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Gigamapping Discussion

This gigamapping discussion is the transcript of an email exchange between George and Birger Sevaldson. The discussion was based on the map “Age-related Obesity Trends and Factors.”

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? – George Shewchuk

Here is an email exchange between George Shewchuk, a student at OCADU Toronto and me. The students at OCADU are often very experienced professionals, and George’s background is in communication design and advertising art direction. His efforts, map and questions are worth sharing.

George: I’m a student at OCADU who attended your workshop on gigamapping. I found that process most interesting and wanted to share with you the work we developed along our original lines of thinking during your lecture/workshop. I think our team took a solid timeline approach 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 gigamap 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 as designed artefacts, so while you develop them from sketches to more designed versions, the information is rethought, reorganized, and internalized so that 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 from 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.

Then it might develop into traditional infographics where the 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 artefact 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 also communicates with others.

George: It was my task to develop the graphics behind the map (within three 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 throughout the whole process, from the very first sketch to the last one that is developed well. Remember the ZIP-analysis tool, the z-points, p-points and i-points? This tool helps us to repeatedly search and uncover possibilities. These should also be reflected upon regarding easiness of implementation  (low-hanging fruit), economy technology sustainability, etc., and 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 good, we should be aiming for output in the form of innovations.

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