Thursday, March 15, 2012

Visual Mapping: Turning complex text into a simple visual

video    "Hey Jude" Visual Map

Visual Mapping and Information Design

First Steps

Early communication starts with drawing as children develop their vocabulary. Their comprehension of words and phrases is evident even though they cannot verbalize responses. They use “sounds, gestures, and images…[and] they draw rounded shapes, scribbles, zigzags, and other nonverbal expressions to express thoughts” (Hansen, p. 197). This process we learn as infants and continue to cultivate is visual thinking.

The Process

Visually represented ideas provide a way to organize, develop, refine, and retain information. “Graphics have the capacity to transform our understanding” (Hansen, p. 203) Graphics allow us to see information and visualize a scenario that can lead to the purchase of a product or provide a clear solution that was not evident through text representations. Dan Roam indicates that drawing a problem at a minimum presents us “with an infinitely clearer view of our situation” (p. 256). Information Designers rely on graphical representations of information to use as communication that conveys meaning and understanding. Technology and the information explosion have made graphics available and prominent through their integration on the internet and social media platforms.

Visuals in Advertising

The power of simplicity in design is evident throughout advertising campaigns. The ads we recall are short, simply, yet catchy. Another simple design is Icons which are representations of social media platforms or programs. When we see an icon we think of the program capability and uses or the social media platform that it represents.

Software Visuals
                              When talking about Tableau Software, a data visualization program, CFO Magazine is quoted as saying, ”In terms of generating useful, multidimensional visual analysis, it's like going from an Etch-a-Sketch to Industrial Light and Magic. Quite simply, it's the best piece of software CFO has run across in years” (Shien). There are many mapping software programs that can help put words into pictures. What they all have in common is the simplicity of the visual that they create to explain and present information that otherwise, without a visual, would just be words that are just half of the message.
My Blog Map and Implementation

In my blog, I have used the right side bar as supporting text with graphics that correlate to each post. I tend to reply on words more than graphics. In this blog I incorporated a visual graphic for each section of the post. The graphic represents the main idea I was expressing and the text supports it. I tried to make the graphics explain the post instead of the words. I also used a video that gives a great example of visually mapping a popular song.
Works Cited
Hansen, Yvonne M.”Visualization for Thinking, Planning, and Problem Solving.” Information Design. Ed. Robert Jacobson. London: MIT, 2000. 193-220. Print.
Roam, Dan. The Back of the Napkin. London: Penguin Group, 2009. Print.
Shien, Esther. “What's Hot This Summer.” CFO Magazine. August 1, 2007. Web. March 13, 2012.


  1. Your narrative flows easily for the reader and provides plenty of information and images that show the different ways of mapping. I find the light pink color a little difficult to read, but that is probably just me because my eyes are very sensitive to light. I like the color and it provides a nice backdrop for the images used.

  2. Hi Amanda

    Thank you for the comments. I did look at the pink quote on a few browsers and made a change to the color. Hopefully it looks better now!

    Lisa Pimpinella

  3. Dear Lisa,

    Great post!

    Good choice of background - it visually primes us for the post content. Fun video and great pics! The visuals really liven up the presentation and it was a good idea to place them before the text - I think it works. The Heinz Ketchup ad was inspired! I am always amazed at how advertising people can take so much and squeeze it down to a few words and one picture it is incredible! I always think of them as information design experts! Thanks for sharing that.

    One suggestion, to make for easier reading - perhaps you can introduce subheads when you are transitioning from one thought to another, like between the power of visual aid in ads and the power of visual aid in software.

    All in all, great blog. Nice pics, clear information and presentation that really made use of the readings. I especially liked your sidebar - great visuals and explanations of different types of maps and what information they share.

    Thanks for showing how it should be done!

    Shayna Horowitz

    Ps. This line, "Technology and the information explosion have made graphics available and prominent through their integration on the internet and social media platforms," at the end of the 'baby' paragraph confused me - I expected the pictures and words to be related. It seems almost a headline...Can it appear after your picture 'the process of visual thinking'?

    1. Hi Shayna:

      Thank you for the comments and your great review of the blog post. I appreciate your thoroughness and suggestions. The sentence that seemed out-of-place was out of place. It actually belonged in the next section. Thank you fo catching that. I liked your suggestion of headings. I did have some there originally and didn’t like the way they looked. That was before I completed some of the other designs though. Now that the blog post is formatted, and I added matching headings, it does make things more clear.

      Thank you!

  4. Very nice layout and coordination of colors, the shade of red is balanced to avoid provoking an unwanted feeling of anger, violence, or other unwanted feeling, instead offering a warm and welcoming feeling which is reinforced by the baby photos. The softer red also works very well with the Heinz examples. The visual map for “Hey Jude” presents an easy to understand visual map. The visual map also presents a nice example of wayfinding with its linear and spatial design. The paths offer several choices and still reconverge to keep the viewer on course to the final destination. I tip my hat to your talented creation of visual mapping.

    1. Hi Chad;

      Thank you for the review and comments. I appreciate the feedback.


  5. Nicely done! You have inspired me to start using headers. It is very affective in keeping each topic separate, especially for longer post. Your graphics help solidify your main idea in each paragraph.

    Your first steps section really makes a clear connection between child development and visual thinking. Referencing the process of visual thinking graphic was a great way to support the argument that we retain visual information far better than anything else.

    Nothing beats simplicity when it is done tastefully. The Heinz advertisement was a perfect choice. I have seen some crafty advertisements, like putting a straw into an orange to reflect pure orange juice, but Heinz really “struck a chord” with that one.

    What a perfect idea! Creating a blog map…. I should have done that! Great blog… I will look forward to your next post.

    1. Hi

      Thank you for the reply. Appreciate the support and feedback.