Systems Oriented Design / Systemorientert Design (NO)

The designerly way to work with systems

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.



News blog


This new PhD position in Systems Oriented Design (SOD) at AHO focuses on better understanding the drivers and mechanisms of sustainability transitions, and on creative, science-based and cooperative ways to implement solutions in the real world by systemic innovation. The PhD student contributes to research in SOD at the interlink of all AHO disciplines, explicitly collaborating with all design disciplines and with architecture, urbanism and landscape planning. A connecting topic for all these disciplines is “circularity”, a conceptual approach to creating, planning, designing and engineering systems that are regenerative and restorative by design: resources like materials, matter, energy, and bio-geo-chemicals are continuously being kept within biological and technical cycles, where no waste exists through cooperative exchange of outputs and inputs in clustered production processes. Such systems function as nature and are self-emergent and regenerative. However, in human-related systems, the aspect of social circularity remains fragmented – social circularity contains mutual benefits and learning loops that affect individual and collective action, being of critical relevance to transform our current linear economy towards more circularity.

DEADLINE 10th June 2020

START: September 2020


First SDA Norway gathering

Earlier this year we announced the first gathering for a Norwegian chapter of the Systemic Design Association (SDA). We were planning it to be held at DOGA, the Norway center for design and architecture. We limited the meeting to 90 participants. 

The interest exceeded our imaginations with over 400 stating their interest. 

Sadly, we had to cancel the gathering because of the corona virus. However, we wanted to carry it through anyway in digital format and we changed the invitation to a zoom meeting. Over 130 people joined the meeting and it was a great experience.

Thanks to the organiser group: Josina Vink. Jonathan Romm, Benedicte Wildhagen, Adrian Paulsen, Tore Gulden, Manuela Aguirre. 

 Here are some screen shots from the event.














RSD9 Call for Workshops

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From the exhibiton at RSD6 Oslo

The Call for workshops and submissions to the exhibition of the RSD9 conference in Ahmedabad India is published. RSD (Relating Systems Thinking and Design) are the annual conferences in systemic design, The conference will be held at NID in Ahmedabad 13th to 15th October 2020. To see the proceedings of earlier conferences go to 

See the call

See the call for abstracts

Read more about RSD9

We hope to see you there, crossing fingers with the corona situation.


Ski Systems

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Ski Systems Design - Build Fjell skis as part of a broader mountain tourism system

Autumn termn 2019, by Assoc. Prof. Dr. Tobias Luthe ETH and AHO

Photos by Emilie Langolf and Tobias Luthe

Learning about Systemic Design is a challenging endeavor. At The Oslo School of Architecture and Design (AHO), the study direction “Systems Oriented Design” (SOD) of the Master program in Design provides students with the option to learn about complexity the designerly way


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Introductory systems overview sketch of the design challenge “skis”, embedded into the broader mountain tourism system.



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Building Fjell skis

For the autumn semester 2019, SOD students were offered a new course module entitled “ski systems design”. The design brief was to design, engineer and build Fjell skis, traditional Norwegian Nordic skis for the use in tracked or untracked snowy terrain, from the flats to medium steep mountains. It involved to partly quantify the material and primary energy footprint of the used materials and processes during the building process. By doing so, students would learn about supply chain mapping, carbon footprint assessment and basic life cycle analysis. The design brief included to eco-optimize the ski design and reduce their material footprint on the environment.

The students were then asked to plan a ski testing trip to a nearby mountain destination, to test their skis in the real world, and as well to link and position Fjell skiing within the greater and rapidly changing mountain tourism economy. This should involve a discussion meeting with the local destination manager.


The course setup

Students designed and built composite ski constructions from Paulownia wood, hemp fibers and (partly) bio-based epoxy resin, currently being state of the art in environmentally friendly, light and rigid ski construction. The semi-transparent PE base is from recycled Polyethylene, the edges are made from steel with a European recycling rate of about 85%. Students could create their individual top sheet design and documented each step on film and photo, both for their report and future courses, and for a course movie production.



How it worked out – and lessons learnt

Overall, three pairs of skis were finished with the regular finish of the course, while the others were ready to be finished in the new year. One pair of skis was exhibited at the AHO Works Exhibition, taking place at the end of each semester, and it was nominated for a design price in the category sustainability. The exhibition of these skis as part of the SOD outcome received a lot of attention, since it marks the re-inclusion of different design fields into SDO teaching beyond service design, in this case primarily industrial/product design, embedded in land use and regional economics.


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Explosion photo of the layer materials in one of the students’ designed hemp-Paulownia composite skis


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Graphical sketch of the ski core production, spontaneously contributed by Oda Heier.



Luthe, T., Lumpe, T., Schwarz, J., Schuetz, M. and K. Shea. 2017. Teaching Systemic Design For Sustainability In Engineering By Building Eco-Skis. Proceedings of the 21st International Conference on Engineering Design (ICED 17) Vol 9: Design Education, Vancouver, Canada, 21-25.08.2017.ISBN: 978-1-904670-97-1, ISSN: 2220-4342.

Luthe, T. 2017. The Resilience of Snow Sports: From Vision to Transformation. FdSnow 51 2.2017. Fachzeitschrift des Skisports. Planegg, Germany. Deutscher Skiverband, Freunde des Skisports, Stiftung Sicherheit im Skisport (HrsG). ISSN 1864-5593.

Luthe, T., Kaegi, T. and J. Reger. 2013. A Systems Approach to Sustainable Technical Product Design. Combining life cycle assessment and virtual development in the case of skis. Journal of Industrial Ecology 17(4), 605-617. DOI: 10.1111/jiec.12000

New PhD thesis from TU Delft

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Jairo da Costa Junior from Brazil defended his doctoral thesis at the Technical University of Delft (TU Delft), the faculty of Industrial Design Engineering (IDE)


Embracing the complexity of energy challenges in low-income markets


The thesis is based on SOD as one of the most important platforms of this study. 


Excerpt from the summary:

The societal and technical problems faced by low-income markets are increasingly seen as more complex due to environmental, social, and economic concerns. The enormous negative impacts of societal problems and the inability of designers to deal with complexity cannot be overcome without a paradigm shift in how we understand, engage with, and teach about such issues. In light of this challenge, one can pose the question, “What is the best approach to deal with a complex societal problem?” A traditional approach to deal with a complex problem is to simplify it. Alternatively, as here, research may aim to provide a novel approach to handle complex societal problems, thereby embracing complexity. Thus, this research contends that embracing complexity represents a significant shift from the traditional design approach to a systems design approach for sustainable development.

Here you can read the whole thesis.

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