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.
Delft, The Netherlands
MASTER OF SCIENCE, INDUSTRIAL DESIGN ENGINEERING
The Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) program matches the evolution of people with the revolution of technology, which is the focus of the students, researchers and teachers working at the Faculty of Industrial Design Engineering. Delft designers act as a bridge between advancements in technology and the needs of people, organisations and society.
Chair: Mieke van der Bijl-Brouwer, Associate Professor, Delft University of Technology
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.
MASTER OF DESIGN and PhD
ID is a top-rated graduate program 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, ID is dedicated to preparing students to effectively address dynamic and complex business, civic, and social challenges with rigour, depth, and imagination.
The curriculum provides students with the real-world skills needed to integrate, interconnect, and innovate beyond traditional practices of design. ID students are taught to shape compelling opportunities through actively developing insight from multiple perspectives, exploring options through aggressive prototyping and critique, and identifying valuable directions that prompt action and support resilient change. Students learn through hands-on projects and real-world challenges, both individually and in team collaborations.
Chair: Carlos Teixeira, Professor in Design and PhD Program Coordinator, IIT Institute 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.
Master of Design, Product Design
The National Institute of Design (NID) product design programme assimilates inputs in diverse domains such as human factors, cognitive ergonomics, form studies, studio skills, advanced CAD, research methods, design management, materials and manufacturing processes and social sciences. Emphasis is on the process-centric approach, which shapes a student’s education through participation and teamwork. Design projects form the core of a product designer’s education, with a gradual increase in complexity and covering broad areas that product designers are likely to encounter in their professional careers. Students are actively encouraged to participate in collaborative projects with industry, government, and the social sector.
Chair: Praveen Nahar, Director, National Institute 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.
Master of Design
OCAD University (OCADU) offers an experience-based study programme providing insight into complex problem-solving that includes foresight, business and design innovation methods. Two programs are offered: Strategic Foresight and Innovation, and Design for Health.
OCADU is among those pioneering institutions which are attempting to create new models for education and is aspiring to become a responsible actor in the positive transformation of contemporary society. At the intersection of foresight and design, the program combines design thinking and business thinking with futures thinking, which is key to improving strategic intervention.
The 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. It interweaves design methods, social science, systemic design, futures thinking and business design with the aim of providing the skills and knowledge to better identify critical issues, frame problems differently and develop innovative strategies, solutions and implementation plans. Through holistic thinking in a co-creative environment, a highly diverse group of students learn how to develop together the skills required for innovation leadership.
Chair: Peter Jones, Associate Professor, Faculty of Design, Graduate Studies
Co-Chairs: Alex Ryan, VP of Systems Innovation and Program Director of the MaRS Solutions Lab and Peter Jones, Associate Professor, Faculty of Design, Graduate Studies
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.
Master of Design, Executive Master, PhD
The Oslo School of Architecture and Design (AHO) program, Systems Oriented Design (SOD), aims to develop new methodologies. It draws from a vast literature in the fields of design and systems thinking concerning the use of reflection in practice, design thinking, visual thinking and gestalt theory, soft systems theory, systems architecting, systems engineering, critical systems thinking as well as parts of systems dynamics and second-order cybernetics. Most importantly, these methodologies relate to practice-based research and particularly. Theory development here is bottom-up through research by (and through) design, fieldwork, and methods related to action research, co-design and enquiry grounded in real-life experiences.
Systems Oriented Design provides insight into solving complex problems by combining systems thinking and design thinking. The program 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.
RSD1, RSD2, RSD3, RSD6 Host
Chair: Birger Sevaldson, Professor, Oslo School of Architecture and Design
The Oslo School of Architecture and Design (AHO) program, Systems Oriented Design (SOD), 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.
Master of Science, Systemic Design
The MSc in Systemic Design “Aurelio Peccei” is one of the most innovative educational programmes at the international level and is pursued in close collaboration with Kyoto Club, Club of Rome, ZERI/Blue Economy and other institutions.
The course in Systemic Design prepares designers capable of configuring and managing the complete industrial product design activity to achieve “zero emissions”. This Master aims to promote and further a design culture that place man at the centre of his social, cultural and environmental surroundings.
Chair: Silvia Barbero, Associate Professor, Department of Architecture and Design, Politecnico di Torino
Phd, Management, Production and Design
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. The PhD programme in Management, Production and Design aims at training researchers who can carry out research activities, employing serious methodologies and scientific rigour, and to promote innovations in the field of design, technology, organisation, economics, management and legislation, to foster the innovation of productive systems related to sectors of good and services, in a way which promotes social, healthcare, environmental and economic sustainability.
Chair: Silvia Barbero, Associate Professor, Department of Architecture and Design, Politecnico di Torino
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
ETH Zürich | MOOC
Designing Resilient Regenerative Systems
Systemic design’s first Massive Open Online Course (MOOC)
ETH Zürich’s Systemic Design Labs offers a four-part certificate course that hybridizes sustainability science, systemic design and transformative action. It features worldviews, tools, illustrations and transformative networks to build your capacities and engage in systemic innovation of complex systems.
The series is dedicated to creating a positive impact in complex systems in times of nested crises and navigating complexity and uncertainty with new tools and practices, such as ‘organic emergence’. Designing Resilient Regenerative Systems constitutes a learning journey with an emphasis on new holistic worldviews, concepts like regeneration and resilience, befriending complexity and uncertainty, methods and hybrid practices of science and design, connecting more with our inner self, and becoming bio-regional weavers within communities of transformational learning and praxis.
Contact: Tobias Luthe, Program Director, Systemic Design Labs
Related RSD10 Paper: Enriching Synergies in Systemic Design: Hybridizing science, design and transformative action
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.
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.
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.
Academic and trade books have been published by SDA members as the field has developed.