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.

News blog

Collapse of Complex Societies

Susanne Ringdal from HALOGEN made me aware of this wonderful deep lecture lecture by Dr. Joseph Tainter, the author of the book Collapse of Complex Societies

Very thoughtful lecture for all working in public sector and governance and even complex private companies.

The lecture is devided into five parts that should start automatically.


Norwegian Labour and Welfare Service and Adult Education

Kassotakis Michail 5 46784056 1200


The project of the week is a study into adult education by the Norwegian Labour and Welfare Service, NAV. The project is by master students Michael Kassostakis and Eva Hugenschmidt from the design education at Oslo Met.

They write: "People are unable to use, contact or keep up with public services due to language problems, digital illiteracy and amount of information channels and the complexity of the system. This prevents and discourages people from being able to register themselves in the system, ask help or have complete understanding of their obligations and opportunities, thus creating a gap between them and the public system. This gap may enhance feelings such as isolation, discomfort and vulnerability, towards the public services, especially for people with additional problems.

Our purpose is to bridge the gap between people and the public services by creating a fun and interactive platform for communication, conversation and self-improvement, whilst offering an overview of the whole system. A tool, that can be used by both the people and the public system to communicate, review build trust and plan the future together."

Tutor was professor Tore Gulden

Read their report below



Cant see the PDF?: Please download the PDF to view it: >>>>>



Decoding Empathy

Gigamap Empathy 1 for web 1200

Decoding Empathy. Click the map to see the whole map. Make sure to studie the components of empathy on the left side of the big version of the map.


Empathy has almost become a cliché in the design world. Maybe understanding empathy better would provide more robust content to the notion of empathy and to the design work claiming it to be central in user oriented design. 

At NID in Ahmedabad India they have developed a tradition of gigamapping that is quite characteristic. It is recognised by its vivid use of metaphors, making these maps immediately accessible. A group of students under the guidance of Prof Praveen Nahar and  Sahil Thappa pulled apart the notion of empathy and revealed it as a systems of its own.

This map was exhibited at the RSD8 in Chicago. There much more to the map than what you see in the image above. Click it to dive into the information.

The NID will host the ninth Relating Systems Thinking and Design conference 13th-15th October 2020. We are looking forward to the input from the creative and vivid Indian design community.

To read more about this project follow this link >>>>>


Team: The apathetic beings
National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, India

Guide: Praveen Nahar & Sahil Thappa
Team members:
Swayamsiddha, Shefali, Awanee, Supreethe, Vaidehe


Towards a Circular Denim Industry

Graduation Poster Lieke van Raan 1200


Lieke van Raan was an exchange student at AHO from TU Delft in 2018, where she spent a semester learning SOD. She came to AHO to learn Systems Oriented Design. See her project from then here. She went back to TU Delft and did her master thesis with honours degree. This was a SOD project investigating one of the big problems regarding sustainability, the textile industry and denim produciton in particular.

The project was done within the Delft University of Technology and the client was the House of Denim Foundation


Read more about this project here.


Resilience, Systemic Innovation and Circular Design in Mountain Communities

Fitzpatrick Luthe IAAC RCS Poster crop 1200


This poster “Reaching New Heights” describes the resiliency of a mountain community in the Italian Alps, where systemic innovation is fostered by a real-world laboratory with a set of “design tools for change”, i.e. different types of circularities. The goal is to gain community support for disruptive changes to develop a regenerative economy on nested spatial scales.


The Monviso Institute is embedded in the revitalizing mountain village of Ostana, where local and regional “flows” of finances, carbon dioxide and identity are analyzed to describe and design a circular economy that stretches beyond classic material flows.
The Institute is founded by Tobias Luthe, professor at ETH Zürich and AHO.  Read more about Tobias here >>>>>
First poster author Haley Fitzpatrick is design associate at the MVI and architect at Renzo Piano Building Workshop, Genova.

Reaching New Heights

Systemic Innovation and Identity for Resilient Alpine Communities

A systems-oriented design poster by Haley Fitzpatrick and Tobias Luthe

This poster entitled “Reaching New Heights” showcases systemic innovation in relation with cultural identity for resilient alpine communities on the case of the MonViso Institute in the community of Ostana, Italian Piedmont mountains. In this context, the Monviso Institute (MVI) as real-world laboratory for sustainability transitions and systemic regenerative design experiments with circular design solutions on various scales. This poster highlights some of the designed circularities on different scales, from materials to buildings to the evolving MVI campus, to the surrounding Po Valley and the regional scale, and sets them into context of the resiliency development phases.

