3 Powerful Visual Mapping Strategies in UX Design

September 23, 2019 posted by


Cognitive mapping, mind mapping, concept mapping. All three are powerful visual mapping strategies
for organizing and representing knowledge. They help us lay out complex ideas,
processes, relationships, recognize patterns, and retain knowledge. Cognitive maps, mind maps, and concept
maps all look and feel pretty similar. This similarity causes confusion. They are all three different ways
of visualizing a mental model, whether it belongs to the designer or to the user. Each has its strengths and
benefits. I’m going to run through all three. Cognitive maps are the umbrella term for
visual representations of mental models. This means they include mind maps
and concept maps. A cognitive map is any visualization or
representation of a person or a group’s mental model for a given process or concept. Cognitive maps have no visual
rules they have to obey. There is no restriction on how we
visually represent these things. Cognitive maps have two key unique
characteristics compared to the other two. One, they are extremely diverse in nature. They’re used for a range of disciplines
and have a variety of purposes. Two, they have no restrictions on structure or form. So that’s cognitive maps. And then
next we have mind maps. These are the most simplistic and thus
straightforward kind of mapping. They have a clear hierarchy and format, making
them pretty quick to create and consume. A mind map is a tree map that represents
a central topic and its subtopics. They consistently have a clear
organization and structure, because they are just that: tree structures. And then last we have concept maps. Concept maps are a more complex version
of a mind map, which I just talked about. They place an emphasis on identifying the
relationships between topics with action verbs. Nodes within concept maps
have several parents, versus whereas nodes
in mind maps had just one. Cognitive maps, mind maps,
and concept maps ultimately all enhance
our cognitive performance. Using one technique over another is not
going to make or break a project. In fact, ideally a combination of all three will be used as needed at different points in your process.

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