Systems Oriented Design in a nutshell

By Birger Sevaldson

 

Here is a short and superficial presentation of Systems Oriented Design  

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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 systems theories and develop specialised applications of those theories to suit their field. Examples are found in creativity research, systems engineering and management. Some fields have not succeeded in the adaptation processes, with one prime example being the realm of design. However, there are a number of design theorists who refer to and apply systems theories and practices in design, and these approaches revolve, almost without exception, around importing systems thinking from other fields, either those that claim to be generic, for example, systems dynamics, or from adjacent fields such as systems engineering. These discussions have been going on for a long time and they are valuable. However, they fail to integrate systems approaches with design practice. In addition, one could assume design practice and theories can be useful for the systems world.

These attempts, however valuable they are, have been not very successful to become influential in design. Though the need to be able to address greater levels of complexity is pressing, the spread of systems thinking in design has been limited. The reason may be because these imported concepts and methods are not easily combined with the main characteristics of design thinking and 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 deal with super complexity.

The main mission of systems-oriented design is to build the designer’s own interpretation and implementation of systems thinking so that systems thinking can fully benefit from design thinking and practice and vice versa. 

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