In 2014, The Design Collective authored a manifesto entitled “DesignX: A future path for design”. It focused on the propagation of complex problems to solve, and on where could designers play a role while still having a crafts-oriented education, focused on subject specificity.
Since then, much has been discussed as to the available tools to solve complex sociotechnical problems, like healthcare and education, and whereas one could argue DesignX is a new perspective on the subject.
In 2016, the paper “DesignX: Complex Sociotechnical Systems” was published in She Ji: The Journal of Design, Economics, and Innovation, written by Donald A. Norman and Pieter Jan Stappers. It is a very interesting piece of writing, as it summarizes this perspective of dealing with very complex problems, identifies current issues – like deficient communication – and details the core of most complex systems’ problems: implementation.
Complex societal systems include healthcare, transportation, automation, environmental protection, among others. These have a number of different technical or scientific components that make the system move and work when interacting. Fortunately, thanks to the late UX hype, designers have been included in the design of these complex systems, applying methods such as design thinking and human-centered design. Nevertheless, most designers’ education if focused on craft-like skills (2D, 3D). But when confronted with these big problems, it seems really hard to understand where that helps or fits.
The concept of a complex system is later exemplified with a project developed by UCSD’s Design Lab and Health Departments aiming at the enhancement of the care of cancer patients in Radiation Oncology. This treatment requires interaction with multiple specialists and a multi-disciplinary review board. Often these interactions are illustrated in complex flowcharts demonstrating relations and hierarchies. Boxes and arrows. Often as well, these arrows hide some of the most frequent problems: differences between disciplines, perspectives and priorities, schedules, available facilities, etc.