Theories and Methods of Systemic Design
Peter Jones. Design Methods for Systemic Design Research
Systemic design is distinguished from user-oriented design practice in terms of its expansive boundaries, its embrace of social complexity, and its preferred objective of systemic integration rather than market differentiation. Systemic design is concerned with higher-order socially-organized systems that encompass multiple subsystems in a complex policy, organizational or product-service context. By integrating systems thinking and its methods, systemic design brings human-centered design to complex, multi-stakeholder service systems as those found in industrial networks, transportation, medicine and healthcare. It adapts from known design competencies – form and process reasoning, social and generative research methods, and sketching and visualization practices – to describe, map, propose and reconfigure complex services and systems.
The recent development of systemic design as a research-based practice draws on long-held precedents in the system sciences toward representation of complex social and enterprise systems. A precedent article, published as Systemic Design Principles for Complex Social Systems (Jones, 2014) established an axiomatic and epistemological basis for complementary principles shared between design reasoning and systems theory. The current paper aims to establish a basis for identifying shared methods (techne, in Aristotelian terms) and action practice (or phronesis).
Perin Ruttonsha. The Many Faces of Design: From Adaptive Response to Creative Agency to Reflective Engagement
Design is pervasive – both as act and outcome. For this reason, the term itself moves casually across domains, rendering the boundaries of a specific design discipline evasive; especially recently, where those in the field are deliberately extending their expertise into territory beyond that which might be considered a classic design problem space. Against the recent backdrop of surmounting complexity and related social-ecological pressures that arise with population growth and ongoing social-technological development, not only have designers been stirred to reform their own work to address these dynamics, additionally, they are reflecting on the role of design and design thinking in navigating the wicked problems indicative of the contemporary global milieu (Kolko, 2012; Mau, Leonard, J., & the Institute without Boundaries, 2004). In doing so, they are renewing design practice as an increasingly social and strategic process, bidding to occupy the realm of social innovation and large-scale systems transformation.
However, social innovation literature indicates that profound social change amidst complexity is not a one-stop operation, neither is it direct, nor prone to absolute control. Rather, it requires alignment across multiple domains, and the order in which this takes place will depend on the point from which one begins, as well as the nature of the barriers and opportunities at hand. As such, a layered, adaptive approach is vital when navigating the dynamics of complex, non-linear systems. Interpreting design through its ‘many faces’ — that is, the many definitions that it encompasses, the ways of thinking and acting that it engenders, the types of outcomes in which it results, and the functions that it serves — is conducive to the development of this kind of flexible and phased approach. Drawing on discourses of resilience, systems, and complexity thinking, this paper embeds an analysis of ‘the many faces of design’ within a social innovation framework, by which to assess them as a series of mechanisms for long-term, adaptive systems transformation. In this regard, designers have begun to consciously codify and extend what are common sense approaches to problem solving and innovation within the umbrella of ‘design thinking’ (Berger, 2009). Moreover, design practitioners acknowledge how their specific choices can have resonant impact at a global scale (Papanek, 1971), yet these cascading effects cannot always be predicted nor specified (Folke, 2006). The paper examines the many roles that design assumes — as an adaptive process of sensemaking (Alexander, 1964; Kolko, 2011), as a symbolic mediator (Verbeek, 1970), and as an integrated system — while considering how impetus for the design process fluctuates, from an intuitive response (Alexander, 1964), to an act of creative agency (Mau et al., 2004), to an approach to problem solving required to reflectively synchronize with dynamic, emergent conditions (Brown, 2012).
Cameron Tonkinwise and Joshua Bloom. Staging Systems to Feel Round the Corners of Transition Design
The challenges our societies face, such as climate change, require radical innovation (Proactionary Principle [Fuller]). But the complexity of our societies also demand that we be more attentive to the consequences of those innovations (Precautionary Principle). The challenges we face are, after all, the result of previously unanticipated consequences. It is by definition not possible to anticipate ‘black swans,’ but we should perhaps expect more than to cultivate an anti-fragility that merely awaits shocks [Talib]. How then to develop rich senses of the consequences of innovations designed to respond to phenomena like climate change?
