Systems Thinking for the Graphic Designer 101: A Toolkit for Making Positive Impact
|Institution:||University of Illinois—Urbana-Champaign|
|Category:||Design Methods, Graphic Design, Service Design, Social Innovation, Systems, User Experience, Visual Communication|
|Filed Under:||Brainstorming, Collaboration, Community, Culture, Design for Good, Design Research, Digital, Four-year Program, Inclusive Design, Iteration, Mapping, Printed Matter, Process, Production, Social Impact, Sustainability, Visualization, Writing|
Use the systems thinking process originally proposed in the book "Design to Renourish" and any design methods (cultural probes, storytelling, user flows/personas, life cycle analysis, etc.) that make sense with the topic of choice and strategies you chose. Document everything. Create a research database for the team that you will share throughout the project.
Pick one of these general larger issues below and then propose a specific sub-topic within it to explore. Go deep into the problem following the Re-nourish systems thinking process to define and create a design solution that ideally is carbon positive. It is best to keep the sub-topic more local or regional. Small bets! Project will be critiqued in a public setting. (Teams of 3)
(e.g.) How might we make the Emergency Department waiting room more humane and user-focused?
(e.g.) How might we improve education and expand learning opportunities for refugees around the world?
(e.g.) How might we design an accessible election experience for everyone? How can we more engage people to vote?
(e.g.) How can we effectively change our consumption habits, keep a high quality of life, and stop global warming?
The Goals of Systems Thinking
- Eliminate waste
- Renourish our planet (reparations for nature)
- Renourish our souls with a beautiful object or service
- Create reciprocity (a gift that creates an ongoing relationship)
- Create with, not for – inclusivity
- Have a purpose, not just profit (improve quality of life)
- Advocacy for marginalized voices (reparations for others)
Students will learn during this project:
- Sustainable Design strategies
- Human Centered Design principles
- New design methods and tools
- The "Design to Renourish" systems thinking method:
- 1. Determine project goals
- 2. Map out the design problem
- 3. Brainstorm design outcomes
- 4. Evaluate each possible project outcome
At the end of the project students should be able to:
- Shift their thinking from linear to circular
- Embrace complexity, challenges, tension, & uncomfortableness
- Identify points of intervention in future design projects for systems thinking
At the end of the project, students should deliver:
- A digital presentation that details out the project goals completed in Step Two from the "Design to Renourish" systems thinking method
- A detailed and visually stimulating digital mapping of the design problem completed in Step Two from the "Design to Renourish" systems thinking method
- A digital presentation of possible design solutions and the process/methods/tools used to determine which project was the best considering the audience(s) and the planet
- Your final solution implemented in the format and medium that best fits the design problem, audience(s), and planet
- Design to Renourish
- Design Thinking Needs to Think Bigger
- Designers' Code of Ethics
- Systems Thinking for the Graphic Designer 101: A Toolkit for Making Positive Impact
- “What is Human Centered Design?” Giacomin, J. (2014). What Is Human Centered Design?, The Design Journal, 17:4, 606-623.
Resources & Inspiration:
- The Circular Design Guide
- Frog Design Blog
- The Next System Project
- What is a Circular Economy (The Ellen MacArthur Association)
This project was the first to implement the Design to Renourish Systems Thinking Toolkit in higher education. So, by definition it was an experiment. I learned a lot from working through the steps and discussing the readings with the students. One of the biggest takeaways was that the process is confusing as there is a lot of back-and-forth between each step and need for further research in each. However, as one student put it at the end of the project "it was a good confusion".
The students, in general, saw the need for a more holistic view of a design project that includes more considerations for inclusiveness in culture and better regard and care for our natural environment. They saw the systems thinking toolkit as a good guide for them to, at this point, begin that journey to a more informed design practice. They hoped that more projects in their senior year included this level of systems thinking.
When I do this project again, I will give more time in the project for Step Two and Four (Mapping & Evaluating Outcomes), to ensure the students have fully explored mapping the problem(s) and really evaluating each out come deeply through research. I will also prepare a more detailed post-project survey for the students to help recommend ways to improve the assignment and suggest other readings and resources.