Why are service designers making so many maps these days? Customer journey maps, empathy maps, experience maps and strategy roadmaps… We make maps to draw insight, catalyze ideas, to get on the same page, and as tools for understanding complex experiences and processes. At the service layer, we are using maps to drive decisions that impact end users as well as those who deliver services.
How did we get here? What makes a map useful? What’s next for these tools? How will they evolve? What cartographic capabilities do we need to develop as practitioners designing services?
Let’s talk about maps!
How many people remember weird childhood beliefs they had?
As a child, I believed all locations were transient
Things moved around – changed physical location
loved any map with you are here
It was so comforting - you are here - the solution to all my existential and locational angst.
In the beginning, cartographers made maps; to tell us where we are, to show us how to get somewhere we want to go, to understand the bigger context.
understand our place in the world.
Herbert Simon - maps help up to do that. In the physical sense - how do I get from A to B? And now, in a design context, in a metaphorical sense.
Modern design process is overrun with various mapping techniques - empathy maps
stakeholder maps, strategy roadmapping.
Why are we calling these things maps?
Traditionally maps have been of things that already existed.
allegorical maps or fantasy maps.
map was usually a representation of an existing thing in some way.
blueprint: plans or guidelines for making something which didn’t already exist.
‘customer journey MAP’ ( often used to show something that already exists)
Service BLUEPRINT (often used to outline here’s how it should be)
Of course, design maps can show current and future states
The design maps that we are making are representations – an attempt to wrangle complexity into an understandable shape.
We are using these maps to represent and describe services, experiences and systems as we understand them, or as we would like them to be.
Shar-zod Samdeh gave a brilliant talk called don’t make a journey map which I will be referencing, and in it she looks at the gartner hype cycle of journey mapping.
I think depending on how you look at it we are probably in that first phase of excitement.
Maps! All of them! All the time!
Why are designers making so many different types of map?/How did we get here?
Let’s take a look at the evolution of design maps over time.
proliferation of mapping tools in the designer’s toolkit in the last two decades.
Why is this? My hypothesis is that as the things we design get more complex, designers have to work harder to understand and visualize this complexity.
first line of defence has been to model complexity through a variety of types of map.
We can look at this in various ways
1st order is communication with symbols and images.
2nd order - design of artefacts as in engineering, architecture, and mass production.
In the middle of the 20th century we realised that we can also design activities and processes. We work progressively more with these activities and services. That’s the third order of design. In the beginning we called it Human Computer Interaction. Now we work with any kind of interaction – it’s about how people relate to other people. We can design those relationships or the things that support them. It’s this interaction I’m after.
fourth order of design is the design of the environments and systems within which all the other orders of design exist.
Both the third and the fourth order are emerging now very strongly.
we can overlay where mapping tools fit in.
mapping happens more in the strategic planning bucket
In the third and fourth orders, we really start to see mapping tools come into their own.
Another way to think about it is to look at S. Russo’s stratification of design thinking
Steph says that design is not EITHER giving shape OR making change, that in our current practice design is definitely both.
When we look at the stratification of the different layers and the increaing levels of complexity
we can the evolution of design tools/activities.
As we move up the levels from low to high complexity, we see more clusters of mapping tools emerging.
So for example, if you are making an artefact you can make a prototype or scale model
And then the stage of artefact and experience, we are making things like wireframes.
Once we get into the service and strategic level we really seeing the mapping tools
Maps are representations of complexity.
Design maps are a type of ‘show don’t tell’ when it comes to complex relationships, processes and systems.
attempt to visualize a big, messy thing with many bits and many people involved.
modern designer’s map as an attempt to wrangle big messes into an understandable shape.
In current design practice, we are dealing with several dimensions of complexity
Number and types of touchpoint
Number and variety of stakeholder
Where are we?
What is the current state?
How is everything related?
Where can we go?
How do we get there?
Are all questions which we are using design maps to answer and visualise.
Once upon a time cartographers positioned us in the world, and now more and more designers are stewarding a similar process, for their clients and organizations.
At bridgeable, we consider design a form of translation.
Mapping is also a form of translation – collecting data and translating it to a visual format.
I came across this description of the cartographic process while I was researching. (pensylvania state university)
“cartography is as a process that links map makers, map users, the environment mapped, and the map itself.”
“The cartographic process is a cycle that begins with a real or imagined environment.
Collect data - detect patters
Signify data visually - encoding
Next, the map user reads, analyzes, and interprets the map by decoding the symbols and recognizing patterns.
Finally, users make decisions and take action based upon what they find in the map. Through their provision of a viewpoint on the world, maps influence our spatial behavior and spatial preferences and shape how we view the environment.”
Designers also go through this process of collecting data, pattern identification/synthesis, visual encoding, and then sharing the map with a map user.
In traditional cartography, we start with a set of measurement data.
Traditional cartography has an agreed upon scientific method associated to it.
That data is visually represented.
In the past, this has been about visualizations of geographic, physical realities.
There is often then a process of overlaying a human layer on to this representation.
