In October of 2019, my very first book——Designer’s Systems Thinking——was officially published. It is written in Chinese, you can get it through Taobao.com and JD.com.
You can download the preface and forward of this book here: 设计师的系统思维-前言与目录
The Content of the book:
Part One: Knowledge Base
Part Two: Flexible Use
Part Three: Spiritual Essence
Hugh Dubberly’s Forward for this book:
Why Systems Thinking Is The Future of Designing
Over the last thirty years, the practice of designing has changed greatly. Some of the changes have resulted from designers adopting new technologies — new tools, new media, and new materials. Still more changes have resulted from new technologies infiltrating our personal lives, the business world, and larger social systems — becoming part of the “stuff” designers design. Together, these changes constitute a new “space” in which design work is done (a new milieu of design practice) — perhaps even a new type of design practice (a new métier). A defining characteristic of this new space of design practice, perhaps the defining characteristic, is a concern for systems.
For most of the 20th century, designers focused primarily on products and messages. Starting in the mid-1980s, many designers began to use personal computers as production tools — for creating “working drawings”, production artwork, and other specifications for manufacturing — thus reducing time and cost, enabling more frequent iteration, and increasing quality. (These digital production tools invite systems thinking, and they are most efficient when they support larger design systems.)
By the mid-1990s, many designers had begun to recognize that computers are not just tools, supplementing the design of products and messages; computers also offer a range of new media for communication. These new media are interactive hybrids of hypertext, movies, and simulations — enabling new ways of telling stories, marshaling arguments, and explaining the world. They began with video games, multimedia experiments, and web pages, and they continues to grow and evolve. (Digital media rely on content management systems and other platforms; designing “for” and “with” them requires systems thinking.)
Starting about 2000, the internet became a platform for delivering applications. With the launch of the iPhone in 2007 (and its competitors), “apps” proliferated. “Computers” — microprocessors and the software programs they run — offer the potential for creating new types of “smart” products. Software and the services it supports are becoming a material of design. (Software design — interaction design or “UX” — and service design increasingly involve systems design, which again requires systems thinking.)
Over the same time period, the nature of design projects has changed, too. Old patterns from the industrial age have given way to new patterns in the information age. Products once sold in separate transactions are now delivered via services, creating on-going relationships between consumers and producers. A once isolated “point of sale” is now part of a system of connected “touch-points”. Products that once were “stand-alone” are increasingly smart, connected, and aware — sensing their surroundings and sharing data with systems in the cloud. Where most products could be managed as if they were independent actors, product managers and designers must now think in terms product-service ecologies — systems of interconnected products and services, each depending on the others. These “systems of systems” are a new material of design.
What is more, on top of the many issues affecting daily design practice described above, we also need designers to address the “wicked problems” faced by our societies (existential threats from tangles of interconnected issues for which there are neither clear solutions nor even agreement on how to define the situation) — issues such as climate change, disparities in income and resource consumption, and many other issues of social justice. Wicked problems cannot be tamed in isolation; they must be viewed from a “whole systems” perspective. And they require designers who understand systems.
Joi Ito, Director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Media Lab, sums up well the changing world of design practice, “Design has also evolved from the design of objects both physical and immaterial, to the design of systems, to the design of complex adaptive systems. This evolution is shifting the role of designers; they are no longer the central planner, but rather participants within the systems they exist in. This is a fundamental shift — one that requires a new set of values.” It also requires a new approach to designing — an approach that brings systems thinking into design practice and incorporates language, patterns, and models from systems theory into design discourse.
Co-authors Liang Ying, Wu Run Jun, Xu Yingchun, and Wang Ke have written a very useful introduction to systems thinking for designers grappling with the changing world of design practice described above.
— Hugh Dubberly, Palo Alto, California, June 16, 2019