Systemic Design: Evolution of a field from theory to practice


  • Peter Jones OCAD University


Systems change, Systemic design, Transdisciplinarity


Systemic design, while known for its practice of design-based systems maps, has from its origins advanced a holistic integrated practice that draws on any effective design, research, and method skills for complexity contexts. The field has grown from a small group of senior design scholars at design universities exploring approaches for complex social systems, policy and system change. The first Relating Systems Thinking and Design Symposium was held in 2012 at Oslo School of Architecture and Design, and for the first few years many of the studies and presentations were theoretical and exploratory.  The progression of the field has followed from exploratory methods and design studies to serious practice applications in public policy, social innovation, sociotechnical systems design and evaluation, and service system design, in cases and consultation. The discipline demonstrates a deliberate turn from the discovery and exploration of appropriate theory for design potentials (e.g., anticipatory systems, social ecology, multi-level perspective, language-action, activity theory) to that of real-world applications.

Author Biography

Peter Jones, OCAD University

Dr. Peter Jones is associate professor in the Faculty of Design at Toronto’s OCAD University, teaching in the Strategic Foresight and Innovation MDes program, of which he was a founding faculty member. He received his Ph.D. from the Union Institute (Cincinnati, Ohio) in Design and Innovation Management, and an M.A. in Human Factors – Experimental Psychology from the University of Dayton (Ohio). Dr. Jones founded Redesign Research in 2001 (Dayton), now located in Toronto as of Canadian residency (2009). A system and service designer, Peter has designed market-leading information services for healthcare, scientific, and business practices, and advises organizations on product/service design, innovation strategy and competency building.