Systemic Mirrors

At the Relating Systems Thinking & Design symposium RSD12, Carine van Loon and I presented a new concept in systemic design, which we refer to as ‘systemic mirroring’: designing an object that provides system stakeholders with a different perspective on the system they are part of. It confronts them with their beliefs about the system and their role in it. We hope that such mirrors support stakeholders in redesigning the system from the inside out. We illustrate the concept with Carine’s graduation project in which she designed a children’s book that reflects the care system around parents with a child with special needs. You can watch our presentation here.

Systems thinking + design = ?

It’s about time we explained what we mean with ‘systemic design’. Four years ago we founded a Systemic Design Lab at TU Delft where we explore how systems thinking might support designing for complex challenges. Since the opening of the lab we have had many conversations with colleagues, students and other designers about what systemic design is and why we need it. We’re also increasingly being told it is a fad and that we are overpromising what it can do. Fair enough, we have probably not been very clear about what it is and what we claim it can achieve. So what is it that systemic designers design, why do they design these things and how do they do it? Well, that depends on who you ask. In this blog post on Medium, I introduce a few different perspectives on the topic

Designing for human relationships to positively enable systemic change

How we can design for human relationships to positively enable systemic change? In a rapidly changing world, organisations, communities, and social networks need to be able to continuously adapt. From complex systems theory we learn that strong human relationships are at the core of such adaptive behaviour, and promote mutual learning, collective creativity and motivation. But what can we do to shape these relationships? In the study presented in this article I explored how design expertise can be used to design conditions – e.g. services, platforms and events – that enable positive human relationships. I also argue that an understanding of complex systems behaviour and  of the role of human relationships might help professionals with design expertise to more intentionally design for complex systemic change. The study is one of the reasons we are now developing a course ‘designing for complexity’ for our master students. I would also love to know if the ideas presented in the paper resonate with design practitioners.

Systemic Design Principles in Social Innovation

Hello 2021! The second half of 2020 was very hectic and as a result I have failed to update this blog with the news that Bridget Malcolm and myself finally published our study on Systemic Design Principles in She Ji – The Journal of Design, Economics and Innovation. This is the result of a study we started in 2016 into public and social innovation practices. In the article we show which principles the participating social innovation organisations used that build on systems thinking and design, and what we can learn from them. I hope you enjoy it!

Systemic Design slide deck – Service Design Days Challenge

On October 26th I presented some of my work on systemic design practices at the Service Design Days Challenge at the Dutch Design Week in Eindhoven. I talked about the practices of developing a systemic perspective on the problem, designing for evolution, designing for human relationships, and designing for mental models. This is the slide deck of my presentation. You can find references to the articles I referred to in the talk on the last slide.

Enabling creative third spaces through Transdisciplinary partnerships

Last year we (students and staff from the UTS Faculty of Transdisciplinary Innovation) worked on a paper on ‘creative third spaces’ in our teaching & learning practice in the Bachelor of Creative Intelligence and Innovation. I am very pleased and proud that the paper has now been published in the International Journal for Students as Partners, and is available open access here: