Possibilities and practices of systemic design

As RSD moves into its second decade, it is possible to question systemic design’s emerging shape

What are the strengths and limits of joining systems thinking and design practice, and how do these compare to other frameworks? How can systemic designers learn from their growing bodies of practice? What does systemic design make possible, and what are its blind spots? Is it sufficiently radical? Sufficiently pragmatic? Which conventions does systemic design contest? Which does it leave in place? Does systemic design entail particular assumptions about the world, and what might the consequences of these be? As it becomes a more mainstream endeavour, how will it address issues of power, complicity, and privilege?

As designers look to address systemic challenges, they must wrestle with tensions and conflicting requirements within their own practices as well as in those situations they seek to change. Systemic questions cannot be approached one at a time in isolation, yet it is inevitable that design is partial in its engagements – to address everything is implausible or else uncritical to implicit boundary judgements and the privileges of dominant perspectives. Unpredictable interdependencies require a cautious approach, yet incremental strategies risk entrenching underlying errors and injustices by making the status quo more palatable. Deep, long-term changes are needed, but the urgency of the present also demands immediately achievable actions. Moreover, design brings its own entanglements and faulty assumptions – design has contributed to many aspects of systemic crises, yet there is no way forward that is not design in some sense. Nothing about enacting systemic change implies an easy path. Difficulties such as these are to be expected when working across and between multiple contexts. But how can these and other potential impasses be navigated? To what extent is it possible to treat these challenges as any other set of conflicting design criteria? Are new modes of designing needed and how might these be enacted?

Building on previous RSD symposia, RSD11 looks to expand further systemic design’s modes of working:

  • Systemic design has thus far drawn primarily on methodological and organisational aspects of systems thinking as a way of handling complexity. In what ways might other perspectives augment systemic approaches?
  • The systems field is open to the creative arts, countercultural movements, enactive cognitive science, family therapy, posthumanism, and others. How might these transdisciplinary connections further enrich and critique systemic design research and practice?

RSD11 call for contributions

The RSD11 call for contributions invites papers, presentations, interactives, workshops and exhibits that extend and challenge the possibilities and practices of systemic design, including contributions such as:

  • Projects and case studies from practice, education, and research in all areas of systemic design.
  • Transdisciplinary theory building that extends systemic design’s modes of working and range of reference.
  • Critical enquiries that can prompt new phases of development in systemic design.

Seven Focus Sessions

In addition to the general call, RSD11 invites contributions that engage with specific focus sessions, which have been developed as seven provocations for critical reflection, new topics, and challenges to normative direction.

Read about the RSD11 focus areas>

RSD11 Focus Sessions | Seven Provocations

Call for papers with stars

Call for RSD11 Contributions

Now open – activities, workshops, and exhibits. This is the final call for contributions that prompt further questions and enact enquiries. Deadline: August 15

Focus: Design over time

Designers must navigate between the need for immediate action and maintaining long-term change. Yet, it is difficult to think of the temporality of design beyond the consideration of years or decades.

Focus: Products are systemic objects

In this focus, RSD11 is interested in contributions exploring: circular design, regenerative design, distributed design, and, more broadly, ways that designers of things act to shape the nature and legibility of economic, bureaucratic, ecological and cultural systems.

Wood and concrete architecture with the number seven

Focus: Architecture gone wild?

Now that the architecture discipline seems to be arriving at a period of digital sobriety in its modes of practice and generative methods, critical perspectives are needed.

shadow of seven through a metal frame

Focus: Confronting legacies of oppression

A growing group of scholars and practitioners are confronting legacies of oppression in the systemic design domain.

Worn sign with seven in front of field

Focus: Radical shifts in planetary health

Attending to health means fundamentally rethinking where (our) health comes from. The importance of considering global health and human health as intersecting is increasingly pressing.

Number seven on a rock

Focus: Different stories in design

How may we use Bateson’s provocations to rethink the problematic stories around design and modernity as mobilised in contemporary design practices?

seven times table rising up stairs

Focus: Methods and the worlds they make

Methods afford and perpetuate ways of understanding and organising the world much like any other artefact. Because conventions are assumed within the context of a methodological practice, they are difficult to question from within.

