A systems approach is an approach to design and problem solving generally.

Systems approach

All designs are systems that are part of systems.

If their designs are only considered to be discrete and disconnected parts, the designer is likely to contribute to the development of unintended outcomes. In contrast, the systems approach uses whole-systems thinking which views designs as parts of an overall system, and not as disconnected items, processes or events. The benefit of this approach is firstly, synergies can be developed, and secondly, unwanted outcomes can be avoided.

Systems thinking is a way of thinking holistically. It involves a set of practices within a framework that is based on the belief that the component parts of a system can best be understood in the context of relationships with each other and with other systems, rather than in isolation. Systems thinking considers feedback cycles and web-like interconnections, rather than discrete and linear cause and effect.

Life-cycle thinking

This type of design thinking is crucial for the growth of a circular economy where waste streams are transformed into resource streams. The design thinking will require a new dimension where the retrieval, dismantling and reuse of the product will be designed into the product from the beginning. The product design can evolve based on the feedback from this process. In the past designers didn’t have to consider what happened to a product once it reached the end of it’s useful life.

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Systems approach