It’s Not Simple, Stupid! Dealing with Complex Systems and Wicked Problems

2019 Talk


Our toolbox is full of shiny new things. We know our interaction patterns by heart, map journeys in our sleep, build design systems in no time at all, and pull frameworks and processes for any occasion out of our hats. Our concepts and designs are efficient and effective. Our discipline is mature and recognised. We know what we are doing.

Except we don’t. Some of the large organisations we design for find themselves in the middle of a massive cultural shift from single-minded silos to complex networks of people and systems. Our sleek interfaces look deceptively simple. But they obscure the complex problems that lurk below the surface of the seamless customer experiences we aspire to.

Increasingly, these issues are a result of the systems that we – or people like us – have built. Some of the large-scale systems we deal with are so complex and interrelated that it is impossible to get a single view of a project. There is no way we can map and define all of a product’s connections in a single document. And yet we keep trying. Because that’s what we do as information architects. But when confronted with complex systems, the tools of our trade no longer serve us as well as they used to.

This talk explores how we, as information architects, can do our work well even when the complexity feels overwhelming and clarity seems elusive.

About the speaker(s)

Hertje is a freelance Experience Strategist based in Berlin. She work with small agencies and large organisations, planning and creating experiences with a lasting impact. Her background is in literary sciences and cultural anthropology. Not the typical start for a career in UX, but it helped shape a creative and analytical mind that likes complex problems that can’t be shoe-horned in a sitemap or a user journey.