With a thriving research community contributing to the annual RSD Symposia, a growing base of research, articles and methods has grown from the RSD proceedings, informing research methods, graduate-level pedagogy and design practices. Systemic design is an open field, that has deliberately held the space between disciplines to allow rigorous and dedicated exploration without the constraints of a prior corpus, preferred methodologies, or even a common research agenda.
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. These are what Latour (2008) presents in A Cautious Prometheus as entangled matters of concern:
How can we draw together matters of concern so as to offer to political disputes an overview, or at least a view, of the difficulties that will entangle us every time we must modify the practical details of our material existence?
These continuous, complex, societal challenges represent the common fields of design attention, in research, practice and education.
Systemic design thrives as a pluralistic field that embraces many (some might say all) systems perspectives in design contexts but has a particular culture that has evolved from its unique history as an academic vision. Methodology and theories have been developed in a co-creative way, both designerly and deeply reasoned, through graduate-level teaching and research through design. The demand side for systemic design practice emerged at first with governments and public sector applications, unlike the development of commercially-focused design disciplines. Although systemic design is not research-driven, has been formed through research support and active experimentation with methods and models.
Systemic design has developed from the discipline and practices emerging between systems theory and design practice. It embraces sociotechnical, ecological and socioeconomic systems, and is distinguished as a design-led discipline, as distinct from system design (as termed in systems engineering).
The literature development shows three trends of knowledge production that converged during the RSD meetings:
- Systems-oriented design (Sevaldson, Oslo School of Architecture and Design)
- The Torino school of ecological systems design (Bistagnino, Barbero, Politecnico Torino)
- The Toronto school of social systemic design (Jones, OCAD University).
The research base has been actively developed through the annual Relating Systems Thinking and Design symposium, bringing into the fold emerging communities of practice.
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.