For example, google maps uses scientific measurement data to produce representations of geographic things.
These maps have familiar attributes of a map - a scale, they depict water and land.
Now we are layering over the human layer – such as cycling routes. And to go beyond that, they human layer of effort and how much of an incline you will be biking.
Design maps often work in the reverse way.
We start with the human layer – someone’s qualitative experience.
We look for data on emotions, perceptions, then we represent that, and sometimes we layer over measurement data – quant metrics
For example, this experience map started with qualitative investigation into the human layer behind the service
Understanding pain points, thoughts and feelings, and identifying opportunitites
These are not tangible or observable data points. They then get represented, and sometimes we layer over measurement data or quant metrics.
Design maps are often a jumble of data types.
invisible, visible, and making the implicit, explicit. -
This is mirrored by the cartographers role - we cannot see the whole world at once, so we need maps to wrangle the vastness into a manageable and useful form.
designers must differentiate between mapping to understand versus mapping to communicate.
Too often I think we interchange the maps we made to get something straight and build a picture in our head, with the maps we show our clients or teammates.
vast and confusing to those who did not have a hand in making them - value of collaborative process
terrifying a client by triumphantly rolling out a massive service blueprint. bewildering/unclear value
current day design is a tension between deliverables and process.
most valuable: the knowledge revealed in the process of making the map.
Lennart Anderson - gaps in knowledge about their process and customer.
The process of this map making identified where research was needed, and convinced the client of the value of research.
I like to think about these gaps as the ‘terra incognita’, which is a term used in cartography for unknown land, territory which has not been mapped or documented as yet.
(Incidentally, you may have heard of ‘there be dragons’ being used also to mark unknown territory, but there is only one known surviving map that has this phrase. Roman and Medieval cartographers did use “here are lions”. I think either of these phrases could be used quite nicely to denote pain points in a process map or similar!)
challenge: more complex, less useful a 1:1 scale is.
ID 1:1 scale model or prototype
service designer trying to understand an organizational structure has no choice but to represent it diagrammatically,
similarly the software architect has to create drawings of system interrelations.
But here we come to sacrifice accuracy in our representations.
My brother and I toured the sweden solar system. Imagine how impossible this would be at 1:1 scale. (Bonus points for spotting the missing planets)
Jorge Luis Borges explores the tragic uselessness of the perfectly accurate, 1:1 map in his story ‘On Exactitude in Science’:
“In time, those Unconscionable Maps no longer satisfied, and the Cartographers Guild drew a Map of the Empire whose size was that of the Empire, coinciding point for point with it. The following Generations, who were not so fond of the Study of Cartography saw the vast Map to be Useless and permitted it to decay and fray under the Sun and winters.”
cartographic quandary of ‘map territory relation’.
scientist and philosopher Alfred Korzybski, is that people do confuse maps with territories,
that is to say they confuse models of reality with reality itself.
responsibility: recognize and steward the process of abstraction and representation.
How is what goes up on the wall making sense to others?
If we are trained as designers to make maps, do we need to train those who work alongside us to read our maps?
How are we using these maps?
Practical note, what makes a map useful:
what is the rhetorical intent? what is the purpose?
Scale: how big will this thing be? How big is it in relation to the thing I am representing?
Locating your team/your self/your project - where do we fit in?
Temporal aspect - versioning, what timescale does this map take place over?
What makes a map good or bad? Shar-zod Samdeh wrote an awesome article called ‘don’t make a journey map’/
Ask yourself these two questions
We are stewarding the maps of the ever constant ineffable
Maps are a pure form of sensemaking.
This is in our past and is undoubtedly in our future as a discipline.
As we look to the future, many of us see and experience being designers responding to increasingly wicked and messy problems.
more time to frame, scope and understand the problems we are working on.
Mapping tools are a crucial part of this. I think we will continue to rely on, and evolve these tools.
where is design headed?
attempts to map very intangible things, such as Dave Gray’s ‘culture map’.
As we try to make organizational change, we are trying to map increasingly ephemeral and intangible things.
Mapping for policy
Practitioners are starting to take on these challenges.
Simon O’ Rafferty has created a ‘policy map’ of community and soc in structures in Ireland
“Making a map is a way to hold a domain still for long enough to be able to see the relationships between the various approaches, methods, and tools. Maps are good for visualizing relationships.”
As a discipline, HMW move to living documents?
As service designers, how do we equip our clients with the maps they need?
Maps are going to help us to do all of this.
I propose that a cycle of understand - map - shape might better suit our future practice
build measure learn is of course about product and software
understand map shape - about complex environmental systems services
Better frames and tools to frame the scope
McKensie river, largest and longest river system in canada
Map dealer of natural resources canada
First we made industrial design drawings and product specifications.
Next came IA diagrams, and wireframes.
Now we make customer journey maps, empathy maps, mental models, experience maps and strategy roadmaps.
We make maps to draw insight, catalyze ideas, to get on the same page, and as tools for understanding complex experiences and processes.
Even in a world where everything is transient, designers will continue to be cartographers for a long time to come.