Relics and Resources: Representing complexity in service and systemic design

Format: Papers, RSD11, Topic: Methods & Methodology

Adeline Hvidsten and Anna Kirah

Kristiania University College, Oslo, Norway

This paper explores designerly tools for visualising insights, generative creativity and mirroring complexity. As designers are increasingly facilitating complex and wicked problems, making sense of and communicating large amounts of insights becomes a challenge (Kolko, 2010; Talgorn & Hendriks, 2021). We focus on the potential and importance of such tools for designers, as well as highlighting potential pitfalls for design as designers’ good intentions meet the demands and complexities of “the real world”. We address the issue of representation through discussions of the expert power of designers and the power of design tools, as well as organisational and wider system components. We believe that a key challenge is developing and applying approaches to design based on non-representational foundations. In the last part of the paper, we explore some existing approaches and potential directions for research and practice. Here, we highlight non-human lenses that acknowledge more than human agency and narrative and reflexive approaches that might acknowledge bias and a multiplicity of presents and futures. Further, we briefly explore the topic of transdisciplinary action as well as organisational and industrial transformation to address what we call a “resource/relic dichotomy.” While we do not claim to have many answers as of now, we raise some key questions we believe will be of importance for system and service design practice and research.

KEYWORDS: systemic design, complexity, gigamaps, personas, visualisation, representation, power

Sketchnote by Patricia Kambitch | Playthink

Citation Data

Author(s): Adeline Hvidsten and Anna Kirah
Year: 2022
Title: Relics and Resources: Representing complexity in service and systemic design
Published in: Proceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design
Volume: RSD11
Article No.: 156
Host: University of Brighton
Location: Brighton, UK
Symposium Dates: October 3–16, 2022
First published: 21 September 2022
Last update: 30 April 2023
Publisher Identification: ISSN 2371-8404

Copyright Information

Proceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design (ISSN 2371-8404) are published annually by the Systemic Design Association, a non-profit scholarly association leading the research and practice of design for complex systems: 3803 Tønsberg, Norway (922 275 696).


Open Access article published under the CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0 International License. This permits anyone to copy and redistribute the material in any medium or form according to the licence terms.

Suggested citation format (APA)

Author(s). (20##). Article title. Proceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design, RSD##. Article ##.

Publishing with RSD

Proceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design are published online and include the contributions for each format.

Papers and presentations are entered into a single-blind peer-review process, meaning reviewers see the authors’ names but not vice versa. Reviewers consider the quality of the proposed contribution and whether it addresses topics of interest or raises relevant issues in systemic design. The review process provides feedback and possible suggestions for modifications.

The Organising Committee reviews and assesses workshops and systems maps & exhibits with input from reviewers and the Programme Committee.

Editor: Cheryl May
Peter Jones
Ben Sweeting

The Scholars Spiral

In 2022, the Systemic Design Association adopted the scholars spiral—a cyclic non-hierarchical approach to advance scholarship—and in 2023, launched Contexts—The Systemic Design Journal. Together, the RSD symposia and Contexts support the vital emergence of supportive opportunities for scholars and practitioners to publish work in the interdisciplinary field of systemic design.

The Systemic Design Association's membership ethos is to co-create the socialization and support for all members to contribute their work, find feedback and collaboration where needed, and pursue their pathways toward research and practice outcomes that naturally build a vital design field for the future.


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