by Birger Sevaldson
18th April 2012: Here is an email exchange between George Shewchuk a student at OCADU Toronto and me. George emailed me the below map. These students at OCADU are often very experienced professionals. His background is in communication design & advertising art direction. I thought his efforts, map and questions are worth sharing.
George: I’m a student at ocad u who attended your workshop on giga-mapping. I found that process most interesting and wanted to share with you the work that we developed along our original lines of thinking during your lecture/workshop. I think our team took a solid time-line approach with regard to the production of the map, but perhaps it gets too close to being an "infographic" which is not what we wanted. (although i recall you said that a giga-map can be anything we want it to be -- as long as it's still a tool that can be shared with clients.)
Birger: I regard the gigamaps to be designed artifacts, so while you develop them from sketches to more designed versions the information is rethought and reorganized and also internalized so you will know it by heart. In this process you might co-design the map with clients or other stakeholders, involving them and synchronizing views and perspectives. While moving forward in this meta-design process the role of the map might change form being purely process oriented where communication with people who are not part of this process is of no importance, towards a phase where one wants to start to involve others and to communicate.
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Birger continues: Then it might develop into traditional infographics where process is less important but communication is more important. So being well developed and designed might be not so good in early phases where you want to avoid the design acting as a mould for the information and where this would create a bias, while when the process develops it is always good to develop the map as a designed artifact because your reorganization and redesigning of it is tightly related to your thinking. So the map is a device to merge design thinking and systems thinking. I think your map is on the way from being a process map to being one that communicates also to others.
George: It was my task to develop the graphics behind the map (within 3 weeks and without full time attention), and I was trying to let the research drive the design and not let my design sensibilities take over.
Birger: Yes! Very well considered.
George: Please find a pdf, attached, of the map "age related obesity trends and factors". Apart from the accompanying text, are there also ideas embedded in this complex visual structure that may be discovered after the map is complete or while it's being built?
Birger: Yes! Analyzing the map is an ongoing process that is parallel or at certain moments through out the whole process from the very first sketch to the last one that is developed well. Remember the little analyzing tool the z-points, p-points and i-points? This is a little tool to help repeatedly search and uncover possibilities. These should also be reflected upon regarding easiness of implementation (low hanging fruits) economy technology sustainability etc and also regarding systemic chain effects and synergies.
George: Personally i'm very interested in the possibility that one can uncover/realize new ideas and reveal a type of knowledge inherent in the form and line that gives structure to this type of visualization.
Birger: yes this is the main goal. While a general drawing of the "landscape" where the project "lives" is anyway good we should be aiming for output in the form of innovations. Btw the end result of such a project will most likely not be one innovation or intervention but a series of small