fbpx 70 504 System orientert design: “Design for meget komplekse systemer“ | The Oslo School of Architecture and Design


70 504 Systems Oriented Design: “Design for Very Complex System“

Full course name in Norwegian Bokmål: 
System orientert design: “Design for meget komplekse systemer“
Course code: 
70 504
Level of study: 
Teaching semester: 
2019 Autumn
Assessment semester: 
2019 Autumn
Language of instruction: 
Norwegian / English
Person in charge
Birger Sevaldson
Required prerequisite knowledge

Passed foundation level (BA-level) courses at AHO in design or architecture or equivalent, 180 ECTS.

Additional teachers 

Tobias Luthe

Andreas Wettre

Course content

The course is suitable for all design topics including architecture, urbanism and landscape architecture. The course has two main themes to choose between but even individual programming is possible. The course is well suited as preparation for the diploma.

 Design for a complex world

Designers today are confronted with an increasing complexity. Constantly new fields and tasks are opened up for designers, and the importance of design increases. Designers address complex socio-technical problems, both in the development of solutions and processes. To be better prepared for this development, designers must learn to handle greater complexity, understand larger contexts, learn more about the consequences of our choices, both for businesses, customers, individual users as well as society and the environment.

 Systems thinking

A deeper understanding of complex processes is called systems thinking. In Systems Oriented Design (SOD), we have developed an approach to systems thinking that is especially developed for practicing designers. It is the designerly approach to systems.

SOD is part of a larger movement with many approaches called Systemic Design (systemic-design.net). This movement was started by SOD teachers here at AHO and other people mainly from Canada, India, Italy and the US.



Focus theme 1: Design for very complex systems, public sector, services and organizations

The public sector is facing major challenges in cross-sectoral work between directorates and departmental sectors to improve the ability to create holistic public services and to simplify and improve internal procedures. These issues are addressed in the project Stimulab initiated by the Agency for Public Management and eGovernment (DIFI) Read more here


As a master student in this focus theme, you will work with DIFI and DOGA, and one or more design offices that are contracted to carry out projects. In addition you will collaborate with our PhD candidate, who is related to the project.

Focus theme – autumn 2018: Design for Democracy

We continue our theme, design for democracy for the fourth year. Design for democracy is at the forefront of an international movement based on initiatives by Ezio Manzini and Victor Margolin. Design for democracy has a relatively long history starting with designing election situations. However, there has been a long development where democracy today is better understood in all its nuances. We have previously worked with participation (Tønsberg Municipality), workplace democracy (Gjensidige Forsikring and UDI), and involvement (Dagens Næringsliv). This year we will focus on finding ways to draw political and strategic discussions from being based on singular issues to focussing on holistic thinking. We will seek to cover both public and private fields in the choice of partners. Read more and see previous projects here:


Who should take this course?

This is the course for you if you wish

- to take up a challenge to work with very complex problems,

- to develop the designers' abilities of holistic thinking,

- to have a strategic role in your future work as a designer.

- to combining multiple perspectives and diversified views, as well as conflicting interest, such as sustainability while maintaining profit, or working with dialogues while maintaining diversity

- getting better at handling different perspectives, interests and values

The course is open to all students at AHO and it endeavours to think in transdisciplinary perspectives and to develop new perspectives or take positions that are not covered by the AHO disciplines. Examples include organizational design and design for action (action design) or entirely new perspectives.

 If you are in doubt, don’t hesitate but contact birger.sevaldson@aho.no


Learning outcome

Students will be introduced to System Oriented Design (SOD) as a method and approach, to be able to work with a greater degree of complexity.


Students are:

  • introduced to System Oriented Design (SOD) as a method and approach, to be able to work with a greater degree of complexity.
  • expected to learn system-oriented design.
  • given a thorough introduction to System Oriented Design, Rich Design Space, GIGA mapping, ZIP analysis and systemic evaluation.
  • Given an understanding and a general knowledge of systems thinking, systems theory, systems dynamics: cause and effect relationships and complexity for practicing designers.   


