I will show you several ways of thinking. The different ways serve different goals (masters?) and are not always compatible (agreeable?) . However, with practice, you can employ combinations of them to great effect. System Design should not be pinned down to a single philosophy or frame of reference. System Design also should not be a static collection of principles, heuristics, and rules-of-thumb. System Design should be fluid, personalized, and grow and change as you see fit. What is presented here should serve as a catalyst, prototype, and laboratory. Even if you do not create a system for yourself or others, System Design can aid your comprehension of other systems.
There are various methods by which you can acquire the skills presented here, but only two things can guarantee success: thinking about the material, and its relations to your experience; and practicing the concepts. Reading and memorizing without comprehending will not work.
What is a system? Pretty much, it is what I say it is. I will not define it for you, but I will describe some of it. A system is sometimes some arrangement of stuff that, in some sense, does something. Many things in life are systems. Some that show signs of man-made construction are philosophies, religions, governments, plans, buildings, betting protocols, recipes, algorithms for sorting, desserts, piles of paper, a book, many manufactured items, a bill of lading, receipts, notations. There are systems that are not made by man, but have some arrangement or classification imposed on them, such as sedimentation, cell structure, anatomy, life cycles, chemical reactions, crystalline arrangements, and so on. Even things that have no pattern or clear arrangement can be considered systems, such as weather, and other physical processes. Many systems involve more than one things, but not all systems. My untidy desk is a system. Someone’s scrapbook is a system. Someone else’s family tree is a system. Many of these systems will reveal, through scrutiny, how they were designed. Or, how they can be designed again.
Language is important. In attempting to convey meaning, people will set up a context, and then use abbreviations and other devices to aid in delivering information quickly, or reliably. Repetition, use of pronouns, social conventions, all of these are used in our communications. One can use or tweak this to adjust the intent, causing double entendre, ambiguity, even humour. One can also apply contexts other than that of the source to derive a different meaning. Let me set up some context that will be used later.
Being a literalist, I take the phrase “all bears” to mean the totality of all objects such that each such object can be considered a bear, without qualifications. Thus, if not specified or otherwise modified, “all bears” refers to living and dead bears, mythical and teddy, polar and grizzly, bears that were, are, and shall be, and excludes many things, such as bookmarks or political statements. “Most bears” refers to a large subcollection of “all bears”, such subcollection usually being a majority. I use “many bears” and “some bears” to refer to a collection of bears which usually has 2 or more bears. “No bears” refers to an empty subcollection. I intend to avoid absolute statements, except in controlled circumstances.