Click link below picture to read more.


Monviso 2

Site of the Monviso Institute before rebuilding started.

Continues from text above:

The poster is setup in this logical way: First, it describes the context of mountain communities and their efforts to resist outmigration and abandonment due to socio-economic changes, and to adapt to strong impacts of climate change. We use the resilience framework “Adaptive Waves” (Luthe and Wyss 2016) to show that Ostana went through a serious crisis, a release phase, leading to a historical low of inhabitants and economic activities. Today, Ostana is between a reorganization and a new growth phase, where the mayor has been working to transform Ostana into an “alpine laboratory” with a new kind of economy that is more resilient, meaning it has a higher adaptive and innovative capacity to withstand undesired changes. Such resilient systems that regenerate can be found in nature, and they function circular, based on shared resources, on no waste existing, and on cooperation – across scales and system boundaries.

The MVI engages in regenerative design of such circular systems, and in this case experiments with circularity on different nested scales, making circular thinking and designing tangible, accessible, illustrative, and evaluating the benefits for systemic innovation of the Ostana and Valle Po economy, to become more resilient. Implementing such systemic innovation, for example in the locally protected type of stone building architecture, requires cooperation of and within the community; change brings up resistance, though, too. The MVI demonstrates different types of circularity as practical solutions – ecological, energy, water, material, and socio-economic circularity – in order to break resistance and empower the community to proceed building up new desired resilience. The MVI “tools for change” such as the Regenerative Design Talks, the support of student research, the “Doppio” demonstration building on campus, and professional trainings are concrete applications that support the transition path and new resiliency growth phase of Ostana.

Further context

Mountains are some of the best indicators of the rapidly changing dynamics of our planet, from immigration trends, political sentiments to climate change. While they connect globally, topographic constraints tend to isolate locally: harsh climates, limited access and services, aging populations and outdated economies have culturally and ideologically isolated many alpine villages from the recirculation of new energy and innovation that is often seen in urban areas.

Empowering these communities to achieve both localized self-sufficient alpine urbanism as well as macro-mutualism between nearby plains-based cities will insure a more resilient network of multi-scalar circular systems.

Yet, like many small communities with strong identities rooted in historical practices, integrating innovation cannot happen without dedicated social learning. Within Europe, many metropolitan areas have already begun implementing the 2030 UN Sustainable Development Goals. In contrast, many alpine villages tend to react slower, traditional means and methods harder to surrender, faced with limited support and lack of cultural incentive. Framing sustainable adaptations as stimulating opportunities instead of risky consequences will not only encourage resilient systems but instill confidence and pride into the evolving identity of alpine communities.

Ostana’s identity is directly linked to the cultural heritage of the built environment, resonating from the Occitan culture. How traditional practices, present-day experimentation and innovative futures can come together and regenerate the nested systems is a key focus of the Monviso Institute’s (MVI) work. Operating as a real-world laboratory, MVI studies sustainable living options and shapes systemic regenerative innovation within Ostana and beyond with the founding principles of research, education, entrepreneurship, and public engagement. MVI actively demonstrates circularity in many capacities and at many scales, from water and energy systems, to socio-economic and cultural networks, all accessible to the public and engaged with the broader community. For example, the campus is sensitively being adapted from six traditional stone buildings into energy-generating, functional spaces. The first reconstructed building, the passive net-positive duplex “Il Doppio” healthily disrupts the current architectural practices, providing both supporters and skeptics learning opportunities for nature-based solutions. 

Social circularity and “tools for change” take many forms at MVI and go beyond the campus environment. The annual Trans-Occitan Alps Safari mixes international skiers, hikers and bikers with local musicians. Grown Skis design workshops revamp traditional ski fabrication methods with circular materials like paulownia and hemp. This synergetic approach to exchanging global and local ideas in a face-to-face way is becoming more and more necessary in today’s digital focus. Beyond demonstrating circularity as an institute, MVI realized a need to create a flexible tool to overcome resistance and promote synergetic discussion on building resilient alpine environments. In spring 2019, the Regenerative Design Talks (RDT) were founded; a collaborative workshop series focusing in the interconnected relationship of design, nature, the built environment and mountain identity in Ostana and beyond. The series have included brainstorming sessions with renown climate scientists and sustainable city innovators on renewable energy and e-mobility for climate protection, on nature-based solutions in architecture, and hands-on practices in designing with Hemp, again inviting leading experts in the field.



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