DS 95: Proceedings of the 21st International Conference on Engineering and Product Design Education (E&PDE 2019), University of Strathclyde, Glasgow. 12th -13th September 2019

Year: 2019
Editor: Bohemia, Erik; Kovacevic, Ahmed; Buck, Lyndon; Brisco, Ross; Evans, Dorothy; Grierson, Hilary; Ion, William; Whitfield, Robert Ian
Author: GULDEN, Tore; STØREN WIGUM, Kristin
Series: E&PDE
Institution: Oslo Metropolitan University, Norway
Section: New Paradigms 2
DOI number:
ISBN: 978-1-912254-05-7


The world population has increased exponentially. Accordingly, use of means, pressure on resources, new technology, and communication, all affects and are affected by the behaviour of the majority of the world, in a strengthening recursive fashion. Hence, society has become exceedingly complex, a situation that designers must handle. However, seldom do they have the methodology nor the knowledge to understand, act, or work within such circumstances. Although, the complexity has led to slight changes in the way we educate designers, these changes do not prepare the students to keep up with society. Consequently, as design teachers and researchers we are working on how to develop a master study in design for an exceedingly complex world. To discuss this we set up a chart with two axes of variation that explore and describe our new program, Design in Complexity. The horizontal axes represents the dimensions of experience and philosophy & politics, and the vertical axes, materiality and relations & systems. To illustrate the complexity in which the study builds on, the chart refers to the EU as well as UN strategies for expected research and development that should respond to grand challenges, mega trends in society and the world as such. The article presents a visualisation of how product design connects to the larger themes and challenges, through system-oriented design (Sevaldson & Jones, 2013).

In this developing work, we seek to explore the context in which design performs, we do not strive towards explaining what design is neither from a practical, theoretical, nor idealistic point of view, rather we acknowledge that we operate in complex systemic network of relations and therefore complexity is a given (Bunnell, 2015, p. 101). For example, the master program Design in Complexity does not suggest how to make a cup in a circular economy context. Rather the students will attain knowledge and skills in order to study existing systems, their interaction, and the possible emergence of unwanted subsystems, because of the establishing of a new system, as basis for designing a means for drinking.

Reflections about the work so far may be described through our emphasis on systems literacy as a major competency for designers, and how such emphasis demands different pedagogical methods that in extension may serve as professional design tools. Furthermore, we consider the origin for design processes to be systems overview and connected understandings, (not a product to be designed), from which product and service concepts emerge. Methods and knowledge within systems design thus, make the grounds for many specializations since Design in Complexity does not specify a theme for design like for example automotive design or health care. The students will be exposed to expertise outside their own institute within relevant fields at certain times, and specific ideas of what design is, should not be inherited and hinder their future relevance for jobs and capability of contributing to change in the future.

Keywords: complexity, systems design, sustainability


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