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Traditional Systems and their roles in Design Thinking

Monday, November 12th, 2012 | Posted by William Morgan

As design becomes a more important role in our everyday life, I think it is important to reflect on why this is true. Thinking of design as a system is probably the best way to look at this in an effective way. We must realize that there is a system in place for a reason. Systems act in many ways, as guides of maneuvering through day to day life. Systems work because they are organized, they evolve, and they build on themselves to improve.

Looking at day to day life, there are many systems in place. From the biological systems of a tree to the inner workings of the highway structure that is man made, systems make the world flow in a seamless pattern. We are surrounded by systems, sometimes they work flawlessly, and sometimes they fail us miserably.  For example, while looking over my notes from class to help me reflect on this blog, I realized there was a huge gap in my notes. Somewhere along the way, I dropped a cog in my system, and forgot to save a large portion of notes, most of which were guides as to where to take this blog post. I racked my brain for a good hour trying to figure out what I had written. I dropped a cog in my system and now, I am having to re-evaluate whether or not the system I have in place is the best means of keeping track of class notes. However, my phone, which is a system I rely on daily, worked without fail. From planning meetings, to keeping up with clients and emails, I was able to multitask my way through the day. These systems work because they are organized. The cogs involved run together and work — they evolve and then manage to impact us.

There are multiple systems running in the education world. From social systems, to hierarchy of learning principles, education gives us an amazing example of how systems can affect us. The idea of a social system that helps us develop social graces is deeply embedded into the educational experience. As we grow older, there are more and more social aspects to life. I would venture to say that most of these are learned inside the classroom. From manners to raising ones hand, to how to professionally debate educational ideas, we are taught how to interact with others in a socially acceptable way. As we advance from basic math to finally achieving that passing grade in calculus, there is a learning system in place. We start with the basics and move deeper and deeper into the higher levels of thought. This system works because it is well thought out and well designed. Every tiny piece of knowledge gained along the way eventually affects the greater whole of the further systems we learn.

I feel that there is a deep rooted system in the idea of design as well. There are extremely subtle parts of the system that can make a good design into a great design. Following the hierarchal system you realize how important these little pieces are to making a great design. Even the slightest of design elements, that would most likely go un-noticed by the normal user, greatly impact the visual elements of a design. Learning the system of design can be a very tricky task to undertake. It is a very complicated and intricate system, much like all other systems. The system of design has evolved immensely over time. In the reading “Why Systems Work So Well” the author states “The most marvelous characteristic of some complex systems is their ability learn, diversify, complexify, evolve.” One of the things that fascinates me the most about the complex system that is design, is its ability to evolve over time. For centuries design has been crucial to major improvements in the human life. I am impressed as to where we are today because of such a complex system. We must continue to let the system of design grow, evolve, and continue to teach us. I am extremely curious as to where the system of design will go in the next 10 to 15 years.  I know there is so much more for us as designers to learn.  With this knowledge, we will be able to create, affect, and bring great change to the world around us, as long as we responsibly listen and act upon the systems that are in place and ever-changing.

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