Margherita Vacca, Francesco Cantini, Alessio Tanzini, and Fabio Ballerini

University of Florence, Department of Architecture, Laboratory of Design for Sustainability

As Laboratory of Design for Sustainability (LDS), our main objective is to investigate and analyse the contribution of design to complex contemporary challenges, applying the sustainable paradigm through a systemic and critical approach, i.e. in its multiple environmental, social, cultural and economic nature.

The presentation starts with a reflection on global upheavals, such as the proliferation of ecological disasters, lack of care for the Other and the Elsewhere, and growing social inequalities. We propose the need to redirect the attention of design towards an eco-social perspective as the two components are deeply intertwined and cannot be addressed individually (Armiero, 2021).

So how do we design in time of trouble? Through national and international research and development projects, we have investigated and studied how to answer this question, trying to outline and promote an eco-social perspective of a highly systemic and speculative nature. The invitation for design is to engage in critical dialogue with other disciplines; in this sense, we will present case studies that have seen the establishment of interdisciplinary design discourse, including areas relating to the Social and Natural Sciences. The aim is to compose a scientific framework of interdisciplinary methods and tools (design-driven, co-design, systemic thinking, participatory approach) that arises in the border spaces between knowledge and points of critical dialogue among academic silos. A tentacular operation (Haraway, 2016) is necessary to understand the complex challenges or missions that await the designer to explore new possibilities of applying systemic thinking to design and develop a critical point of view essential for promoting an alternative to the status quo.

The output of our critical enquiries is the development of an eco-social design framework consisting of three design formulas. They provide a possible direction for design research and practice dealing with complex issues and transdisciplinary connections. By visualising a different and critical application of the systemic approach, we intend to present how design research, practice and methodology can be enriched and “re-meant” by adopting an eco-social perspective.

KEYWORDS: eco-social perspective, system thinking, design methodology, system design applications, beyond anthropocentrism

The eco-social perspective results in a framework of a systemic and rhizomatic nature and represents a mapping of the design flow that acts in an osmotic way: passing from micro to macro contexts and interacting with heterogeneous disciplines

The three formulas, specifically, are Human + Human (anthropocentric dimension), Human Augmented (intermediate dimension that wants to overcome the anthropocentric vision by incorporating systemic flows such as green transition and digital transformation), Human + Non-Human (effective overcoming of anthropocentrism and definition of a new humanism, more inclusive, systemic and in dialogue with other species).

Sketchnote by Patricia Kambitch | Playthink

Citation Data

Author(s): Margherita Vacca, Francesco Cantini, Alessio Tanzini, and Fabio Ballerini
Year: 2022
Title: Toward an Eco-Social perspective: How to design in time of trouble
Published in: Proceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design
Volume: RSD11
Article No.: 183
Host: University of Brighton
Location: Brighton, UK
Symposium Dates: October 3–16, 2022
First published: 20 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.


Verified by MonsterInsights