Mapping and Modeling Systems Thinking

  • Posted on: September 21, 2016
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image: Alda Borges


Read the following article, “Everything that’s in your iPhone” 

What surprised you most about this article?

What are some of the locations involved in the process of making an iphone (list three)?

What are some of the materials (list three)?

Describe some the effects (at least 2-3) that these materials have on humans, air and water systems.




Choose a material that you use often in your work at Parsons. Such as specific fabric, paint, paper, ink, computer etc.

Imagine designing a giant tag to accompany this material, illustrating how this material’s existence is connected to air, water and energy systems, some of which might be invisible to humans. Some of these systems come from the deep past and some extend into the far future.

Create a 2D map/diagram or 3D model (any size/format), modeled as a visual story, illustrating at least 20 systems (such as SPECIFIC geographic locations, labor, SPECIFIC forms of transportation, production, distribution and chemical components. Visually highlight (through color or line quality etc.) 3-5 systems that are changing due to climate change and/or the Anthropocene.

Helpful ideas to consider:

  • What kinds of agriculture and climate/weather does this material require?
  • How much time does it need to grow or be created (cotton vs. silk, or granite vs. plastic?).

Think about how you can visually show how there is “no” end to how this material’s systems interact and affect other systems. How can you use words, images, lines and colors to show this? Perhaps your design points in all directions, looks like a complex web, or runs off the page to show it keeps going, rather than using straight lines.

*Please note this is not a poster illustrating how a product is MADE, or its Life Cycle, but how a material interacts with other systems, especially air, water and materials. 


SUBMISSION:  Use your own original drawings/graphics/photography (not clip art). Include a caption about how this material might be produced differently in 50 years based on how planetary systems are changing. 

Tracy Chen

Olivia Jiao

Yi Tang


Jamie Kruse is an artist, designer and part-time faculty at Parsons School for Design. In 2005 she co-founded smudge, ( with Elizabeth Ellsworth, based in Brooklyn, NY. She is the author of Friends of the Pleistocene:

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