What is Gigamapping?

Gigamapping is super extensive mapping across multiple layers and scales with the goal of investigating relations between seemingly separate categories, hence providing boundary critiques on the conception and framing of systems.

An example of a food gigamap

Eat Food by Xiang Li 2020

Gigamapping is part of the Systems Oriented Design framework

Design is facing ever-growing challenges from an increasingly complex world. Making design matter means coping with these challenges and being able to enter new, important design fields where design can play a crucial role. To achieve this, we need to become better at coping with super-complexity.

SOD is a version of systems thinking and systems practice developed from within design thinking and design practice – that is, it is systems thinking and systems practice tailored by and for designers. It draws from a designerly way of dealing with super-complexity derived from design practices while referring to established perspectives in modern systems thinking, especially soft systems methodology, critical systems thinking, and systems architecting. Further, it is based on design skills such as visual thinking and visualisation in processes and for communication purposes.

Central to SOD is the technique of gigamapping.

The gigamapping process

Myriadic Quality

Myriadic quality and a degree of messiness are typical for the gigamapping process.

A gigamap is characterised by the following:

Designerly construction of a rich picture of a real-life situation

Mixing information types and kinds (e.g., images, graphics, texts, and other media)

Mixing information sources

Myriadic quality, which includes large amounts of information

Crossing scales, from a large to small scale (microscope, telescope, wide-angle views)

Combining and relating categorically different entities

Covering wide fields

Digging into details

Combining, interpolating and criticising systems models

Boundary construction, critique and adjustment

Super Extensive Mapping

Gigamapping is super extensive mapping across many sections, layers and scales with the goal of investigating relations between seemingly separate things, categories, and silos.

Anybody can gigamap

Gigamapping is a design tool, however, anybody can gigamap. It has a very low initial threshold and a lot of depth to learn and progress.

Visualisation Tools

Gigamaps are tools for visual thinking and understanding complex systems.

Process Tools

Gigamaps are process tools and are not meant to communicate outside of the involved stakeholders or owners of the maps.

Co-design & Co-creation

Gigamaps are super for sharing views, getting teams on the same page and for co-design and co-creation.


Read these pages and start to practice or contact birger.sevaldson@aho.no

Giga-Mapping: Visualisation for complexity and systems thinking in design by Birger Sevaldson was presented at NORDES 2011.

Gigamap with ZIP points

Lucie Pavlistikova, Martin Malek, Mirka Baklikova, Mariia Borisova, Georgia Papasozomenou, 2016.


Gigamap Exemplars

Gigamap Exemplars

These gigamap exemplars are organised into three main groups: content maps, functional maps, and structural maps. They are from the Oslo School of Architecture and Design, the Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Sciences, Chalmers Technical University and...

Sense Sharing

Sense Sharing

Gigamaps are about sharing a sense of complexity. If the team members have a diverging sense of the complexity of the task, this is a problem. The person who thinks it is a simple task will allocate far fewer resources to the project than the person who thinks it is a...

Related Approaches

Related Approaches

There are three related approaches that are derived from gigamapping: synthesis maps, layered scenario mapping, and metaphor maps. Common to them is that they are narrower framed than the gigamap and are more specialised towards a purpose. The gigamap is intentionally...

Layered Scenario Mapping

Layered Scenario Mapping

Layered scenario mapping is a technique used to gain insight into the ‘situation one designs for'. It is a systemic technique and emphasises presenting information in different layers going from an overview to very detailed information. The technique proposes a...

Reinventing the Wheel

Reinventing the Wheel

02.03.2013 "Reinventing the wheel" has come up – especially when people compare gigamapping to mind-mapping. This made me ask what it means to reinvent the wheel, and what kind of wheel is gigamapping? People ask what differentiates SOD and gigamapping from other...

How to Gigamap

How to Gigamap

There are some useful rules of thumb for how to gigamap that have emerged through producing gigamaps and instructing students and professionals.

Gigamapping Discussion

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...

Gigamaps are designed artefacts

Gigamaps are designed artefacts

Gigamaps are designed artefacts – they are not meant to be an accurate record of complex systems “out there.” When working with gigamapping, one works with information as a designer in a constructivist way.When gigamapping, the information is designed through several...