Design for Complexity

Using systems and transition thinking in design

Designers are increasingly involved in design initiatives that contribute to tackling complex societal challenges, related to domains such as health & wellbeing, safety, sustainability, and inequality. While designers have unique skills and expertise to contribute to this context, it also requires new design approaches, such as ‘systemic design’ and ‘transition design’.


In this master class you will learn to refine your skills to design for complex societal challenges; by combining the distinctive strengths of designers to frame problems, humanise challenges, and learn through experimentation, with principles and practices from systems thinking, complexity and transition theory.

You will participate in various hands-on activities to explore what it means to perceive the world systemically, and apply novel and practical systemic design principles and methods to a complex design case. You will also learn about the theoretical background of those practices and principles. Together we will reflect on the role of designers who aim to contribute to making our complex world a better place, and their position working within or alongside public, social, and/or private sector organisations.

Learning Objectives

You will learn to:

  • Recognise systemic ways of looking at the world and its challenges using perspectives from systems thinking, complexity and transition thinking;
  • Distinguish different types of complex problem contexts and recognise when it is appropriate to apply designerly practices;
  • Apply design principles for complex societal challenges that build on the unique strength of designers to ‘humanise’ systems;
  • Apply methods and practices to design for and explore complex challenges systemically to a specific design case;
  • Reflect on the role of designers in the context of complex challenges and societal transitions.



9:00Welcome and coffee
9:30Introduction and overview
10:00Workshop - Experiencing a systemic worldview
at the Faculty of Industrial Design Engineering
13:30Lecture - Complexity & Systems thinking
14:15Introduction Case by Guest Speaker
14:45Apply Systemic Design Tools to Case
17:00End of the first day
9:30Lecture - Transition Thinking
10:00Apply Transition Thinking Design Tools to Case
13:30Finalise Case Study and Discuss Results
15:15Reflecting on the Role of Designers in Societal Transitions
16:30Wrap Up
17:00Closing and Drinks

Practical Information

After the course
Two months after the course, a pre-set consultation timeslot will be offered to all participants to share experiences and ask questions to the IDE Master Class. The format and the timing will be discussed with the participants during the IDE Master Class.