Academic Programs

The SDA was founded from the Systemic Design Research Network, a group of collaborating academics who conduct research, teach, and actively practice as consultants and advisors. The academic educational context is uniquely critical to the future of systemic design so that future researchers and practitioners develop the deep skills and knowledge required to advance systemic design.

Over time, universities and colleges have introduced full-degree programs or systemic design courses. The programs below represent the growing list of higher education programs and customizable degrees that include systemic design courses, traditional and new media design, and social science methods courses that round out a systemic design concentration.


OCAD University logo

Delft, The Netherlands

Industrial Design Engineering

Master of Science

Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) faculty of Industrial Design Engineering offers three Master programmes; Design for Interaction, Integrated Product Design, and Strategic Product Design.

Institute of Design logo

Chicago, USA


PhD, Master of Design

The ID program is for those seeking to teach or conduct fundamental research in the field of human-centred design. Founded on the belief that design connects and enhances every aspect of life, the IIT Institute of Design (ID) is dedicated to preparing students to effectively address dynamic and complex business, civic, and social challenges with rigour, depth, and imagination.

National Institute of Design

Ahmadebad, India

Product Design

Master of Design

Product design is concerned primarily with the relationship between products, systems and those who use them. The product design programme at the National Institute of Design (NID) inculcates a user-centric approach and processes. Responsibility and concern towards the social, physical and ecological environments are emphasized in the process of developing innovative ideas.

OCAD University logo

Toronto, Canada

Strategic Foresight and Innovation | Design for Health

Master of Design

The OCAD University program develops competencies in foresight, business and design innovation methods that, when applied, will develop solutions that are strategic, transformative and sustainable — economically, socially, and environmentally — and address human needs.

AHO logo

Oslo, Norway

Systems Oriented Design

PhD, Executive Master, and Master of Design

AHO Systems Oriented Design considers the entire systems of complex challenges, from natural resources extraction to material and product supply chains, services, people interaction, the built environment, communities and urban environments, to landscapes and economies.

Politecnico di Torino logo

Torino, Italy

Management, Production and Design | Systemic Design

PhD | Master of Science

Systemic Design graduate students work across sectors to develop open industrial design systems and new and sustainable products and product systems. Politecnico di Torino supports an innovation culture in which interest in innovation relates to a vision of the problems from a different angle and with a multidisciplinary approach to the production system, and is also attentive to the humanistic components.


Carnegie Mellon University | Pittsburgh, USA

PhD, Transition Design

Fundamental change at every level of society is needed to address the issues confronting us in the 21st century. From climate change, loss of biodiversity, and depletion of natural resources, to systems of oppression, inequality, and inequity, Transition Design tackles these kinds of complex, wicked problems.

Carnegie Mellon’s PhD in Transition Design is for people committed to making a positive change in the world. The program develops future design leaders with the capacity to envision and realize purposeful change across a range of complex systems – from food, water, materials and products, to policy, culture, economy, cities, and social movements.

Transition Design acknowledges that we are living in transitional times, takes as its central premise the need for societal transition (systems-level change) to more just, equitable, and sustainable futures, and argues that design and designers have a key role to play in these transitions. This kind of design is connected to long horizons of time, pluriversal perspectives, compelling visions of desired futures, and must be based upon new knowledge and skillsets. Research in Transition Design, while grounded in systems thinking, can also be undertaken from the perspective of many areas of interest—circular economies, commoning, decoloniality, sociotechnical transitions, public policy, stakeholder participation, and futuring, to name a few.

Contact: Terry Irwin, Professor and Director, The Transition Design Institute

Georgetown University | Washington DC, USA

Master of Arts, Communication, Culture & Technology

Georgetown University offers a Master of Arts Program dedicated to the impact of technology on society and society on technology. The customizable degree includes systemic design courses, traditional and new media design and social science methods courses. The following courses are relevant to a systemic design concentration.

CCTP 506 Fundamentals of Technology offers a technologically grounded approach to the study of sociotechnical systems that introduce systems thinking, actor-network theory, multiscale analysis, and system mapping along with basic visualization techniques.

