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Design for Complexity Reference Library

Updated: Aug 21, 2022

Related Papers by Others

These days the way we become aware of various papers being published is via the site sending us a handy bulletin that a papers author has referenced either NextD Journal, Humantific, GK VanPatter, or E. Pastor. While it’s not possible for us to read every paper, we do see documents bubbling up over there in that academic context that add to the ongoing conversation regarding the practical rethinking of design for complexity...and our particular interest which is methodologies for complex contexts.

The paper entitled "A Framework for Systems Design Approach to Complex Societal Problems" by da Costa Junior, Doehl and Snelders of Deft University, published in Design Science is such a paper and thus we are happy to simply include a link to it here in this new reference library. We don't have to agree with every aspect of the content coming from the various paper authors to see that it adds value to the conversation.

Many of our NextD Journal readers are active participants in what can be loosely described as the Design for Complexity: Emerging Practice Community while many others have, for various reasons, keen interest in the subject. We are ourselves active accross numerous communties of practice, one being design.

We hope to add more relevant papers to this reference library as the subject of rethinking design continues to catch fire across numerous institutions, organizations and initiatives.

In this paper the emphasis is on the possible integration of systems thinking and design a recognized stream of reinvention.

To be clear; this paper suggesting a refreshed combo of design and systems thinking represents just one of several reinvention streams underway in what we depict in NextD Journal as an emerging practice community. Other streams do exist and we are in the process of mapping the various streams out so they can be better understood.


Perhaps most importantly, this paper is not of the popular Avoidance School of Design, in that it courageously points out numerous shortcomings in traditional designerly methods, which many design oriented papers and even many new books oddly, conveniently sidestep. Some authentic problem finding and problem embrace can be seen in this paper which is greatly needed in the community, particularly in graduate design education circles and certainly much appreciated by NextD Journal.

We noted these three passages in particular:

"In the disciplinary domain of design, little attention has been paid to handling complex problems or systems. What designers have gained in terms of expertise and understanding of complex problems, they have gained through practice rather than education (Siddiqi, Clewlow & Sussman 2014)."

"When addressing complex societal problems, problems solvers realise that the

skills they acquired during traditional design training do not align with the nature

of the challenges that they are expected to tackle, and therefore, new skills are


"The concept of complexity adopted in this paper refers to the understanding of the characteristics of the system in place, the characteristics of the problem, and the lack and uncertainty of the knowledge needed to address the problem situation. To this end, equipping future designers to deal with complexity requires further attention to emerging and new approaches to design research and practice."

Big thanks to the paper authors: Da Costa Junior, Diehl and Snelders for this contribution to the community conversation in progress.

Note to Readers: If you are the author of a paper that you think relates to the rethinking of design for complex contexts, or if you would like to recomend a paper, feel free to let us know and we are happy to make it a future consideration for this reference library.


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