Design Journeys – A Systemic Design Tourbook

Peter JonesService Design, Social Systems Design, Systemic Design

We have completed updates for a second printing of Design Journeys through Complex Systems, the first practitioner handbook for systemic design practice, based on the Systemic Design Toolkit. The tools are largely the same, with some updated cases or images. We have edited throughout to improve clarity, especially for the instructions for use of the tools, some of which were completely new in 2022 when BIS Publishers printed the first run.

The feature image now shows our first translation, a Japanese edition translated by service design professor Masanao Takeyama of Keio University who works with the design firm ACTANT. The Japanese edition is beautifully composed and published, and with this quality of production we have a high bar set for the next translation. We are exploring translations now in Spanish, Italian, and Korean.

Design Journeys was written as an accessible tourbook style, a handbook for the journeys and many destinations of collaborative design for complex systems and systems change. Its value proposition can be stated as:

This book presents important new developments in systemic design, guided into practitioner pathways that teach the power of visual tools for collaborative dialogue to empower stakeholders to lead designed change in contexts of high social complexity.

Accessibly designed as a launchpad for both new learners and experienced practitioners, Design Journeys Through Complex Systems will affirmatively shift how you, your team, and client projects generate insights about high-complexity problems. With the book’s 30 design techniques presented in context, you will discover powerful insights with stakeholder collaboration, innovative maps to lead system change, and value opportunities in complexity.

We also wrote the book to use ourselves – we’ve been actively using the Toolkit for four years since its launch at RSD7, using informal guidelines and (more recently) Miro boards. We have both been teaching and training with an ever-expanding set of SD tools, using the sources articles, brief handbooks and mixed materials. We believe the book will democratize systemic design, and will help connect service design and systems leadership to a participatory design approach, for the many new contexts we’ve found in practice, such as systems change programs (large-scale transitions, SDGs), public service labs, policy shops, social innovation studios.

Structured across chapters in a seven-stage methodology, Design Journeys uses a distinct design language developed for systemic design cocreation. Built upon the foundations of the authors’ critically acclaimed Systemic Design Toolkit, Design Journeys illustrates the grammar of systemic design through pragmatic applied tools, updated models, and practical advice. Embrace this comprehensive set of tools for convening work as a systems leadership.   

Each chapter defines a flexible journey that guides selected tools for stakeholder cocreation, based on essential questions that explore and design for a complex change challenge.

About the Book

Designers, social innovators, and business leaders are now called to address transformational challenges – often with the audacious language of systems change – for which we have no relevant academic or practice training. For designers, these challenges are fascinating, but not quite welcome. We are not often contracted to directly design solutions for systemic problems such as regional economic rejuvenation, food webs in poverty zones, or educational systems redesign. Systemic contexts in general are problematic because they break defined boundaries that focus our work and limit project scope.

As exciting as the prospect may seem to ‘change the world,’ the experience of leading systems change projects can be a disorienting journey without a clear destination. There are no standards or preeminent schools of thought in the evolving practices of systems change, as there are in sociotechnical systems. Reaching an agreement on end goals, means and methods, and definitions often requires seemingly endless discussions and meetings. New practitioners of systemic design can find it challenging to balance leadership and participatory process within the constant ambiguity of complexity.

Many of us may show beginner’s confidence when applying known design tools for systems change and complex, multi-organisational challenges. However, complex systems (and the prospect of changing them intentionally) only get more challenging as we explore and learn together with system stakeholders. Better guidance is needed – yet a cookbook approach to methods and tools would fall far short of the power and sophistication necessary to engage systems change.

Design Journeys provides a repertoire of collaborative practice tools for system solutions developed and tested in dozens of projects. The book integrates theory and practices of the 7-stage Systemic Design Toolkit for cocreation, in a single handbook. As a text, it informs practice and teaches relevant theories to help new system leaders coordinate much better design processes for these challenges.