RSD Formats

SDA takes a cyclic non-hierarchical approach to advancing scholarship, which SDA calls the publications spiral. The RSD symposia support the vital emergence of supportive opportunities for scholars.

For updates on RSD calls for contributions and related information please subscribe to the RSD newsletter.

RSD11 Call for Contributions

Preparing your submission

  1. RSD uses EasyChair for all submissions (EasyChair is a web-based system for organising paper submissions and reviews).
  2. Submissions need to be uploaded as a single word file (.doc, .docx)and use the RSD11 template.
  3. An existing EasyChair account can be used or a new account can be created at no cost.
  4. In addition to uploading your file, author data, title, abstract, keywords and other information will be requested.

EasyChair instructions for authors

Interactives, Workshops, Exhibits – Now open!

The call for interactive sessions, workshops, and exhibitions is now open.

See the current call for contributions for full details.

Dates: The call for exhibition contributions is open. The deadline for submissions is August 15, 2022.

Full papers – Closed

This call is now closed. Authors who submitted before June 30 and requested a deadline can make changes up to July 15. Please drop us a line in the chat if you need assistance.

Authors were invited to submit full papers discussing the outcomes of research and/or practice projects.

Submission: Full paper of 2000 to 5000 words in RSD template. Also include a short abstract, between 200 and 400 words. Also, include citations and related references in accordance with APA (7th edition) conventions.

Review: Acceptance, suggestions for minor revisions, recommendations to revise as presentation proposal, or reject.

Proceedings: Full papers are published in the proceedings. Discussions at the conference may motivate authors to develop their work to submit to Contexts – The Systemic Design Journal, published by SDA, and other journals. The SDA publications team is available to provide further feedback and support.

Dates: The call for papers is now closed. The deadline for submissions was June 30, 2022.

Presentations & Reports – Closed

This call is now closed. Authors who submitted before June 30 and requested a deadline can make changes up to July 15. Please drop us a line in the chat if you need assistance.

Presentations encompass works-in-progress, exploratory and speculative work, and reports on ongoing research and practice projects.

Submission: Description of up to 1000 words in RSD template, which summarises the presentation and situates it in the context of systemic design and the conference theme. Also include a short abstract, between 200 and 400 words. Also, include citations and related references in accordance with APA (7th edition) conventions.

Review: Accept or reject.

Proceedings: The description (proposal statement in the RSD11 template) and related presentation materials (e.g. slides, audiovisual material) are published in the proceedings. Following the conference, there is an opportunity to update the summary or extend it to a working paper (up to 2000 words), responding to comments received during the presentation session. Discussions at the conference may motivate authors to elaborate on the presentation for submission to a subsequent RSD as a full paper.

Dates: The call for presentations and reports is now closed. The deadline for submissions was June 30, 2022.

Review system
  • All submissions go through a single-blind peer-review process, which means that reviewers see the author names but not vice versa.
  • Reviewers consider the quality of the proposed contribution, its relevance to the conference theme, and its role in raising relevant issues in systemic design.
  • Once reviewed, the organisers will notify all authors of (conditional) acceptance or rejection (for papers, this takes place by mid-summer).
  • The review process provides feedback and possible suggestions for modifications.
  • The conference tracks are formed based on the accepted contributions.

RSD11 Focus Sessions

In addition to the general call, RSD11 includes focus sessions based on seven provocations.

Please indicate the RSD11 focus session in your submission, if applicable.

Posted April 2022
Shell representing publishing spiral

Call for ACTIVITIES, Workshops & Exhibits


Submit via EasyChair

  1. Sign in to EasyChair as an author or set up account (free)
  2. Click on "new submission"
  3. Please use the RSD11 template


August 15, 2022

Contributing to RSD11: four steps

1. Read the RSD11 call for activities, workshops, and exhibits
2. Refer to RSD11 program overview and “Preparing a Paper” for more info
3. Download the RSD11 template
4. Submit via EasyChair


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