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Increasingly, professional designers are trained to be systems thinkers.  Approaching a design in the context of a larger ecosystem provides teams with new ways of approaching complex challenges.

Systems orientations are growing in popularity and diversity. “Biomimicry,” a term introduced by biologist Janine Benyius, has to do with interpreting a challenge as a biological process. Its results: creating paint that is self-cleaning, by mimicking the surface properties of beetle shells, and the production of propellers that are 40 percent more efficient because they copy the pattern of the flow of water spiraling through a drain.

Here too technology is propelling the act of design forward. Advances in modeling technologies can produce simulations of entire ecosystems and complex behaviors. The result is that digital tools will be able to prototype not just an object but the behavior of that object within a much larger environment. As computational power continues to expand, designers will be able to model entire cities on their desktops and optimize sophisticated supply chains, bringing sustainability and manufacturability together with profitability.


Design, as a way to solve problems, discover opportunities, and create new objects and experiences, is reaching more people and equipping them with remarkable tools.

Even as technology advances, good design remains a distinctly human endeavor—one that begins with the spark of creativity and is nurtured through a disciplined, iterative process.

The key to incorporating design into a business is the same as the key to incorporating any innovative practice. Establish a vocabulary, define goals that mean success, and steer behavior. Create the environments to enable teams to envision, plan, and prototype products and experiences that fit the needs of larger systems.

Good design isn’t limited to what we see in showrooms, glossy catalogs, and architecture magazines—those are limited, predictable views of the products of design. Rather, design is a powerful force in addressing business and social challenges. So while design is often treated as a “matter of taste,” the truth is, in this larger context, it can be clearly seen as a matter of prosperity, progress, and even survival.

Tom Wujec is a fellow at Autodesk, a maker of software used by architects, artists, and designers in manufacturing, engineering, and the entertainment industry.

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Credit: Hines + Dibrova Studio

Tagged: Business

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