Students will acquire skills in:

  • SOD as process-led methodology
  • Research by design methodology
  • Develop a sensibility for systems, relationships and consequences: cause and effect
  • Unfold, understand complexity and work with “problematiques” (multiple interlinked problems)
  • Workshop facilitation
  • Participatory design

General competence

Students will be able to use this methodology to understand and tackle complex problems and to think systemically. Systems thinking in design is a highly relevant skill as the world is becoming increasingly interconnected, and since the challenges the world need us to solve today are fuzzy and consists of a great degree of complexity. This competence is often required by design consultancies today as they take on a higher degree of projects that demands design capacity that can work with Wicked Problems.

The Systems-oriented designer is a valuable member in a design team, with other specialists in product, service or interaction design. The SOD designer will improve the ability to think systemically and to understand the context and complexity in a team. The systems-oriented designer will be able to better foresee consequences of design proposals with the objective to create sustainable solutions for the future.  

Holistic perspectives, ethics and sustainability as well as cultural, organizational, economic and technical considerations are central to the Systems oriented designer. These perspectives and the ability to have the project overview is a very good competence for a designer in a team, and also excellent proficiency for a project leader. Systems-oriented designers can play a decisive role in managing complexity in future societal developments. Systems-oriented designers typically can work in design consultancies, in organizations, in municipalities with service design, on policy level, in the private sector to give some examples.

Systems-oriented designers are trained in techniques such as Gigamapping, this enables them to cope with complexity, - and to take more responsibility for the consequences of their actions. The systems-oriented designer is also a skilled workshop facilitator and leader of co-design processes, to achieve the holistic picture of complex design problems with different stakeholders.

Working and learning activities

Students will work on a semester project individually or in groups.

Project plans are created for each project individually according to their demands. Each project requires, in principle, its own project design. The course itself is a dynamic social system that must be adjusted and tweaked in real time. Therefore, students must be actively involved in designing the course. We expect corrections of the course and changes in the approaches along the way.



Sevaldson, B. & Blaasvær, L. (2016). 70504 Systems Oriented Design: Design for Democracy. Hentet fra http://aho.no/en/course/8455/8456/IDE/2013

Sevaldson, B. (2011). GIGA mapping: Visualization for Complexity and Systems Thinking in Design. Artikkel presentert på Nordic Design Research Conference, Helsingfors 2011.

Sevaldson, B. (2008). Rich Design Research Space. FORMakademisk, 2008 bind 1 (1) s. 28–44.

Meadows D. (2008). Thinking in Systems. A Primer. Redaktører: Wright D. Forlag: Chelsea Green Publishing Company.

Sevaldson, B. (2012). Can Designers Design Anything? AHO WORKS STUDIES 2011–2012. Oslo: Arkitektur- og designhøgskolen i Oslo.

Manzini, E. og Margolin, V. (2017). Open Letter to the Design Community:
Stand Up For Democracy. Hentet fra http://www.democracy-design.org/open-letter-stand-up-democracy/

Nelson, H. og Sevaldson, B. (2017). The Democracy Files. Hentet fra http://www.systemsorienteddesign.net/index.php/projects/design-for-democracy/the-democracy-files





Form of assessmentGroupingGrading scaleComment
Portfolio assessment (Vurderingsmappe)-Pass / failProject presentation and report, video and exhibition that easily communicate the project for the AHO WORKS EXHIBITION. The report is the man delivery.

The students are evaluated on the basis of participation and effort, milestone reviews, assessment and final project delivery.

Form of assessment:Portfolio assessment (Vurderingsmappe)
Grading scale:Pass / fail
Comment:Project presentation and report, video and exhibition that easily communicate the project for the AHO WORKS EXHIBITION. The report is the man delivery.

The students are evaluated on the basis of participation and effort, milestone reviews, assessment and final project delivery.

Workload activityComment
AttendanceStudents are expected to attend all lectures, tutorials and presentations.
Forventet arbeidsinnsats:
Workload activity:Attendance
Comment:Students are expected to attend all lectures, tutorials and presentations.