A Design System Inspired by Nature

I’m not an expert on Permaculture, so this article is not going into that. This post is about how I’ve adapted their disciplines, from the Design Web, into my own ways of working as a Designer.

It’s easy to get lost in collecting helpful information and tools. It feels like you can just keep accumulating more and more, losing yourself in all the helpful information. For me, it all fell into place with this all-encompassing structure.

If you are more of a doer, rather than reader, here’s a free introduction exercise (takes about 30 minutes).

The Design Web

The Web consists of 12 disciplines, initially used for farming and designing gardens, yet this is applicable to any design process. It doesn’t really matter in what order, since you can freely move around them and use them however works for you. In this article I’m holding on to this order:

1.Vision, 2.Helps, 3.Limits, 4.Patterns, 5.Ideas, 6.Principles, 7.Momentum 8.Action, 9.Integration, 10.Reflection, 11.Gratitude & 12.Pause.

1. Vision

Allow yourself to dream & create goals in life. Consider your own life as your project and your idea to be you. Create a clear vision.

Why? To figure out what you stand for, what guides you.
How? Start with what you love to do & where you would like to be.

2. Helps

Making sure you have the right support & tools for the job. Identify the things that are going to help you get there.

Why? There’s no reason to be alone. Ask, or look for help.
How? Identify resources, mentors & your team.

3. Limits

What might block your path towards where you want to go. What is your core challenge? Keep it small & manageable.

Why? Figure out what works & what doesn’t. Set priorities.
How? What isn’t working at the moment? Find out how to get past this.

4. Patterns

The helpful & unhelpful patterns in thinking & behaving. Use the positive routines, discard the negative ones.

Why? Routines help you keep moving & keep momentum.
How? Create habits, build a routine that works for you.

5. Ideas

Gather inspiration, fields to explore & note down seeds of ideas you have. Prioritize the ideas(s) to work on.

Why? Ideate what you could do, experiment with, or explore.
How? Brainstorm, prioritize & decision make.

6. Principles

Ethics you use in work & life. Look through the lens of each one to see different angles. Create a repeatable system for yourself.

Why? Find out what works for you, what’s close to yourself.
How? What values do you hold high? Discover your “Why”.

7. Momentum

Build & increase motivation. Create reminders for yourself. Make sure you keep you going, any progress towards your goal is progress.

Why? Do the best you can do at the moment & don’t overcomplicate things.
How? Create accountability & get feedback. Collect responses & keep moving forward.

8. Action

What you do now & your next steps. A plan for getting things done with daily, weekly & monthly actions to take.

Why? Working for maximum impact with little effort.
How? Turn big challenges into small steps towards your goal.

9. Integration

Bring it all together into a workable & actionable system to implement into your life. Keep improving it to fit.

Why? Things can be fulfilled in your everyday life.
How? Conclude all the learnings to move forward & iterate with improvements you’ve learned.

10. Reflection

Reflect on your journey. Evaluate the progress so far & plan the future. What is going well & what is challenging.

Why? Keep track of what you do & where you are. Don’t lose yourself in it.
How? Keep a journal, or notes. Schedule regular check-ins.

11. Gratitude

Work to appreciate yourself & others. Focus on what to be thankful for, daily. Celebrate the wins, even the small ones.

Why? Allow yourself to be able do it & get yourself through.
How? Keep affirmations to remind you of the work you’re doing.

12. Pause

Knowing when to take breaks & make sure to keep breathing. Incorporate times of rest & rejuvenation to be able to come back with a fresh look on things.

Why? Time to be away from work & responsibilities for thoughts to process.
How? Breath, exercise, meditate, take walks. Whatever you need to do to get your mind off things for a bit and help regain perspective.

Great! What do I do with it?

Use them as a handbook to design your work, or life. It helps to have structure, even if it’s flexible, it allows you to be as creative as you can be. Use it to create any project, personalize it to your needs, level & time, while always maintaining the complete picture.

Let me know if you need any help, or could use somebody to mentor you through them.

Thanks for reading!



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Robin van Wijk

Robin van Wijk

Working with, learning and teaching new ways of working