Systemic Design

Field of possibilities sod web

Systemic design as a field of possibilities. (B. Sevaldson 2013).

SOD is placed slightly off centre, closer to design practice, approximately at the red blurred dot.

The idea of systemic design as a pluralistic field opens the possibilities to several different approaches to systemic design that are not only allowed, but encouraged. This was the proposal of Birger Sevaldson at the 2013 RSD2 Symposium in Oslo.

Systems-oriented design is placed approximately at the red blurred dot, a is a bit off center in the diagram, a little bit toward the practice side and a bit design heavy rather than systems heavy.

Systemic design emerged from the Relating Systems Thinking and Design symposia (RSD), an initiative by Sevaldson that started in 2012 as a symposium for systems-oriented design students at the Oslo School of Architecture and Design (AHO). Sevaldson suggested using the term systemic design for the whole field regarding the intersection between design and systems thinking (Sevaldson, 2013). The notion of systemic design has diffuse roots, but it was introduced in its current form by Harold Nelson and Erik Stolterman in their book, The Design Way (Nelson & Stolterman, 2012). The motivation of Sevaldson to abandon SOD as a notion for the whole field was because of the risk of watering out its design-oriented and practice-heavy approach and also to colonise a much bigger territory than what felt justified. This spurred the further development of the RSD symposia as a forum for the whole pluralistic systemic design field and also triggered the founding of the Systemic Design Research Network.


The Systemic Design website is found at


Nelson, H. G., & Stolterman, E. (2012). The design way: intentional change in an unpredictable world: foundations and fundamentals of design competence. Englewood Cliffs: 1st ed. Educational Technology, 2nd ed. MIT press.


Sevaldson, B. (2013). RSD2 intro lecture. Oslo. Retrieved from