Mapping the visual – redux

I was asked to host a “visual mapping” session to support SFU students interested in in the, “Map the System challenge“, a global competition on social and environmental change. Last year was my first dive into this, and was a treat although I felt a bit rushed. This was another great opportunity to reflect on the Going Visual program , and expand it from the what and how of visual communication, to consider the space and layout of the communication itself, the map.

I’m yet to be convinced that a visual “map” is the best way to frame these visual approaches, with most of the 2018 winners seeming to create infographics. IT was fun nonetheless to research some inspirational visuals that may inform, inspire and guide this years contestants. It’s also one of the first times I have put together a formal slide deck for these. Embedded here, including links, Summary and additional resources below.

In encouraged students that a visual map could take many different forms, depending on the data and message they want to convey. It could include forms such as infographics, diagrams/charts, posters, comics, photography, iconography and more. Last years 3rd place winners, has a fantastic infographic that used icons very effectively.

Visual Practice
I have been meaning to move my visual practice portfolio, from flickr to my own site, but for now…

One of the best resources I found to not only describe the many directions that could be taken with this project is How To Think Visually Using Visual Analogies – Infographic

In this article, Anna Vital outlines and illustrates practically all of the visual thinking approaches, in order of complexity and building towards storytelling. The most powerful visual format of all. Her tips on how to find the best visual analogy?

Follow 5 principles:

  1. It looks familiar to most of people
  2. It has a structure
  3. It matches your narrative’s structure
  4. It is visible (something that can be seen)
  5. It is visual (something that is easy to see)

For info visualization I included the following links for exploration.

I also explored some of the language we often take for granted in this work, there are so many disciplines and practices to consider. Especially when googling for eg. The article describing the difference between visual thinking and design thinking I found useful. In it, Matt Morasky offers this high level insight. Many of the students being from Beedie School of business have heard of design thinking as a methodology, but it’s a handy reminder.

Simply put, design thinking is a method for problem solving.
Visual thinking, on the other hand, is a set of tools for making intangible or complex ideas visible.

Matt Morasky from XPLANE

For visual thinking I included the following links for exploration.

For Going Visual resources I included the following links for exploration

Visually mapping the system

I was recently asked to coach a group of undergraduate students who are entering the “Map the System”  from Oxford University.

 A global competition to learn more about the issues you care about and present your findings to the world.

As part of the competition, each participant is asked to submit a “visual map” to accompany their report, but there is little criteria to describe how to create the map, nor its intended role in the presentation.  As far as I have been able to determine, it is a supplementary document, which allows the students to show their creativity. Looking at the finalists from 2017, it seems most of the students took an infographic approach, or went into a full scale interactive website production.

I wanted to share a few resources that I have seen that may show some alternatives.

Truth be told I am not a master at creating or using infographics, most of my recent work has been creating visual summaries of conversations and keynotes, in the realm of graphic facilitation and recording. My ‘go to’ if asked to create a visual map would likely be some kind of sequential art, combining narrative and data with some eye catching visuals.

I have dug up some research though to help explain visual mapping and its variety and power. The landscape for visual work is expanding, and more often the discrete disciplines tend towards overlapping.  It is a good idea to zoom out and get a high level look at the space before we begin. Continue reading “Visually mapping the system”