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Systems Oriented Design in a Nutshell

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.

A short and superficial presentation of systems oriented design

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. 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.

However valuable, these attempts have not been very successful in becoming 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 that 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.

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About Systems Oriented Design

About Systems Oriented Design

The main mission of SOD is to help designers to become better at dealing with very complex problems. Complex problems are described as problem fields, networks of problems, wicked problems and problematiques.

SOD is open source

SOD is open source

If your project corresponds to all or most of the core parameters, you are welcome to reference it as a SOD project. We would appreciate it if you send us a reference to the project and material to publish on this website.

The Mind Shifts of SOD

The Mind Shifts of SOD

We need to make several small shifts in our understanding to truly grasp systems thinking in general and to start to become systemic designers.

Testimonials: SOD & Gigamapping

Testimonials: SOD & Gigamapping

SOD testimonial – Defne Sunguroglu Hensel, PhD fellow, Oslo School of Architecture and Design, Oslo For me, systems approach has been most significant as to providing a direction towards interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary design. More specifically I use it for...

Collaborate-Opportunities

Collaborate-Opportunities

There are opportunities to collaborate with the Master's Studio at the Oslo School of Architecture. Organisations serve as test cases for the students. Collaborations offer an experience with systems oriented design, a deep analysis of the organisation as a system and...