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Plenaries & panels

Co-design for Complexity: Deepening Design and Systems Sciences

Format: Plenaries & Panels, RSD1, Topic: Learning & Education

Peter Jones

Systemic design and systems

Design practices generate concepts and intervene for change. Design sidesteps entrenched systems and unpredictable leaps. Creative orientations to products and services are based more on human behaviour and culture than systems understanding.

  • Systems thinking draws from system theories
  • Tools and perspectives for understanding and reasoning
  • Don’t mistake the map (method) for territory
  • Theory guides everything in systems practice

How can we enhance the outcomes that matter?

Creating an inquiring system … A collective anticipatory system … A dialogic social system

Our challenge seems to be “improving design practices by integrating best knowledge of systems thinking.”

  • Do we have that best knowledge? We’re at a bit of a new starting point and  yet …
  • Systemic problems go beyond planning & politics
    Two people analogue mapping on a whiteboard with sticky notes.

    Common principles – systemics & design thinking

    • Framing – Refraining from premature problem solving
    • Iterative inquiry
    • Human-centered – Different contexts
    • By participants with a stake in the outcome
    • Selected for requisite variety to the problem
    • Dialogic process
    • Complexity embraced as the reality of the situation
    • Multiple design actions over time
    • Temporality is critical to decision/­intervention
    • Understanding systemics does not assume action
    • Design actions need not be systemic in every case
    map showing the problem elements

    Unpacking the problem elements

    Based on R. Horn, 2004, Adapted with permission.

    Image: Vanessa Tan (vantan at – History of Cybernetics and Systems Science, CC BY 2.0,




    Citation Data

    Author(s): Peter Jones
    Title: Co-design for Complexity: Deepening Design and Systems Sciences
    Published in: Proceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design
    Article No.:
    Host: Oslo School of Architecture and Design
    Location: Oslo, Norway
    Symposium Dates: October 4–5, 2012
    First published: 7 November 2012
    Last update:
    Publisher Identification: ISSN 2371-8404
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