• Systems Design Thinking

    There are systems within systems ad infinitum, however apprehending an “essential range” of impact that a design intervention can have on constituent elements within a defined flow of production provides a tool to identify latent potentiality for new product and service concepts.

SYSTEMS DESIGN THINKING is a methodology that Christopher Kaltenbach has developed over the last 15 years. It is the realization of the importance of a “systems analysis” for creating design.

The 2008 book, Thinking in Systems by Donella Meadows has provided the basic language for understanding the elements and interconnections within a system. Meadows was an environmental scientist, a member of the MIT System Dynamics group and author of the 1972 book Limits to Growth. She applied her own perspective of systems thinking on the problems of ecological sustainability.

She defined a system as having three basic components: elements, interconnections and function/purpose. Like her mentor Jay Wright Forrester, professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management and founder of Systems Dynamics, she used systems analysis to define dysfunctional systems related to the environment, economy and society as a whole. While this definition has provided important insight, her application of this analysis strategy is not applicable to the definition of systems thinking in this research. Kaltenbach's definition of systems design thinking lies in creating systems as a predictive tool to plan for a particular favorable, hypothetical outcome, not to identify dysfunctionality.

The system diagram by Charles and Ray Eames from the 1944 issue of the U.S. magazine Arts & Architecture—created to illustrate a rationale for the design of their case study houses—has provided insight into a mode of design ideation. When this illustration is deconstructed it remains a compelling model, in that it presents latent potentiality for a wide range of design interventions that can aid in bolstering those interconnections between various elements. While there are systems within systems ad infinitum, what defines the scope of a hypothetical system is the establishment of the “essential range” of impact that one hopes a design will have on constituent elements within a flow of production. It is to create a speculative design intervention, which can be created in and by the system, have a particular function within the system or, as integral to the system, actually effect change to it.

Currently, systems design thinking is being examined as a starting point from three separate yet loosely interconnected approaches: object-application-context.

  • systems design thinking diagram / 2014 / Kaltenbach
  • systems design thinking expaneded diagram / 2014 / Kaltenbach
  • Eames synthesized diagram / 2014 / Kaltenbach
  • diagram / systems design thinking workshop vol.3 Tokyo / Insect City in Marunochi / Kaltenbach
  • diagram / systems design thinking workshop vol.3 Tokyo / Insect City in Marunochi / Kaltenbach