Systems Oriented Design

The designerly way to work with systems

The main mission of Systems Oriented Design is to build the designers own interpretation and implementation of systems thinking so that systems thinking can fully benefit from design thinking and practice and so that design thinking and practice can fully benefit from systems thinking.




At a lecture for the students of Michael Hensels wood studio I mapped wood as a material system together with the students. The media was the good old black board and the shown map emerged during two hours of conversation with the students. The mapping shows only selected parts of the whole complexity of the production, applicaiton and recycling of wood as a building material. But it gives a good hint to how vastly complex and interconnected one system is with the other. Especially the amount of fossile fuel based processes in the produciton and application of wood are mind provoking.

There is a very special feel to the good old black board which several of my collegues enjoy as well. I hope it never disappears.


Time-line mapping


A while ago we had a workshop with a group of people from the Performance Group. We have established an intention to collaborate further and develop the techniques in management. In the workshop we used the time line mapping of processes that we have used successfully now for many times. This technique makes it possible to have planning and synchronising meetings with no written agenda, still the result is very focused and intense discussions.


Why systems thinking needs design thinking

I was reading late Russel Ackoff's and Rovin Sheldons "Redesigning Society" a while ago. Ackoff is one of the true heroes in systems thinking and his achievements are substantial. To my knowledge one of the most important contributions of Ackoff is the critique of technical systems approaches and to be one of the first to state that such "hard" approaches have limited value when working with human activity systems.

Foresight and scenario workshop at AHO


Photo by Suzanne Stein

Suzanne Stein from Ontario College of Art & Design, OCAD in Toronto had a fantastic three days workshop on foresight and scenario techniques at AHO from the 2nd to the 4th February.

Read more about Suzanne in the peoples section or at


Systems Thinking vs Design Thinking

Fred Collopy wrote an article where he suggest that there is a dichotomy between Systems thinking and design thinking. Systems Oriented Design attempts to combine the both. The systems approach in Systems oriented design is non orthodox, open ended, relates on critical systems thinking and is defined more as a practice than as a theory. We try to use the best from both. There is no doubt to my mind that design thinking suffers from too simplistic and too narrow scopes and that it needs to become better in coping with systemic changes and relations. While established systems theories are often held back by dogmatic defence of certain positions, models and theories.

Here is the article: >>>>>

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