CCTP 611 Systemic Design & UX develops the connections between systems and design thinking, introduces human-centred design methods commonly used in UX and service design, and provides a context for exploring how to adapt a human-centred approach to systems-level change.

CCTP-810 Foresight Methods and Practice introduces foresight methods and their application to organizational management.

CCTP-820 Leading by Design explores systems and design thinking as universal design principles in computational and networked technologies and interrogates their role in fostering social and organizational configurations.

CCTP 619 Sustainability: Theory and Practice introduces core concepts and controversies around sustainability from a systems perspective covering basic ecology and economics topics to transition design and deep adaptation.

Contact: Evan Barba, Associate Professor, Graduate – Communication, Culture, and Technology Program

OsloMet University | Oslo, Norway

Master of Design, Product Design, Design in Complexity

OsloMet’s Design in Complexity has an essential role in the shift towards sustainable societies. Design is central in user-oriented methods, and when consumption behaviour is relevant products play an important role. Challenges include increased populations, digitalisation of professional, social and private life.

Contact: Tore Gulden, Faculty of Technology, Art and Design, and Department of Product Design

Politecnico di Milano | Milano, Italy

First-Level Specializing Master in Service Design

Politecnico di Milano offers an international training programme – taught entirely in English – focused on a user-centred approach and the development of service ideas from contextual research to prototyping. Students gain an understanding of the systemic dimension of contemporary artifacts, perceived as an indivisible whole of products, services, spaces, people, communication and digital artefacts; they learn an ability to design product-service systems in a strategic way capable of governing and channelling change and innovation in an evolutionary way, in line with the changing context and the sustainability challenge.

Contemporary society has changed a lot in the last decade, accompanied by substantial technological empowerment and important societal and economic transformations. Throughout our daily lives, we increasingly get in touch with a huge variety of services provided to different users and contexts, which involve different types of innovation in many fields: mobility, health, finance, insurance, tourism, hospitality, and education, just to mention few. These experiences and performances need to be designed to create value for citizens, firms, not for profit organisations, public administrations as well as governments.

The Specializing Master in Service Design was especially created in response to the growing demand for professionals specifically able to handle the complexity of designing a service. To achieve this purpose, the Specializing Master programme integrates general theory with methodology and hands-on experience aimed at the creation of systemic, complex solutions that blend material and immaterial components.

Daniela Sangiorgi, Associate Professor, Design Department
Carlo Vezzoliprofessor of product Design for environmental Sustainability and System Design for Sustainability

Tongji University | Shanghai, P.R. China

PhD | Master of Design

Tongji University offers several programs that involve systemic design: Advanced Industrial Design, Advanced Environmental Design, and Product-Service Systems.

Contact: Susu Nousala, Professor, College of Design and Innovation

University of Antwerp | Antwerpen, Belgium

Master of Product Development

The University of Antwerp programme is taught in Dutch.

Contact: Kristel Van Ael, Academic Staff Member


The Systemic Design Toolkit was designed by Kristel Van Ael (Namahn) and developed by an SDA team for public and training versions of the toolkit.

The Toolkit is a collection of over 40 canvases assigned to design actions in a seven-stage co-creation methodology to engage organisational and societal complexity.


Researchers at whiteboard

Research – An interdisciplinary field

The field emerging as systemic design has jumped ahead to engage societal issues now recognised as ever more important for designers to address, ranging from design for health and well-being, quality of life, socioeconomics, urbanization, policy design, and cultural development.

Researchers at whiteboard

Systemic Design Tools

The featured resources are uniquely associated with their launch or development at RSD symposia and have continued in development for research, teaching and training.

Researchers at whiteboard

Featured Books

Academic and trade books have been published by SDA members as the field has developed.


Join the SDA mailing list and stay up-to-date on this and other systemic design news.

Don't forget: The Relating Systems Thinking and Design Symposium is November 3-6, 2021.


Share This