Welcome to ADI

The Advanced Design Institute (ADi) works to facilitate a deeper and broader understanding of design as activity and culture. Design activity is the way individuals and organizations continuously create our world. Design culture provides the societal context that supports design activity. In a time of dramatic change and of increased complexity, design culture is more timely and crucial than ever. The purpose of ADi is to advance design culture through public education.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Evil of Design

Even though I (Erik Stolterman) am happy to see the wonderful push for design thinking and a designerly approach today in academia and in business, it is also a bit disturbing to see the lack of critical thinking about design. Design as an approach is today by many seen as the silver bullet to almost any kind of problem. A design approach is considered to be able to deal with any kind of situation. I do agree that design as an approach is powerful, maybe more so than many believe even among those who advocate it. I do agree that many issues today should be approached in a designerly way. But it is also crucial to remember that design as an approach is not inherently good.

Almost all things that scare us and make our lives difficult and dangerous are designed. Some of the most wonderful examples of great design are also considered to be manifestations of evil. Humans design wars, genoside, weapons of destruction, and maybe even more extraordinary but less obvious designs aimed at suppressing people (such as political, governing or business structures), sometimes even in combination with wonderful 'user' experiences that makes people appreciate being oppressed (what a great design!).

In this new emerging era of design thinking and designerly approaches it is important to remember that design is only an approach--it is a process. It is a powerful approach, but there is no guarantor that the outcome will be good design and there is no guarantee that the design process will not lead to evil designs. At the end of the day, it all comes down to the character of the designer. Values and beliefs guides and shapes the judgements made by the designer. Developing design competence therefore means developing once personal character as well as once design thinking ability. 

Anyone engaging in design in a serious way therefore has to be constantly aware of and reflect on the 'nature' of design and also be highly critical of any simple versions of design that promises processes that will lead to good results in some 'automatic' prescriptive guaranteed way. Critical thinking is as important in design as in science.

[In the book "The Design Way" these issues are discussed in the chapters "The Evil of Design" and "The Guarantor-of-Design (g.o.d.)"]

Saturday, March 16, 2013

systemic design call for abstracts

Emerging Contexts for Systemic Design
AHO – Oslo School of Architecture & Design                   Oslo, Norway                   9th-11th October 2013
Relating Systems Thinking and Design is a free and open symposium over two days with a preceeding full day with diverse workshops and a subsequent special issue in FORMakademisk. We encourage you to submit your abstracts and to concider joining the workshops. We are interrested in both work in progress and more developed contributions.
9th October: Workshops
1oth – 11th October: Symposium

Call for abstracts
The emerging renaissance of systems thinking in design responds to the increasing complexity in all challenges faced by designers and transdisciplinary innovators. Our worlds have become too complex for linear and goal-driven management, resulting in hopelessly complicated social, economic, and political systems. The global demand for sustainability, democratic economies, and the emerging social arrangements for better education, employment, and development have become too complex for conventional thinking.
The interrelationship between systems thinking and design action was the theme of last years RSD seminar at the Oslo School of Architecture and Design. In re-examining the relationship of systems thinking to design we believe it possible for systems thinking and design praxis to develop the foundations for new, interrelated practices. This synergistic relationship will launch a new generation of systems-oriented thinkers empowered with the creativity and perspectives of design thinking. As educators and researchers, we also seek better theoretical foundations and rigor in design thinking.
We areare interested in proposals that draw from recent case studies from fieldwork, design inquiry and research, and mixed methods in systems-oriented design.
Sociotechnical, service, and activity systems are characterized by highly complex and emergent human-system relationships, and benefit from nonlinear and creative design practices and engaged research perspectives. Design practices found effective in fields such as healthcare, governance, environmental stewardship, organizational management and social change, are of particular interest for cases and discussion in the conference.
Systemic Design has been suggested as a term for this emerging movement in design with its multiple expressions including e.g. Systems Oriented Design, Whole Systems Design, and is closely related to Dialogic Design. What binds systems related theories and practices together with design approaches may be the desire to reintroduce systems approaches with design toward a more effective integrated praxis, becoming more useful to designers (and stakeholders and clients) than evidenced by past performance. This implies the reshaping and design of systems approaches and the related practices so that they are better integrated into design processes.
We invite you to submit an abstract of maximum 1000 words within the following themes:
  • ¥ New systemic practices in design
  • ¥ Rethinking systems approaches from a design perspective
  • ¥ Relating Design Praxis and Systems Thinking
  • ¥ The role of systemic design when developing design practices in new areas
  • ¥ Teaching (systemic design or), systems thinking in design. (or design in systems approaches)
  • ¥ Relating systems and design theories, conceptually and pragmatically

Deadline for abstracts is 1st May
Accepted abstracts will be asked to submit a presentation.

The best presentations will after the symposium be invited by the program committee to submit a full paper to be published in a planned special issue in the Norwegian bilingual scientific design research journal FORMakademisk. These papers will go through a blind peer review evaluation process as normal for this journal. See the journal website for details.
Email questions to: