About Systems Oriented Design

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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 (www.systemic-design.net) 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.

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