Post B: Diversity for diverse systems

Our group’s caddie design created a balance between function and form by using three identical folded paper sections that would hold up to the organic waste put inside it. We used a paper flyer and an instructional video to communicate our design. It was important for the flyer to be able to universally communicate the instructional process so visual imagery was important to successfully communicate to all groups, be it non-English speakers, dyslexics who find it difficult to read, or visual thinkers. The video engages the audience and shows the construction of the liner in real time. On reflection, improvements could be made, such as the addition of voiceover on the instructional video in order to make the video accessible to those with visual impairment.

Green T Leaves’ instructional diagrams in progress

Designers have a part to play in system design

Diversity is beneficial in addressing complex problems such as organic waste. Cultural diversity has been shown to increase innovation and entrepreneurship (Nathan & Lee, 2013). Temple Grandin proposes that there are all sorts of thinkers: pattern, visual, auditory and verbal; and they are all needed (Grandin & Panek, 2013; Grandin, 2014). A balance and inclusion of these minds is crucial. For example, Steve Jobs was an artist, a visual thinker, and had audited a calligraphy course in college. This led to the Mac having “multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts” (Naughton, 2011) with the help of engineers, pattern thinkers, to realise this iconic feature. Conversely, Grandin points out that a visual thinker would have foreseen the problematic design of the Fukushima plant and included waterproofing features that would have prevented the meltdown (Acton & Hibbs, 2012; Buongiorno et al., 2011; Grandin, 2014).

grandin cattle coral
Grandin, a visual thinker, designed for the “wicked problem” of the cattle slaughter industry to be more humane. Left: Design schematic (Grandin, n.d.-b), Right: An Australian cattle ranch corral designed by Grandin (Grandin, n.d.-a)

Transdisciplinary design extends the notion of the importance of diversity by recognising that multidisciplinary design approaches start the diversification process by the meeting of different disciplines yet in a “siloed manner” (Hearn, 2011), but transdisciplinary design “challenges the assumptions we carry within us, to re-think way we do things and the outcomes of our decisions” (Curi, 2016). The organic waste problem can benefit from a transdisciplinary approach as the problem being solved is not uniquely related to any one discipline.

Screen Shot 2017-05-09 at 10.08.12 PM
Hard Systems vs. Soft Systems methodological approaches (Checkland & Poulter, 2006, pp. 19)

While other industries may employ a “hard systems” methodology where the system exists to be manipulated (Checkland & Poulter, 2006), design moves towards a “soft systems” approach as it focuses on the interplay between the environment, users and components in the system by assessing the usability and accessibility of a design, improving customer engagement, and not necessarily taking an approach where a single solution that is considered objectively ‘best’ is provided but rather considering multiple design options as possible solutions.

It is only natural that design be included in all types of systems, be it an organic waste system or the design of a nuclear power plant. Designers are visual thinkers, however they are also a balance between art and engineering, a diverse skillset. Each discipline is useful in the process of designing potential organic waste solutions and lends certain strengths, toolkits, and knowledge, and allows for appropriate task allocation and efficiency. Different perspectives, as users of the organic waste system also, help achieve a broader understanding of the problem. Therefore, all minds are needed to be able to reveal and broadly contextualise the problem at hand.


Acton, J. & Hibbs, M. 2012, “Why Fukushima was preventable”, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Washington DC, viewed 7th May 2017,  

Buongiorno, J., Ballinger, R., Driscoll, M., Forget, B., Forsberg, C., Golay, M., Kazimi, M., Todreas, N., Yanch, J., 2011, “Technical Lessons Learned from the Fukushima-Daichii Accident and Possible Corrective Actions for the Nuclear Industry: An Initial Evaluation”, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts, viewed 7th May 2017,

Checkland, P. & Poulter, J. 2006. Learning for action: a short definitive account of soft systems methodology and its use for practioners, teachers and students, John Wiley and Sons, Ltd. pp. 3-22

Curi, G. 2016, “Why Transdisciplinary Design?”, New York, viewed 7th May 2017,

Grandin, T. n.d.-a, “Australian Cattle Ranch Design”, photographed by Roberto E. de A. Barros, viewed 9th May 2017,

Grandin, T. n.d.-b, “Basic Curve Design for Cattle Handling, Cattle Yards, and Corral Designs”, viewed 9th May 2017,

Grandin, T. 2014, “Different kinds of minds contribute to society“, The Biomedical & Life Sciences Collection, Henry Stewart Talks Ltd, London, viewed 7th May 2017,

Grandin, T. & Panek, R. 2013, “How an Entirely New, Autistic Way of Thinking Powers Silicon Valley” viewed 7th May 2017,

Hearn, M. 2011, ‘The power of transdisciplinary design’, Artichoke, Issue 35

Nathan, M. & Lee, N. 2013, ‘Cultural Diversity, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship: Firm-level Evidence from London.’ Economic Geography, Vol 89, Issue 4, pp. 367–394.

Naughton, J. 2011, “Steve Jobs: Stanford commencement address, June 2005”, viewed 7th May 2017,

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