Between Heaven and Earth: Design tensions in the Book of Changes

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Evan Barba and J.R. Osborn

For some time, we have been using the ancient Chinese Book of Changes, or I Ching, as a resource for systemic design in both professional and classroom settings. We have found the results of these experiments to be surprising and encouraging, and suggestive of a more complete and formalized methodology. Here, we tie the theoretical underpinnings of this methodology to a few important concepts and texts in the systemic design canon, emphasizing design as an intentional change and the dynamic equilibrium, constant transition, and interconnectedness of systems. We then articulate our notion that the sixty-four passages of the I Ching correlate to commonly observed stages of iterative design, and the creative process more generally. Finally, we encourage others to explore the I Ching’s usefulness as a collection of design prompts by providing the backbone of our method — design-centred interpretations of the eight essential trigrams of the I Ching and sixty-four designerly names for the hexagrams — as a means of scaffolding interested designers in their own application of the text.

Keywords: intentional change, methodology, I Ching, systemic design, design pedagogy

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RSD proceedings are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. This permits anyone to copy and redistribute the material in any medium or form according to the licence terms.

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Author(s) (20XX). Article title. In Proceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design (RSDX) 20XX Symposium. City, Country, Month X-X, 20XX.

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