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The Methodology and Practice of Systems Oriented Design
by Birger Sevaldson
This book changes the way you think about designing. Instead of simplifying you embrace richness. Instead of controlling you learn to live with uncertainty. Enjoy designing within a complex world.
This book is for designers in the widest sense including any individual or organisation that is involved in change processes. It is addressing one of the most pressing issues of our time. It is addressing one of the most pressing issues of our time: How can we design for, with, and in service of the complex world we live in? How can we be useful as designers in a world that is rapidly changing due to technological, political and social processes as well as climate change and nature destruction?
Designers have some very useful skills for planning with complex systems in mind, yet there are also some old habits that need to be overcome. The traditional purpose and role of design has been to solve problems, to find order, to organize, and to simplify. Yet, the concept of designing complexity goes against these established beliefs because complexity is not something that can be designed away. Instead, we present ways to live with, influence and benefit from complex systems.
There is no one “right” way presented in this book. Instead, many experiences, approaches, and perspectives are collected and presented throughout the book. The approach this book is presenting is a methodology called Systems Oriented Design (SOD). SOD is a design methodology and design practice especially geared towards understanding and working with complex systems. It is influenced by a number of systems theories yet it remains true to its origin, the core of designing.
SOD is a living and adaptable methodology. Though it is based on design thinking and design methodology, it is easily adapted and applied by anybody who is working with complex change processes.
Read the foreword by Harold G. Nelson
This book is the generous sharing of a life of thinking and action taken by an accomplished academic and professional, who is a highly successful scholar-practitioner in the fields of systems and design, particularly Systems Oriented Design (SOD). It is an invaluable resource for those who want to work with professional systems designers and those who are professional systems designers themselves working with, and in, complex environments.
This book is exemplary in the way that theory and applications are presented in depth and breadth. It successfully integrates the many case studies presented as examples of scholarship and praxis in unified actions as response to complex challenges. In addition, a diverse background of the many traditions of systems from academics, theorists and practitioners is presented as an informed pallet upon which Systems Oriented Design stands. At the same time the book provides a palette of tools, methods, and approaches that are not only extremely interesting but useful in practice.
Professor Sevaldson presents both his stance and his approach to Systems Oriented Design (SOD) which is invaluable for understanding his examples of what SOD is and what it can become. He presents his values, understandings, beliefs, assertions, and assumptions in clear transparent terms. He presents the theories, methods, and tools that he and his associates have utilized or developed over an extended period of time refining and applying the Giga Mapping method.
The book is a valuable professional level resource for those who are just becoming interested in the field, as well as those who have been active participants in the field for some time. The three parts of the book are fluidly interrelated. The parts are exceptional expositions on their own, but become even more effective in their interplay creating a synergy of ideas and experience. By providing a comprehensive overview of the provenance of systems and design with an inventory of SOD methods and tools which lead to the many examples of SOD in practice gives newcomers as well as veterans access to the dynamic and evolving field of SOD practice.
Another valuable aspect of this book is that it champions visual inquiry and communication as essential to understanding and engaging with complexity. In a world dominated by linear text, this book provides a wide variety of visual methods and tools allied with relevant holistic means for accessing or making meaning in dynamic, complex settings. This kind of approach is essential in SOD and other systemic design domains. In fact it is essential to thinking and understanding complexity in general and deserves greater appreciation and utilization. This book provides a good introduction to how visual thinking and communication leads to success when dealing with complexity—the book is exemplary in this aspect.
This book is a milestone in the developmental timeline of serious thinking and practice in both systems and design, and most importantly in their integration. It will become a standard in the field.
Harold G. Nelson