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Introduction to Design with Systems Online Short Course

Course description

The Introduction to Design with Systems Online Short Course is made up of six sessions over a period of six weeks which aim to introduce students to the basic systems theory that is essential for understanding and working with systems. Practical tasks will explore how to map and engage with systems and their varied elements, touching on participatory design practices, co-design methods, inclusivity and ethics.

Many of the challenges we face today are complex and systemic in nature. Emerging societal and environmental problems involve multiple actors with multiple connections and interdependencies, which means that for anything to change we all need to move together. By developing our ‘systems literacy’ we can begin to understand how to define and interact with system elements and actors. Co-creating ‘system sketches’ can aid communication with stakeholders and seed new conversations or ways of seeing the problem space. Representing diverse perspectives can give agency to participants, communities and organisations to innovate and create change.

Each week there will be practical tasks for students to complete in their own time (around 1 hour per week), which will build incrementally as they apply what they have learnt. Students will leave with an understanding of the role of systems thinking within design practice and an action plan for how to apply ‘design with systems’ within their own projects. The course will touch upon a number of topics that students can choose to follow up in more depth independently - these will be signposted along the way.

Course outcomes

By the end of this course you should be able to:

  • Approach a given problem or situation from a systems perspective
  • Be able to plan a systems mapping exercise to include elements from multiple perspectives
  • Plan and carry out engagement with system elements and actors with an awareness of the ethical considerations, constraints, and framing

Who should attend

This course is aimed at:
  • Designers, creatives, managers and entrepreneurs in the creative industries interested in pursuing a systems-based approach in their work, and particularly those who are interested in supporting change and transition in their field of work and beyond.
  • Civil servants (or other professionals working at a systems level) interested in bringing design approaches into their work
The course is for beginners, students need no prior knowledge of systems thinking but a basic understanding of design is recommended.

Available dates

If no dates are showing then please sign up to our mailing list to find out about upcoming dates and new course developments.


Topics to be covered:

  • Basic systems theories and histories
  • Various stances and critical approaches to systemic thinking in design
  • Systems mapping: theory and application
  • Co-design and participatory methodologies
  • Stakeholder engagement practices and ethics
  • Design with systems in practice
  • Materials

    Online short course materials

    To take part in the Online sessions you will need:

    • An up-to-date web browser (we recommend Chrome)
    • Microphone and headphones (a headset with a microphone function is recommended. The built-in microphone in your device would also be fine).
    • Webcam
    • Strong Internet connection - we recommend a minimum of 2 Mbps download, and 1 Mbps upload, faster if possible. You can test your network speed here -

    Please bring for the first session:

    • notebook and pen
    • A mobile phone with camera is useful to share and upload your ‘homework’ tasks
    Meet the Tutor:

    This short course will introduce the notion of systems in relation to design and encourage students to develop a systems mindset in their own work, where they can identify, represent and critically engage with system elements and actors impacted by their work.

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