RSD11: Possibilities and Practices of Systemic Design.

The Radical Methodologies Research Group at the University of Brighton hosted this year’s 2022 RSD conference which took place from the 13th – 16th October 2022. This was in partnership with the Systemic Design Association, with support from the School of Architecture, Technology and Engineering (SoATE), and contributions from the Design Council. This is the first time RSD has been hosted in the UK. The event was available both online and in person, with a satellite event at the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, India.

RSD11: Possibilities and Practices of Systemic Design was led by Ben Sweeting in collaboration with Sally Sutherland and Tom Ainsworth from the Radical Methodologies Research Group (RaM). For more information about RaM please take a look at our blog. Thank you to everyone who attended or contributed to the conference (extra special thanks to SoATE doctoral researcher Queenie Clark). We are so proud to have put this together as a team.

What happened at RSD11?

The conference hosted over 110 papers and more than 30 workshops/activities. We had in person delegates from Brazil, South Africa, and Australia, as well as North America and Europe, and online delegates from all over the world.

The conference took place primarily at the Ironworks studios in Brighton and the Brighton CCA (Centre for Contemporary Art). As an organising team, we received many positive comments about all the venues we used, and Brighton as a city. RaM really put Brighton, the SoATE and the research group on the map in this community. We also received some fantastic comments from delegates on the exhibition, and especially on the work from MA Sustainable Design and BSc Product Design – which was very distinctive and presented some of our unique selling points as an institution. Some of the papers from our (MA Sustainable Design) students were conference highlights for many delegates.


The RSD11 conference looked to question the emerging shape of systemic design as it becomes a distinct part of mainstream design discourse, and to challenge and pluralise its modes of working through developing its transdisciplinary connections. During the conference RSD11 keynotes, Mathilda Tham, Fran Edgerley and Sofia Deria, Tony Fry, Lesley-Ann Noel and Danah Abdulla all delivered powerful lectures which helped shape ongoing and emerging key discourses in the conference.

Focuses of RSD11

Particular focuses of RSD11 included

  • Confronting Legacies of Oppression, which examines how systemic design is often complicit in the reproduction of oppression, contributing to structural inequities being designed into our systems.
  • Designing Radical Shifts for Planetary Health, which recognises how the global COVID-19 pandemic forces us to confront the importance of understanding and responding to global ecologies of health. Our health depends on the health of others and on networks, systems, and webs of planetary health. So, how can systemic design modes and models simultaneously ethically engage within the bodily, social, and political histories of the contexts that they exist within? To what extent does this perspective extend or challenge the existing focus on health and well-being within systemic design?
  • Re-Imagining the Intentionality of Architecture, which is based on the potential transformations of the role architecture plays in the built environment. Expanding design considerations to include possible future scenarios for the life of architecture; decentering the primacy of human purpose and agency in the built environment, and utilising the complex dynamics of systemic relations to reshape spatial environments and human beings’ roles in them. In what ways might architects begin to settle into a broader territory of operativity and awareness, and what would this mean for the discipline and its practices? Can this intense period of augmenting design processes and their outcomes also afford ways of reimagining the intentionality of what architecture is and what/whom it is for?

What is systemic design?

Part of the core-thinking within the university’s Radical Methodologies Research Groupsystemic design is a developing field of design practice that looks to address systemically complex challenges – such as social and ecological transformations and design for multistakeholder socio-technical systems such as healthcare. Drawing on conceptual and methodological resources from systems thinking (and other systems fields such as cybernetics and complexity), systemic designers have and are developing modes of working through those troubling situations where it is hard to act due to uncertain boundaries and conflicting criteria.

The conference proceedings will be published in due course, and the keynote lectures will be available on the RSD symposium website soon so look out for them!