Studies in Learning, Evaluation, Innovation and Development > Vol. 8, No. 2 (2011)

Systems thinking, disciplinarity and critical thinking in relation to creativity within contemporary arts and design education

Carlos Montana-Hoyos, University of Canberra
Fanny Lemaitre, University of Canberra


Pink (2005) discusses six critical competencies or senses required for the conceptual age. They are design, story, symphony, empathy, play and meaning. This paper will focus on mainly on design, within arts and design education, exploring relationships between systems thinking, multidisciplinarity, critical thinking and creativity from the perspective of Industrial Design (ID). Initially, the paper presents a brief historical approach to the evolution of ‘systems thinking’. Afterwards, multidisciplinarity is discussed in relation to design disciplines and examples illustrate the use of systems thinking in multidisciplinary design projects at different scales. Subsequently, tangible aspects of interdisciplinary collaboration and systems thinking in design education are discussed through a case study of an academic transport design project developed between the 2nd year ID studio of the University of Canberra (UC) and the ACT planning and land authority (ACTpla). The main relevant aspects of this collaborative industrial design studio, such as working with the government and other design disciplines (landscape architecture and architecture), as well as the systems thinking focus is described and analysed. Main conclusions propose that ‘creativity’ in contemporary arts and design education can be enhanced through systems thinking and interdisciplinary or multidisciplinary collaborative work. Creativity is also complemented by critical thinking (as an important evaluative and decision-making tool) in today’s complex post-industrial, digital and sustainability-focused society. This within the context of the ‘contribution of the creative class’ (Florida, 2002) and a ‘new world in which inventiveness, empathy and meaning predominate’ (Pink, 2005)

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