in general and to start to become a systemic designer.

These mind switches will be elaborated in the forth coming book on Systems Oriented Design.

The first switch of mind: Systems are everywhere
Systems are everywhere - everything is part of systems - everything is a system.

The second switch of mind: Look beyond the object
Look beyond the object - Move attention from object to relations (ref. Thackara 1988)

The third switch of mind: Systems are dynamic
Every system is dynamic - What seem stable just moves very slowly.

The fourth switch of mind: The “Gestalt” of the system
Look for the apparel of the system rather than understanding the sum of fragments.

The fifth Switch of mind: Designing means working with systems
Designing is potentially the best way of dealing with systems, but not any design.

Sixth switch of mind: Systemics is the logic of design
Harold Nelson in The Design Way.

Seventh switch of mind: Design is the means.
Design is the means to understand and resolve systems


Revision feb 2016


Systems Oriented Design in a nutshell

Here is a short and superficial presentation of Systems Oriented Design  


The field of systems thinking is populated with a myriad of theories and applications. Most scientific realms and knowledge based professions have managed to situate themselves within this landscape, to relate to the more or less generic theories and to develop specialized applications of those theories to suit their field. Examples are found in creativity research, systems engineering and management.  Some fields have not succeeded in such adaptation processes, one is the realm of design. Though there are a number of people referring to and applying systems theories and practices in design, these approaches are almost with no exception about importing systems thinking from other fields, either those that claim to be generic, like e.g. systems dynamics, or from adjacent fields like systems engineering.

These attempts have been not very successful. Though the need for being able to address greater levels of complexity is pressing, the spread of systems thinking in design has been limited. The reason must be that these imported concepts and methods are not easily combined with the main characteristics of design thinking and design practice. Typically the approaches are too technical and “mechanistic” or too “anthropological” leaving little space for design thinking, design practice and design creativity.

Design thinking and design practice are potentially very powerful approaches to dealing with super complexity.

The main mission of Systems Oriented Design is to build the designers own interpretation and implementation of systems thinking so that systems thinking can fully benefit from design thinking and practice and so that design thinking and practice can fully benefit from systems thinking. 

If you are interested in this building process please don’t hesitate to contact me on

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About Systems Oriented Design



Design for a complex world

The main mission of Systems Oriented Design is to build the designers own interpretation and implementation of systems thinking so that systems thinking can fully benefit from design thinking and practice and so that design thinking and practice can fully benefit from systems thinking.

The practice of designers is forced into a process of change because the world is rapidly changing. The forces that drive this change are caused by globalisation and the need for sustainability. These demands increase the complexity of the design process immensely.

Systems Oriented Design addresses these problems. Systems Oriented Design develops systems thinking  in design practice further with concepts that are developed genuinely for designers.

Designers are especially well suited to cope with the complexity of the real world because of three reasons: they are trained to synthesise from complex and fuzzy material and they are able to visualise which is an enormous advantage for thinking in complexity.  Visualisation is both implemented as process technique and for communication. Finally designers are creative people trained to come up with new solutions.

Systems Oriented Design instrumentalises these three abilities of the designers to change the profession to be better able to solve the pressing problems we are confronted with. At their best designers work creatively and intuitively to generate holistic and synergetic solutions to complex challenges. Systems Oriented Design emphasises these abilities as central and it trains systems thinking and systems practice as a skill and an art.

Systems Oriented Design is informed by modern systems thinking and theories such as Soft Systems Method, Systems Architecting, and Critical Systems Thinking. But it contains also a series of proprietary concepts, methods, and techniques. Amongst them we find GIGAmapping, catastrophic scenario games, outcroppings, incubation and synthesising workshops. Systems thinking is regarded as a genuine creative tool in design.

Systems Oriented Design is developed by prof. Birger Sevaldson in the context of the OCEAN design research network with prof Michael Hensel and PhD student Defne Sunguroglu Hensel. It is registered as a research project at the Oslo School of Architecture and Design.

Though there were many years of prehistory in the development of SOD and the first project actually stems from 1988 we regard that the research into this approach seriously started in 2007

SOD with Birger Sevaldson founded the Relating Systems Thinking and Design symposia in 2012. This resulted in the founding of the Systemic Design Research Network ( Systemic Design was chosen as a term for the larger pluralistic field covering all discussions about systems in design and design in for and of systems, where different approaches are encouraged. SOD is probably the most designerly approach in the field of systemic design.

Check the links here >>>>>

and here >>>>>