Image courtesy of MCAD Sustainable Design        

Whole System Mapping
for Delivering the Good Life

A sampling of MCAD's Sustainable Design Collaborative Product Design Course


Sustainable Brands has embarked on a three-year journey to understand what “The Good Life” means to people today, to raise this conversation around the globe, and to find, share and celebrate brands that are innovating on this new collective vision.  The theme for the third year of this journey is Delivering The Good Life.

Sustainable Brands has discovered that today’s version of “The Good Life” appears to be shifting; less focus on money and status, and more towards a pursuit of a simpler, balanced life that is rich with connections to people, community, and environment.  

SB’19 Detroit will help brands and organizations map their way forward to a sustainable future by equipping product and service innovation teams to Deliver The Good Life, engaging marketing/communications teams to support Good Life values, and evolving supplier relationships with principles of The Good Life.

Sustainable Brands has partnered with MCAD’s Master of Arts in Sustainable Design Program to create a set of mini-courses  (non-credit) to help empower and equip you for Delivering The Good Life.  This mini-course is a sampling from the sustainable design course called Collaborative Product Design


How might we—leaders of brands, as well as their consumers—shift our focus from seeking money and status to seeking a simpler, balanced life that is rich with connections to people, community, and environment?  Sustainability experts universally agree that we must think in systems, but in practice this is usually hard. We need tools to make it easier.

One tool for enabling this shift is Whole System Mapping.

To get beyond product, you need to expand your perceptions of the world in which you operate. Whole System Mapping allows you to discover and work in the bigger picture of your product, your supply chain, your users, their community, and the environment.

Seeing your whole system and its interconnections allows you to generate innovative ideas more thoroughly and more radically, set clear priorities, and use them to score your new ideas. A system map also allows you and your team to visually communicate complex information. It can also be a foundation for deeper systems thinking analyses & methods.  This process enables new insights and ideas by making systems thinking more actionable, concrete, and collaborative—exactly what’s needed to Deliver the Good Life.

If you want to offer your customers a life that is rich with connections to people, community, and environment—The Good Life—you must be able to visualize your systems.

In this mini-course, you will have a chance to explore and experiment with Whole System Mapping and how it can be used for Delivering the Good Life. An exercise at the end of the course allows you to create and leverage your own systems map.


  • You will learn about systems thinking and why it is important for Delivering The Good Life.
  • You will discover how Whole System Mapping can help Deliver The Good Life by making systems thinking more concrete, collaborative, and creative.
  • You will learn how to draw a  system map of a product to reframe your thinking.
  • You will learn how to ideate more thoroughly and radically to Deliver the Good Life using your system map.


This mini-course is an active workshop—you will spend most of it performing Whole System Mapping activities. The course also contains a reading and a video followed by “Questions for reflection” and “Taking action: How might you use what you learn?”  The questions and actions will help you embed what you’ve learned as well as make it personally real and relevant. At the end of the course you’ll find a “TRY THIS” section with an exercise you can use to help you practice what you’ve learned.

The activities are intended to be done in the order presented. There are no grades or credits for the course—and no pressure!  This course is designed for your personal and professional development, and to help you Deliver the Good Life.

If you’re interested in digging deeper or are seeking credit, please contact Denise DeLuca, Director of MCAD’s MA in Sustainable Design program.


Jeremy Faludi
Adjunct Faculty, MCAD’s MA in Sustainable Design program
Assistant Professor at Dartmouth College

Jeremy Faludi, Ph.D., LEED AP BD+C, is an assistant professor of engineering at Dartmouth College, specializing in sustainable design; has taught green product design at Stanford and elsewhere.  One of his core research areas is sustainable design methods, and how to increase their value to companies, which is how he created Whole System Mapping.  He has contributed to six books on sustainable design, including Worldchanging: A User’s Guide for the 21st Century, and authored VentureWell’s Tools for Design and Sustainability.   He prototyped the first version of for the Biomimicry Institute, and a bicycle he helped design appeared in the Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt Design Museum’s 2007 exhibit “Design for the Other 90%.” 

Dive into the course materials