Objects like diagrams, maps, and charts aren’t one-size-fits-all. Play with them, adapt them, and expand on them for your own purposes.
The biggest mistake I see beginner sensemakers make is not expanding their toolbox of diagrammatic and mapping techniques.
There are thousands, maybe millions, of variations on the form, quality, and testing of diagrams and maps. And more are being created and experimented with each day.
The more diagrams you get to know, the more tools you have. The more ways you can frame the mess, the more likely you are to see the way through to the other side.
To help you build your toolbox, I’ve included ten diagrams and maps I use regularly in my own work.
As you review each one, imagine the parts of your mess that could benefit from reframing.
If it isn’t under the floorboards, it’s a façade.
Information architecture is like the frame and foundation of a building. It’s not a building by itself, but you can’t add the frame and foundation after the building is up. They’re critical parts of the building that affect the whole of it. Buildings without frames do not exist.
It’s hard to relay your intended meaning through façade alone. When your structure and intent don’t line up, things fall apart.
Imagine trying to open a fancy restaurant in an old Pizza Hut. The shape of its former self persists in the structure. The mid-nineties nostalgia for that brand is in its bones. Paint the roof; change the signage; blow out the inside; it doesn’t matter. The building insists, “I used to be a Pizza Hut.”
(Now type “used to be Pizza Hut” into Google’s image search and enjoy the laugh riot!)
We serve many masters.
No matter what the mess is made of, we have many masters, versions of reality, and needs to serve. Information is full of history and preconceptions.
Stakeholders need to:
Users need to:
It’s our job to uncover subjective reality.
An important part of that is identifying the differences between what stakeholders think users need and what users think they need for themselves.