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

Towards a Circular Denim Industry

Graduation Poster Lieke van Raan 1200


Lieke van Raan was an exchange student at AHO from TU Delft in 2018, where she spent a semester learning SOD. She came to AHO to learn Systems Oriented Design. See her project from then here. She went back to TU Delft and did her master thesis with honours degree. This was a SOD project investigating one of the big problems regarding sustainability, the textile industry and denim produciton in particular.

The project was done within the Delft University of Technology and the client was the House of Denim Foundation


Read more about this project here.


Resilience, Systemic Innovation and Circular Design in Mountain Communities

Fitzpatrick Luthe IAAC RCS Poster crop 1200


This poster “Reaching New Heights” describes the resiliency of a mountain community in the Italian Alps, where systemic innovation is fostered by a real-world laboratory with a set of “design tools for change”, i.e. different types of circularities. The goal is to gain community support for disruptive changes to develop a regenerative economy on nested spatial scales.


The Monviso Institute is embedded in the revitalizing mountain village of Ostana, where local and regional “flows” of finances, carbon dioxide and identity are analyzed to describe and design a circular economy that stretches beyond classic material flows.
The Institute is founded by Tobias Luthe, professor at ETH Zürich and AHO.  Read more about Tobias here >>>>>
First poster author Haley Fitzpatrick is design associate at the MVI and architect at Renzo Piano Building Workshop, Genova.

Reaching New Heights

Systemic Innovation and Identity for Resilient Alpine Communities

A systems-oriented design poster by Haley Fitzpatrick and Tobias Luthe

This poster entitled “Reaching New Heights” showcases systemic innovation in relation with cultural identity for resilient alpine communities on the case of the MonViso Institute in the community of Ostana, Italian Piedmont mountains. In this context, the Monviso Institute (MVI) as real-world laboratory for sustainability transitions and systemic regenerative design experiments with circular design solutions on various scales. This poster highlights some of the designed circularities on different scales, from materials to buildings to the evolving MVI campus, to the surrounding Po Valley and the regional scale, and sets them into context of the resiliency development phases.

Click link below picture to read more.


Monviso 2

Site of the Monviso Institute before rebuilding started.

Continues from text above:

The poster is setup in this logical way: First, it describes the context of mountain communities and their efforts to resist outmigration and abandonment due to socio-economic changes, and to adapt to strong impacts of climate change. We use the resilience framework “Adaptive Waves” (Luthe and Wyss 2016) to show that Ostana went through a serious crisis, a release phase, leading to a historical low of inhabitants and economic activities. Today, Ostana is between a reorganization and a new growth phase, where the mayor has been working to transform Ostana into an “alpine laboratory” with a new kind of economy that is more resilient, meaning it has a higher adaptive and innovative capacity to withstand undesired changes. Such resilient systems that regenerate can be found in nature, and they function circular, based on shared resources, on no waste existing, and on cooperation – across scales and system boundaries.

The MVI engages in regenerative design of such circular systems, and in this case experiments with circularity on different nested scales, making circular thinking and designing tangible, accessible, illustrative, and evaluating the benefits for systemic innovation of the Ostana and Valle Po economy, to become more resilient. Implementing such systemic innovation, for example in the locally protected type of stone building architecture, requires cooperation of and within the community; change brings up resistance, though, too. The MVI demonstrates different types of circularity as practical solutions – ecological, energy, water, material, and socio-economic circularity – in order to break resistance and empower the community to proceed building up new desired resilience. The MVI “tools for change” such as the Regenerative Design Talks, the support of student research, the “Doppio” demonstration building on campus, and professional trainings are concrete applications that support the transition path and new resiliency growth phase of Ostana.

Further context

Mountains are some of the best indicators of the rapidly changing dynamics of our planet, from immigration trends, political sentiments to climate change. While they connect globally, topographic constraints tend to isolate locally: harsh climates, limited access and services, aging populations and outdated economies have culturally and ideologically isolated many alpine villages from the recirculation of new energy and innovation that is often seen in urban areas.

Empowering these communities to achieve both localized self-sufficient alpine urbanism as well as macro-mutualism between nearby plains-based cities will insure a more resilient network of multi-scalar circular systems.

Yet, like many small communities with strong identities rooted in historical practices, integrating innovation cannot happen without dedicated social learning. Within Europe, many metropolitan areas have already begun implementing the 2030 UN Sustainable Development Goals. In contrast, many alpine villages tend to react slower, traditional means and methods harder to surrender, faced with limited support and lack of cultural incentive. Framing sustainable adaptations as stimulating opportunities instead of risky consequences will not only encourage resilient systems but instill confidence and pride into the evolving identity of alpine communities.