We call this capacity ‘seeing around corners,’ since the aim is not merely to build a system model that can predict an end state, but instead to sense what is possible and likely once at the position of that end-state. An analogy would be the ability to forsee texting-while-driving whilst designing the user experience of a cell phone. Theoretically, the point would be that
As an aside, we are interested in ‘seeing around corners’ in reaction to an increasing tendency in commercial systems design to give up on larger-scale forethought and instead trust in Lean Emergence. We wish to preserve the Situatedness that comes from these ways of working (that is a corrective to temptations to ‘See like a State’ Planning), but nevertheless see the need for more forceful directedness, especially when negotiating societal challenges requiring strong, voluntary actions.
Liv Nielsen, Petter Naess, Janne Reitan, Ingvild Digranes, Arild Berg, Ingvill Maus & Peter Jones. Design Literacy – from primary education to university level
The main purpose for this study is to further develop knowledge of design education. Design has a wide impact on society, seen in a consumer perspective in light of sustainability issues. Design education – from primary to university level – is in this project regarded as a key issue for developing a sustainable society as the choices general public take when it comes to design, touches the core of consumerism. In the Kyoto Design Declaration, The International Association of Universities and Colleges of Art, Design and Media (Cumulus) declared that
…to contribute to sustainable social, environmental, cultural and economic development for current and future generations, the Cumulus members will commit themselves to accepting their part in the further education of our youth within a value system where each of us recognizes our global responsibility to build sustainable, human-centred, creative societies.
Worldwide environmental problems are closely linked to an increasing amount of waste and pollution related to the production, transportation and consumption of artefacts. Designers, decision makers, investors and consumers hold different positions in the design process, but they all make choices that will influence our future environment. In order to solve some of the crucial global challenges, designers and lay people must cooperate; for this purpose, awareness of design qualities from a sustainable perspective is necessary. We include such an awareness of quality, longevity and sustainability in the design process of artefacts and solutions in our understanding of design literacy. It refers to concerns and practices such as democratic participation in the processes, developing and using ethical responsibility, and understanding and supporting sustainable aspects of production and consumption.
We have chosen to use the concept ‘design literacy’ to address the complex matter of objectives and content in design education at the primary, lower secondary, upper secondary, and university levels. In selecting this term, we acknowledge that research on multiple literacies has received considerable debate and redefinition within several areas of educational research (Coiro et al., 2008); it is no longer bound to the understanding of literacy as the ability to read and write verbal text (Moats, 2000). We draw on work in areas such as visual literacy (Stankiewicz, 2003), media literacy (Buckingham, 2003; Erstad, 2010), and ecological literacy (Stegall, 2006). Design literacy in this project is connected both to the creation and understanding of artefacts and images in a broad sense, and is not limited to only graphic design (Heller, 2004). When we use design literacy in this project, we include a wide perspective of artefacts and professions and choose a broad interpretation of design (Simon 1969). There is a move toward understanding design products and processes as composed of symbiotic hybrids between design products, media types, services, architecture, communicative spaces, networks and modes of creation, production, and exchange (Knutsen & Morrison, 2010). We regard design literacy as a competence not only for the professional designer, but also for lay people in their position as users, decision makers, and consumers.
Alfred Clatworthy Holmen and Gyuchan Thomas Jun. How easily understandable are complex multi-layered system maps?
There has been a significant shift in the design community for the last ten years. The world has become more complex, more stakeholders and interdisciplinary teams need to be consulted and involved through the participatory design processes. In the fields of service design and systems ergonomics, several systems mapping methods have been employed to visualise the complex interactions of the systems within systems. The system maps are often shared not only within the interdisciplinary design team, but also with external stakeholders who may not have been involved in initial map creation and discussion stage. Therefore, it is very important to create easily understandable system maps and present them in an ‘easy to use’ manner, but there exists little research on how to create and present complex and multi-layered system maps. The majority of research is based on single layer diagrams. Sevaldson (2011) took into account how a multi-layered diagram could be used to represent the systems within the systems, but the usability of diagrams was not considered.
