DS 110: Proceedings of the 23rd International Conference on Engineering and Product Design Education (E&PDE 2021), VIA Design, VIA University in Herning, Denmark. 9th -10th September 2021

Year: 2021
Editor: Grierson, Hilary; Bohemia, Erik; Buck, Lyndon
Author: Wigum, Kristin Storen (1); Gulden, Tore (2)
Series: E&PDE
Institution: 1: OsloMet, Norway; 2: OsloMet, Norway
Section: Meeting 21st Century Challenges in Further and Higher Education
DOI number: 10.35199/EPDE.2021.81
ISBN: 978-1-912254-14-9


In this article we discuss the pain of letting go of the existing illusion of the designers’ ability to predict the future. The illusion is typically existent when it is considered a skill to survive within the local systems of practice and thus reassure the existence of business and design practice by economic and environmental risk prevention through design. We have oriented the discussion about the assumption of that the uncertainty of the human and animal future may orient designers into a new role in society and business practice. We further discuss how this may lead to a design understanding that builds on systems theory and cybernetics, where one focuses on the design of new structures and thus for the emergence of subsystems that produce a new type of growth and systems goals. We modelled this discussion about the research question of; how can design education play a role for future designers’ piloting development in the complexity of the uncertain? Design educations are slowly bringing in systemic design thinking in order to be able to design for complex uncertainty. However, our teaching methods and design methodology that is rooted about the making of things, cannot meet the needs of future designers that will operate in exceedingly complex contexts (Ashby,1963). The systems goal of existent design practice, which is growth, perhaps needs new measures of success. Joanna Macy (2014) presented the five gifts or rewards of uncertainty, 1) The present moment, discover this living life. You don’t have to take the temperature on your hope for life – that takes you out of the present moment. 2) the power of intention, 3) become whole by befriending our pain, 4) solidarity with all our relations, and 5) time, the immensity of time. Macy’s dimensions emerged from cybernetics and are typically oriented about the study of the now and praxis (Bateson 2000/1972). Based on this emphasis on praxis we discuss how the managing of a design project will function different if there existed an individual as well as a common toolbox for understanding, monitoring and evolving, and adapting the phases the design process is going through. This in addition to the ability of communicating the gained insight, dialogues, decision-making and facilitate the progress in a development process. For our future designer to handle such processes we have developed a sketch for a framework leading and monitoring a flexible design process based on experiences from systemic design, cybernetics, and system theory by Donella Meadows (2008). The framework is based on a net of system lenses and guidelines based on her grounded theory and builds on three phases: The twelve leverage points, the fifteen lenses of transition and living in systems, and the eight traps from the three archetypes of troublesome systems. The framework consists of three main step stones: 1) The exploration ‘what is’ 2) The journey ‘where can we go’ 3) The challenge of transition ‘the turning point’ The methodology will be discussed through theory, design case studies and teaching practice.

Keywords: System theory, systemic design, design process, toolbox for uncertainty


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