Harold G. Nelson

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For other people named Harold Nelson, see Harold Nelson.

Harold G. Nelson (born 1943) is an American architect, consultant and Nierenberg Distinguished Professor of Design in the School of Design at Carnegie Mellon University, President of the Advanced Design Institute and Affiliate Associate Professor at the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Washington.


Nelson received his Bachelor of Architecture in 1970 from the Montana State University. He continued to study architecture and ceramic design at the Technical University and Ateneum Fine Arts Academy in Finland, and received a Master of Architecture in 1973 from the University of California. In 1973 he became a Licensed Architect in California. At the University of California he continued to study systems thinking and received his Ph.D. in 1979. His dissertation focused on a systems approach to the impact on rural communities of large-scale resource development projects with an emphasis on value distribution assessment.[1]

As a licensed architect in the State of California, Nelson worked as an assistant regional architect for Region Five of the U.S. Forest Service, and also worked as an architect in the private sector. In 1982 he started as Assistant Professor at the Texas Tech University. In 1984 he worked for a year at the Montana State University, and two years at the Saybrook Institute. From 1987 until 1999 he worked at the Antioch University and since 2002 at the University of Washington.

Nelson served for twelve years as the Director (Department Head) of the Graduate Programs in Whole Systems Design (WSD) at a national university. One program was recognized as among the Top Ten graduate programs in Organizational Development. Further he has been involved with diverse organizations including: non-profits and corporations, state and federal agencies, international governments, and the United Nations. He has consulted, or lectured in: Chile, Turkey, Finland, Sweden, Indonesia, and Australia. Presently, in 2008, he is working as an education consultant for universities, governmental agencies, and business organizations. For the past twenty years, while working as a researcher, consultant, and educator in design and systems science.[2]

Nelson is co-founder in 1996, a Director and President of the Advanced Design Institute. He has been president of the International Society for the Systems Sciences in 2000, a position previously held by such notable scholars as: Margaret Mead, Ilya Prigogine, Russell Ackoff, Sir Charles Geoffrey Vickers and C. West Churchman.


Nelson's research interests are in the fields of complex systems inquiry, complex organizational systems design, advanced design education in formal and informal settings, deep design/critique and advanced design postulation and axiom development. His focus is in two areas: the first is on the development of design competent organizations, and the second is on innovation leadership.[1]


Nelson has written one book and more than twenty articles, and has given over 50 presentation world wide.[3]

  • 2003. The design way : intentional change in an unpredictable world : foundations and fundamentals of design competence. With Erik Stolterman. Englewood Cliffs, N.J. : Educational Technology Publications.

Articles, a selection:

  • 1994. "The Necessity of Being ‘Undisciplined’ and ‘Out of Control’: Design Action and Systems Thinking". In: Performance Improvement Quarterly, 1994, Vol. 7, No.3 (22-29).
  • 2000. "The Case for Design; Creating a Culture of Intention". With Erik Stolterman. in: Educational Technology, Nov.-Dec. 2000, Vol. XL, No. 6, (29-35).


  1. ^ a b Harold G. Nelson: Biographic Overview 2007 Retrieved 6 June 2008.
  2. ^ Harold G. Nelson Biography. Retrieved 6 June 2008.
  3. ^ A complete list is given in Harold G. Nelson: Biographic Overview 2007 Retrieved 6 June 2008.

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