Harold G. Nelson

For other people named Harold Nelson, see Harold Nelson.

Harold G. Nelson (born 1943) is an American architect, consultant and former Nierenberg Distinguished Professor of Design in the School of Design at Carnegie Mellon University. In 2001,he served as president of the International Society for the Systems Sciences (ISSS).He is the co-author of The Design Way, a book considered by some to be the Rosetta Stone of Design.


Born in Western Montana as a fifth generation descendant of Swedish homesteaders, Nelson grew up on a small farm at the foot of the Bob Marshall Wilderness. Upon graduating high school, he enlisted in the US Navy and served four years as a guided missile technician. After completing his service, he enrolled in Montana State University, working summers as a fire guard and hotshot with the National Interagency Hotshot Crew. Nelson received his Bachelor of Architecture in from Montana State University as a member of the Delta Phi Delta Art and Architecture Honorary Society. 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 from the University of California under Christopher Alexander. At the University of California he continued to study the interface of systems thinking and design and received his Ph.D. with distinction 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 for seven years as an assistant regional architect for Region Five of the U.S. Forest Service. In this position he designed and oversaw the construction of two visitor's centers. One of which—Chilao—is now in a National Monument and has become iconic. He began his teaching career at Texas Tech University as Assistant Professor, where he was awarded the "Teaching Excellence" medal.

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 by US News and World Report 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. He is working as an education consultant for universities, governmental agencies, and business organizations.


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.[2]

Articles, a selection:


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

External links

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