Andres Pineda, Ulrik Jørgensen and Erik Hagelskjær Lauridsen

system design

In this paper we present the motivation, rationale and methodological outline of a framework for designing sustainable systems. The proposal builds on a discussion that draws on literature from the fields of: Sustainable Transitions, which claims that the necessary transformations of our modern technological systems require paradigm shifts and thus systemic change; Design, which have enriched the scope, scale, and character of objects of design overcoming the limited focus on products to embrace service systems, social innovation and transition design (Irwin, 2015); systemic thinking which has taken up the challenge and need to support design projects at different levels (Ryan, 2014); and socio-technical change, that has contributed with widely adopted theories and methods to analyse technologies in context as socio-technical networks (Latour, 2005). The result is a three stage meta-methodology that guides the collaborative process of designing new mid-range systems like local energy systems, neighbourhood recycling systems and cycles of circular economy for products. We will illustrate the analysis with the presentation of four exemplary projects from students where different aspects of systemic change are salient: inter-systemic dynamics (Blåvoulevard, 2015; Affasldsystem AFK, 2016); intra-systemic dynamics (Energi Sydhavenen, 2016) and circular economy (Ikea, 2016). These projects are developed by students at the 5th semester of the BSc Sustainable Design Engineering, however the aspects discussed here on system design are relevant for the whole education and for the MSc in Sustainable Design Engineering.

Irwin, T. (2015). Transition design: A proposal for a new area of design practice, study, and research. Design and Culture, 7(2), 229-246.

Latour, B. (2005). Reassembling the social: An introduction to actor-network-theory. Oxford university press.

Ryan, A. (2014). A Fram

Citation Data

Author(s): OCTOBER 2017
Title: Sustainable System Design
Published in: Proceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design
Article No.:
Symposium Dates:
First published: 12 October 2017
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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).


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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.

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Peter Jones
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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.

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