Design Journeys through Complex Systems

Peter Jones & Kristel Van Ael BIS Publishers, May 2022

Design Journeys for Complex Systems is a practitioner’s handbook for both experienced designers and interested scholars to learn leading design and thinking practices of systemic design. Systemic design is an advanced practice developed over the last decade to facilitate codesign with stakeholders to deal with high complexity issues of their concern.  Systemic design uses methods drawn from systems thinking and service design to address large-scale societal contexts (such as climate change, food systems, or urban settlement) and complex sociotechnical systems (such as healthcare, media platforms, or autonomous vehicles). These are contexts characterized by extensive social and technological complexity, high uncertainty, and often problematic outcomes.

These emerging design practices help train thinking in terms of multi-scaled social systems, multiple stakeholders and their values, and complexity principles. Unlike design for well-specified situations, such as products, service and communications, systemic design is always a collaborative effort, because designers are never the experts in the systems of stakeholder interest. Design Journeys helps facilitate a true collective wisdom from their use with stakeholder groups and builds consensus from the shared awareness resulting from visual sensemaking. Design Journeys is based on the authors’ Systemic Design Toolkit, developed from the core knowledge published in systems science.  Using a tour guide metaphor, Design Journeys trains people’s mindsets and provides tools for dealing with hyper complexity, to enable understanding of systemic problems, and to build capacity to collaborate in teams to produce action proposals.

Design for Care: Innovating Healthcare Experience

Rosenfeld Media, May 2013   Foreword by Dr. John Halamka
Download Chapter One (4 Mb PDF)

Design for Care brings methods and practices found effective across healthcare contexts to designers in all situations, illustrated by current cases & design research. We aim to inform information, service, & system designers to make a positive difference in healthcare.

Healthcare and self-care practices are changing, rapidly. Each health sector has a different view of patient or user activity, but in so many cases there is no “user” to design for. Instead, we are all health seekers. The personal journey and spectrum of care may be unique to each health seeker. In healthcare, designers must research and understand the whole health seeker – our upstream activities, defining moments, and downstream effects, and the services that we touch along the way. Design has an emerging role as a care provider – we have a responsibility to research, redesign, and remediate the touchpoints of care, informed by our understanding and designing for the health seeker.

Design for Care promotes the evolution of design toward full membership in today’s multidisciplinary care teams. Design skills and human research tools expand the possibilities of self care & medical care, community services, clinical informatics and IT.

Rosenfeld Media booksite (Best price, Print + eBook)


“This game-changing book helps unlock one of the most complex and intractable issues of our time. In a clear and insightful text, Peter Jones uses evocative human stories to illustrate where—and why—the systems of healthcare need to be fixed. If modern healthcare is a disaster zone, Design for Care is the rescue service we’ve been waiting for.”

John Thackara, author of In the Bubble

“Peter Jones courageously builds bridges between design methods and medical informatics. Those who follow him across the existing chasm will strengthen the care in healthcare, thereby improving the lives of patients and caregivers.”

Ben Shneiderman, University of Maryland

We Tried to Warn You: Innovations in Leadership for the Learning Organization

Published by Nimble Books, available on Amazon 

Massive enterprise-level failures happen, providing remarkable opportunities for recovery for organizational innovators. While company-scale failures are perhaps rare, they are foreseeable. But the circumstances of our collective psychological dynamics prevent us from engaging the problems until they occur.

Large-scale failures often result from a cascade of communications problems, reinforced by a style of decision making that rewards the appearance of certainty. The book proposes recovery by enabling a decentralized, lateral leadership network of people working across boundaries to repair, innovate, and create resilient organizational structures.

At the front lines of work a broken strategy is often recognized long before management notices. The people working closest to the customers are able to foresee the potential for disconnects among a company and product’s strategy, design, and user adoption. What we may later call a strategic breakdown was foreseeable and perhaps repairable. Those working with users and customers are able to make sense of direct behavioral observations and connect these to the company’s future prospects.

When an organization creates a new atmosphere that encourages shared, lateral leadership, the separation between front lines and management tends to blur and organizational communication improves, largely by virtue of the network effect and the perceived importance of sensing action occurring in the front lines or work. While the book presents a case study emerging from the multidisciplinary field of user experience design (UX), a similar story could be told here about the development and diffusion of other knowledge-based practices organizations.

A core theme of We Tried to Warn You is that knowledge must be located, translated, and mobilized from the front lines back to the business in creative communications, informing product strategy and innovation. The user experience group permits a perfect case study, as in many companies it has now become a primary conduit for understanding “real users” and their needs in current organizations worldwide. The user experience group is also involved throughout all phases of product innovation, from user research, to product concept design, to final design and user testing.

Team Design: A Practitioner’s Guide to Collaborative Innovation

Originally published by McGraw-Hill,  and revised in 2002, Team Design is a comprehensive and novel integration of facilitated and collaborative design practices used over the last two decades. Written before the current era of open facilitation (barcamps, cafes) the book builds on the prior era of outcome-oriented innovation methods. Team Design’s methods integrated participatory design, rapid application design, and structured processes for high-performance facilitation.

Team Design gives system designers, team facilitators, project managers, and process analysts a facilitation consulting toolkit in one handbook. A comprehensive guide to collaboration in software product development for best-practice processes and products.

Formats and methods are provided for team workshops, based on organization, business, project type, desired end result, and lifecycle phase.

Available in hardback and paperback on Amazon.