On the other hand, newly introduced interactive mapping and presentation tools such as Prezi, Adobe Edge Animate and MapsAlive, could enable us to create diagrams and maps more easily interactive, e.g. hyperlinking, zooming in/out. This development also allows us to create narratives and contexts that have previously been hard to do. There is a great potential to explore how these new tools could be used to improve the usability of complex systems diagrams. Therefore, the aim of this study is to investigate how much an interactive, multi-layered zoomable map allowed users to more quickly understand, use and explore a complex system map compared to a static and single-layered map.
Tim Sheiner. From systems to software.
The context for this proposal is the assertion that the ability to convert knowledge of system form into a specification for software form is the critical system thinking form of knowledge of our age. “Software is eating the world.”
Entrepreneur and investor Marc Andreesen made this claim 3 years ago in an essay published by the Wall Street Journal. His fundamental argument is that we have reached a point in the evolution of information technology where software infrastructure, programming tools and design skill sets have aligned with human expectations in a way that is quite literally changing the world. While Andreesen’s focus is the for profit business domain, his point applies much more broadly: software is a transformative intervention for all forms of human interaction. As such an understanding of how to create software has become an essential skill for system thinkers who seek scalable and cost effective ways to promote real and sustainable system change.
Despite his certainty that the future of human commerce is software, Andreesen admits quite frankly that the process of creating useful and valuable software is ‘brutally difficult.’ A primary challenge that he describes is a lack of education in the skills required to effect the construction of useful software.
At a high level the skills involved in creating software that improve information flow within a system organize into three distinct activities:
1. Define the System Abstraction
2. Convert the Abstraction to a Software Design
3. Build the Software
Zachary Kaiser and Gabriel Schaffzin. Designing for Our New Scale: A Provocation
“Growth” is endemic to our economic system. Economies of scale, long-held as critical means to efficiency and profitability, have taken on new meanings: whereas they once relied on the skills of the mechanical engineer to realize wide-scaling manufacturing capabilities, our cultural shift towards the individual means a focus placed on customization of both product research and design. In the age of networked information and networked publics—built on the “solutions” of large, multinational companies like Cisco and EMC, as well as small, connected product and service startups— this paradoxical emphasis on broad ranging customization is resolved through the automated tools at our disposal today: platforms, data, and algorithms, to name a few. Throughout the decades, however, scalability and growth has always been perceived as essential by investors and the public alike.
As commercial practitioners, we are often tasked with the design and development of projects meant to reach a large audience—at the time of release or further down the line. For instance, a website for a large NGO must scale in terms of both content and reach, accommodating a broad swath of information types for a global audience. Increasingly, as the integration of social streams and other “open” sources of content becomes valued by clients, the access of publicly available APIs requires an accommodation of the parameters set by those sources—often multi-billion dollar corporations.
To develop designs and technologies that scale, we build on or develop our own platforms. These platforms include those with which we are familiar and interact every day, such as YouTube (and its API), Twitter, and various content management systems such as SiteCore or WordPress. The way in which we are able to design for scale today is enabled by our ability to capture a tremendous (and often overwhelming) amount of data. “Big Data” has become common parlance. We use the data that we capture to make inferences about the users for whom we design, giving us the ability to scale solutions across geographies, demographics, and markets. Algorithms are pervasive in today’s experience of designing at scale, especially as the time and cognition required to process the volume of information with which we interact increases. Once the sources of our data and content are identified, in order to present that information back to our end-user in a means unique to our project, we must process it. Infusing this data with value requires moving it through algorithms—ones that aggregate, analyze, modify, and more.