Building a Systemic Designer’s Library: Borrowing from multiple disciplines to develop systemic design mental models

Format: Papers, RSD11, Topic: Economics & Organisations, Topic: Methods & Methodology

Beatrice V. Luna

Design & development practitioner—products, services, organisations

Adding to the systemic design toolkit by borrowing concepts from physics, medicine, and economics.

This presentation expands on the use of metaphors and analogical thinking in systemic design by offering a work-in-progress catalogue of mental models drawing concepts from multiple disciplines to support systemic design approaches. It first explores how analogical thinking supports systemic design and then catalogues how practitioners have previously used metaphors as tools that facilitate design activities (from products to services and systemic interventions). Adding to this catalogue, I present mental models using analogues drawn from different disciplines and show how doing so can offer new perspectives, mental models, and techniques designers can adapt to strengthen their practice. I present sample mental models drawn from physics, medicine, and economics and show the possibilities these offer to systemic design activities, such as framing problem spaces, generating objective ideas, and facilitating change.

KEYWORDS: systemic design, transdisciplinary, metaphors, analogical thinking, analogies

RSD TOPIC(S): Methods & Methodology

Citation Data

Author(s): Beatrice V. Luna
Year: 2022
Title: Building a Systemic Designer’s Library: Borrowing from multiple disciplines to develop systemic design mental models
Published in: Proceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design
Volume: RSD11
Article No.: 097
Host: University of Brighton
Location: Brighton, UK
Symposium Dates: October 3–16, 2022
First published: 23 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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