Book: Designing Complexity

Nov 2022

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.