The meta-design of systems: how design, data and software enable the organizing of open, distributed, and collaborative processes

Massimo Menichinelli, Francesca Valsecchi

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionScientific

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The challenges posed by the complexity of our times requires the Design discipline to understand the many complex relationships behind the social, business, technology and territory dimensions of each project. Such nature of complex systems lays not only inside design projects, but also inside the design processes that generate them, and the ability of organizing them through meta-design approaches is becoming strategic. Since the turn of the century, the design discipline has increasingly moved its scope from single users to local and online communities, from isolated projects to system of solutions. This shift has brought researchers and practitioners to investigate tools and strategies to enable mass-scale interactions by adopting several models and tools coming from software development and web-based technologies: Open Source, P2P, DDD (Diffuse, Distributed, and Decentralized) systems. This influence has matured over the years, and if we observed in the past how such systemic models can be applied in the design practice (part 1), we are facing now a new phase where Design will have an increasing role in enabling such systems through the analysis, visualization and design of their collaborative tools, platforms, processes and organizations (part 2). This scope falls into the Meta-Design domain, where designers build environments for the collaborative design of open processes and their resulting organizations (part 3). In this paper, we address this phenomena by elaborating the Open Meta-Design framework (part 4), that provides a way for designing open, collaborative and distributed processes (including those in the professional design domain). The paper positions the framework among current meta-design and design approaches and develops its features of modeling, analysis, management and visualization of processes. This framework is based on four dimensions: conceptual (describing the philosophy, context and limitations of the approach), data (describing the ontology of design processes), design (visualizing designing processes) and software (managing the connections between the ontology and the visualization, the data and design dimensions). We believe that such a framework could potentially facilitate the participation and the creation of open, collaborative and distributed processes, enabling therefore more relevant interactions for communities. As a conclusion, the paper provides a roadmap for developing and testing the Open Meta-Design framework, and therefore evaluating its relevance in supporting complex projects (part 5).
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication6th IFDP - Systems Design: Beyond Processes and Thinking
Place of PublicationValencia
Number of pages20
Publication statusPublished - 2016
MoE publication typeB3 Non-refereed article in conference proceedings
EventSystems & Design: Beyond Processes and Thinking - Valencia, Spain
Duration: 22 Jun 201624 Jun 2016


ConferenceSystems & Design: Beyond Processes and Thinking
Abbreviated titleIFDP


  • open design
  • design process
  • data visualization


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