By Birger Sevaldson


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

Updated 14.April 2016

Designers and design is facing ever growing challenges from an increasingly complex world. Making design matter means to cope with these challenges and to be 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. Systems Oriented Design is a new version of systems thinking and systems practice that is developed from within design thinking and design practice. It is systems thinking and systems practice tailored by and for designers. It draws from designerly ways of dealing with super-complexity derived from supreme existing design practices as well as refers to established perspectives in modern systems thinking, especially Soft Systems Methodology, Critical Systems Thinking and Systems Architecting. Further on it is based on design skills like visual thinking and visualisation in processes and for communication purposes. Most central are the emerging techniques of GIGA-mapping. GIGA-mapping is super extensive mapping across multiple layers and scales, investigating relations between seemingly separated categories and so implementing boundary critique to the conception and framing of systems.

This type of mapping is not new: Kolko describes a very familiar process:

"The user research sessions will produce pages of verbal transcript, hundreds of pictures, and dozens of artifact examples. Because of the complexity of comprehending so much data at once, the designer will frequently turn to a large sheet of paper and a blank wall in order to “map it all out.” Several hours later, the sheet of paper will be covered with what to a newcomer appears to be a mess—yet the designer has made substantial progress, and the mess actually represents the deep and meaningful sensemaking that drives innovation." (J. Kolko, 2010 Design Issues Vol 26 iss. 1)

Though this process has been described before it is far from developed into a substantial technique for the designer. Gigamapping is developing the normal mapping activity seen for a while in some design practices into something more of an organized strategy. Kolko also describes the messiness and the lack of linearity in the process forward towards synthesis. The myriadic quality and messiness are typical for the Gigamapping process.

To read more follow this link >>>>>


A Gigamap is characterized by:
     • 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 sources of information
     • Myriadic quality: including large amounts of information
     • Crossing scales, from large scale to small scale (microscope,  telescope, wide angle views)
     • Combining and relating cathegorically different entities
     • Covering wide fields
     • Digging into details
     • Combining, interpolating and criticizing systems models
     • Boundary construction, critique, and adjustement.


GIGAmap map small

A Gigamap draws from and combines many mapping types into one interrelated whole
(Diagram:Birger Sevaldson, 2013)



The term Gigamapping was coined in 2009 by Birger Sevaldson in the context of the 2009 SOD design studio at the Oslo School of Architecture and Design. In that studio the designerly mapping techniques that were used before already from 2006 and onward where developed to a new level of complexity.

During the years the concept has been contineously developed.

(to be continued)


To see more Gigamaps:

To see very high res samples click here >>>>>

To see full screen overview go to the gallery >>>>>


Read more here:

GIGA-Mapping: Visualisation for complexity and systems thinking in design Birger Sevaldson Paper presented at NORDES 2011, 30th May 2011 follow this link to the full version >>>>>

Or read it below. 



Here is the paper.

Please site the NORDES confrence NORDES 2011, 30th May

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