The Systemic Design Association

Systemic Design Association

A non-profit scholarly association leading the research and practice of design for complex systems.


The Systemic Design Association (SDA) emerged from the expansive learning from the Relating Systems Thinking and Design (RSD) Symposia.  The first RSD was held by Birger Sevaldson as a graduate seminar at Oslo School of Architecture and Design (AHO) in 2012, to discuss how systems thinking could be interpreted and related to design thinking and design practice.

Since then, proponents have organized annual symposia dedicated to systemic design. The Systemic Design Research Network (SDRN) was formed between AHO and OCAD University, as a cooperative research group to “advance systemic design as an integrated design discipline,” with Birger, Harold Nelson, Peter Jones and Alex Ryan.

A standing committee was formed with Silvia Barbero and Jodi Forlizzi. In October 2018, in conjunction with RSD7, the Systemic Design Association was formed at its first general assembly at Politecnico di Torino and announced at the symposium.

Today, the SDA is a democratic, non-profit scholarly association [1] based on academic and industry relationships and invites faculty and students worldwide to become members, participate in events, and share research. The global design community recognises SDA members, and it is represented as a systems society of the International Federation of Systems Research.

SDA is found online at the association website, the RSD Symposium website, the Twitter account @RSDSymposium and hosts a moderated, open online community on LinkedIn.

1–SDA is a membership organization registered with the Brønnøysund Register Centre in Norway.

Interdisciplinary Connections

Systems theory and design developed clear interdisciplinary connections during the Ulm School of Design and Buckminster Fuller’s design science era, resulting in the design methods movement (Rittel, Alexander, JC Jones and Archer). Systemic design is distinguished from service or experience design in terms of scale, social complexity and integration – it is concerned with higher-order systems that entail multiple subsystems (that might be defined services).

Systemic design brings human-centred design to complex, multi-stakeholder service systems by integrating systems thinking and its methods. It adapts from known design competencies – form and process reasoning, social and generative research methods, and sketching and visualization practices – to describe, map, propose and reconfigure complex social systems.

The SDA is committed to the co-evolution of systemic design, adapting each field’s preferred core disciplinary methods and mobilizing knowledge across practitioners and scholars. The SDA supports the efforts of advanced design practice to lead programs of strategic scale and higher complexity (e.g., social policy, healthcare, education, urbanization), adapt systems thinking methods, and creatively push the boundaries beyond the popular modes of systems dynamics and soft systems.

Annual Symposium

RSD proceedings have been documented since RSD2 as a kind of foundation for the emergence of research (techne and empirical studies) and inquiry (praxis and phronesis) defining the discipline. As scholarship has further evolved through these discourse communities, we have curated and edited a series of journal publications in FORM Akademisk and She Ji, and an edited volume in the Springer Systems Science series. New courses show up at universities in Europe and the Americas, beyond those represented in the RSD discourse, as the interdiscipline grows in depth and applicability.

Through the RSD Symposium, ongoing contributions are made to systemic design, and developed and catalogued into areas of research. (The link for each topic area will open the search.)

Architecture & Planning

Cases & Practice

Economics & Organizations

Health & Well-Being

Learning & Education

Mapping & Modelling

Methods & Methodology

Policy & Governance

Society & Culture

Socioecological Design

Sociotechnical Systems


The Systemic Design Association will send you quarterly updates on systemic design and activities in the SDA network. During the annual Relating Systems Thinking and Design (RSD) Symposium timeframe SDA will send brief updates related to RSD keynotes, papers, and workshops.

RSD11 event updates, program content, and proceedings are posted on