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Systems Thinking, a Different Approach for Designing our World
Published: 02 November 2011 by MDPI in The 1st World Sustainability Forum session General and Related Topics
Abstract: For the past 60 years or more, industrial design\'s true main goal has being helping increase the sales, "make the economy grow". The ideals of beauty and functionality, the improvement of life quality and other high propose statements have being set aside to pursue an evermore accelerated rate of sales, planned and perceived obsolescence are the key in gross market products, we have linked our progress to the sale of physical objects. These last together with the exponential population growth and the greed for infinitely increasing profits has taken mankind to one of its most dangerous periods in history, for the first time our species is under threat by our own activity and it\'s impact in our context. Almost all man creations, especially since the industrial revolution the gross market products have being thought linearly; phrases like "one size fits all" and "cradle to grave" perfectly represent the reductionist thought of 20th century production and service activities. It\'s until relatively recently that concerns for natural systems and the clear impact of human activity has taken further steps into widely applying complexity principles into the diverse kind problem solving and therefore into a systems thinking point of view. This paper intends to show our experiences in complexity approach in teaching industrial design; the eighth semester design studio of our Industrial Design program aims to formulate a complex problem or situation that includes social, economical, and environmental issues. The usual student response is to think only in object terms, as they have been told during their studies, to create new goods in order to keep the consumer society working and growing. Through debates and videos, sustainability, ecological footprint and life cycle of products are analysed; considering at large human consumption and nature depletion helps the student to see beyond the object and start questioning the deepest roots of our consumer society and what "growing" really means. Systems theory principles and ecosystems are incorporated in order to understand natural cycles and non-linear dynamics. It is at this point that discussions surpass the realm of objects and products. Concepts like services and systems start to emerge as the next target for designers. The object is thus considered as only a small part of a complex network of people, economics, politics, markets, function, semiotics, production processes, natural capital, etc. The outcome of this approach has been projects of high value where proposals range from strategies, services and systems. The paper intends only to show the last four years of experiences in changing the focus from the classic problem solving method in an Industrial Design workshop into a systemic solution point of view incorporating the complexity behaviour of our everyday living.
Keywords: complexity, sustainability, strategies, services, systems thinking design, industrial design.