System Mapping – Practice & Research Cases from #RSD12

Peter JonesModeling, Systemic Design

Spring 2024 has felt like an extraordinary warp in time and space. For me, setting up a second home in Mexico City’s Coyoacán colonia has been a major life change, as I fully dive into the new appointment as a Distinguished Professor at Tec de Monterrey. I have continued to lead the student final research at OCAD University’s Design for Health MDes, which is primarily via online advising. (Graduate presentations will be live at the Health Design Studio May 10). Summaries of the 2024 projects will be shared on Circulate Health soon.

One of the emerging stars starting on the horizon this year has been the RSD Symposium’s post-conference series Mapping Mondays. Organized by Cheryl May with hosts including SDA board emmebrs Evan Barba, Ryan Murphy, Tom Maiorana, with facilitation by colleagues such as Inclusive Design grad Aakash Bhadra, the series has covered audacious territory, with 7 mapping seminars and 3 panel sessions.

SW England Fibreshed Synthesis Map – Jones & Arun-Kumar, 2021

I’ll refer to some of Cheryl’s great posts and add some context. The RSDx Mapping Mondays is a collective project that grew wildly, immediately, with sessions reaching capacity registration like rock concerts. I’d suggest the experience fills a real need and opportunity for practice and pedagogy in the field. After all, Systemic Design has been ‘criticized’ for being too heavily dependent on Gigamapping in its design expression. Then in RSD12 we failed to even integrate system maps in the multi-site, multi-week conference. Perhaps we lost sight of the central significance it does have in practice and knowledge translation, as well as how unique it is to the interdisciplinary field. We are finding such a strong trend in their continuing importance, that Mapping Mondays may not become the best way to spend deep time learning the maps and makers, rather than postering up a gallery at each symposium.
Introducing our opening Roundtable, Cheryl asks about mapping:

Who is using it? Teaching it? I’ve only managed to track three documented approaches to mapping as taught in systemic design. Predominant is Gigamapping, out of the Oslo School of Architecture and Design. Gigamaps are considered “devices for design inquiry rather than an analytical tool like those used in systems engineering or hard systems models” (Sevaldson, 2018, p. 244). Synthesis maps from OCAD University “seek to illuminate design understanding and inform proposals reflected in the visual narrative” (Jones & Bowes, 2017, p. 233), and the insightful and expertly realised metaphor maps coming out of the National Institute of Design represent the relationships between products, systems, and people (Ranjan, 2005).

There are two more Mapping Monday sessions to follow this Spring, Maps about Mapping (May 6) and Institutionalized Systems on May 12.