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Modeling Complexity




Systems Thinking

Credit Hours


Introduces visual techniques to translate complex topics into models, diagrams, and frameworks.

This skill is increasingly important as many problems that designers are wrestling with involve large-scale problem definition. And include subjects and characteristics too large or numerous to conceptualize using memory and cognition alone.

Learning Objectives

While simple models and frameworks often emerge naturally from design work, truly complex topics are difficult to bound and represent without theories and approaches to guide the process. Throughout this course, students will be introduced to:

  • A range of visual models and approaches for representing complex content
  • A structured process for translating dense topics into coherent visual representations
  • Principles of visual design to optimize the reading experience of a complex model

Learning Outcomes

Students emerge from this course:

  • Conversant with a variety of models and insight as to how to match various types of models to different kinds of complexity
  • Experienced in the mapping of complex topics with first-hand knowledge of the benefits and challenges of this approach
  • Equipped to negotiate ambiguous topics, build relevant structures, and navigate issues of scope and content development

Format & Grading

  • A 3-hour class for 7 weeks. Combination of lecture, critique and in-class exercises.
  • Weekly assignments to demonstrate modeling skill acquisition (individual-based).
  • Final project: integration of models created to illustrate the larger story. (individual-based)

Grades based on:

  • Weekly assignment
  • Final project
  • Timelines
  • Demonstration of concept understanding
  • Effort
  • Work quality
  • Improvement
  • Contribution

Enrollment Restrictions

While this course is open to all students at the Institute of Design, it is STRONGLY recommended that Diagram Development be taken prior to this course. Students should be familiar with InDesign or equivalent page layout software