Ostana’s identity is directly linked to the cultural heritage of the built environment, resonating from the Occitan culture. How traditional practices, present-day experimentation and innovative futures can come together and regenerate the nested systems is a key focus of the Monviso Institute’s (MVI) work. Operating as a real-world laboratory, MVI studies sustainable living options and shapes systemic regenerative innovation within Ostana and beyond with the founding principles of research, education, entrepreneurship, and public engagement. MVI actively demonstrates circularity in many capacities and at many scales, from water and energy systems, to socio-economic and cultural networks, all accessible to the public and engaged with the broader community. For example, the campus is sensitively being adapted from six traditional stone buildings into energy-generating, functional spaces. The first reconstructed building, the passive net-positive duplex “Il Doppio” healthily disrupts the current architectural practices, providing both supporters and skeptics learning opportunities for nature-based solutions. 

Social circularity and “tools for change” take many forms at MVI and go beyond the campus environment. The annual Trans-Occitan Alps Safari mixes international skiers, hikers and bikers with local musicians. Grown Skis design workshops revamp traditional ski fabrication methods with circular materials like paulownia and hemp. This synergetic approach to exchanging global and local ideas in a face-to-face way is becoming more and more necessary in today’s digital focus. Beyond demonstrating circularity as an institute, MVI realized a need to create a flexible tool to overcome resistance and promote synergetic discussion on building resilient alpine environments. In spring 2019, the Regenerative Design Talks (RDT) were founded; a collaborative workshop series focusing in the interconnected relationship of design, nature, the built environment and mountain identity in Ostana and beyond. The series have included brainstorming sessions with renown climate scientists and sustainable city innovators on renewable energy and e-mobility for climate protection, on nature-based solutions in architecture, and hands-on practices in designing with Hemp, again inviting leading experts in the field.




 RSD 9 teaser

The role of systemic design in informing equitable and sustainable choices increasingly demands that designers re-orient toward “design and…”. Together, we’ll explore real-world contexts where organizational behavior, entrepreneurship, policymaking, and design are already colliding, as well as new tools and methodologies to evolve our individual and collective points of view about leadership and the transformative practices—and challenges—of large-scale collaboration.

Well-being, be it of the planet or our bodies or of surroundings forms the core of meaningful existence. Well-being is the experience of health, happiness, and prosperity, including good mental health, life satisfaction, being socially connected and a sense of purpose. Being humane is to be marked by compassion and empathy not only for humans but the surroundings. Moreover, the well-being of our bodies, surroundings and larger planets are all interconnected.

In our myopic race towards progress humans have forgotten this interdependent aspect of the world, putting the entire planet and its beings deeper into issues of climate change, food scarcity, financial instability, energy shortages and resource unavailability. It is only through the lens of systemic thinking, with an understanding of the relational nature of action on any scale being resonated at all levels, can resolving of these issues be meaningful. We can with shifting our focus to a holistic human service approach and revisiting our ‘ways of understanding’ synchronise nature’s dynamic balance and our well-being.

More details about this conference will be published soon.

RSD: Relating Systems Thinking and Design, is a series of conferences, started in Oslo 2012. The conferences are for both academics and professionals. To read more about the former conferences go to


RSD8-Chicago videos

The RSD8 at Institute of Design IIT was another great success. Reports and proceedings will follow soon. Meanwhile the keynote videos are online here.


The next RSD is public and will be announced here and on the Systemic Design net soon.


See the Speech from the Systemic Design Association (SDA) held by Peter Jones and Birger Sevaldson. This speech adresses the nature and future of the Systemic Design Association.



Saskia Sassen from Columbia University presented an eyeopening report from high finance. She starts after 7:30


Terry Erwin from Carnegie-Mellon university presented the latest development of Transition design towards systemis perspectives. She starts after 5 minutes.


Chris Rudd from IDE IIT gave a shocking historical record on the history of slavery. His speech starts at 20 minutes.


New information on the SOD web

Here are some updates on the SOD web.

Since the last update a lot of things have happened. We had a very successful RSD8 at IIT institute of design , Chicago. Updates will follow and the proceedings will come online on

I reorganised the gigamapping and tools section into tools and framework. The use of the term frameworks seems adequate for many of the concepts we use in SOD.

Also i added a new framework. The SOD creative process framework seems a good idea to give some more guidance for systemsoriented designers to make their way out of the jungle of complexity. 


SOD creative process framework


This is work in progress on the draft stage and if you click the image you will be taken to the shared document we are working on. It contains comments and links. If you have comments to this work you are more than welcome.


We also have published the bachelor projects from this spring here: 





More news to be pubished soon from this autumns master course and the included sustainable ski building course.




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