A Visual Vocabulary for Concept Models

Part One: Rendering Relationships

Concept Sketches by Brian Gulassa, Toy Designer and fellow CCA professor
My drawing Scott Berninato’s chart of charts
The Design Squiggle http://cargocollective.com/central/The-Design-Squiggle

Like language, visual communications abstract and schematize; unlike language, they use properties of the page (e.g., proximity and place: center, horizontal ⁄ up–down, vertical ⁄ left–right) and the marks on it (e.g., dots, lines, arrows, boxes, blobs, likenesses, symbols) to convey meanings. — Barbara Tversky

This is what makes up a visual vocabulary. Proximity, place & marks.

System Concept Model

Exploded View Diagram, by Brian Gulassa, toy designer.
Learn more http://study.com/academy/lesson/bubble-diagrams-in-architecture-interior-design.html

Process Concept Model

me, notes from culinary school
Loops within arcs! Arcs within loops! good times! https://conversionxl.com/customer-journey-maps-better-website-retention/

Models for Comparison

Learn to use it here http://www.xplaner.com/visual-thinking-school/
You know SWOT, but do you recall it’s helpful-harmful, internal-external? Position in space has meaning.

Combinations & Metaphors

Many of the ideas we wish to communicate have more than one type of relationship happening. For example, if we want to describe how people change over time, we need to use both Process+Comparison.

  1. You build the base before you can move to the next level. Up as seen as forward progress.
  2. Pyramids narrow as you move up, which suggests not everyone makes the climb. Some people will stay at the bottom of the pyramid, through choice or circumstance.
From Laura Klein’s Build Better Products
I want to point out I’m completely making stuff up at this point, and it is my theory and mine alone that sales and market can expand your market share. Still, I suspect sales and marketing is the right name for those bridges.
Giorgia Lupi explores

Building a Visual Vocabulary

When I first started to make models, I reached for whatever model I felt comfortable with. It means I made a lot of Venn diagrams and 2x2’s.

One of my many pages of copying other people.


The payoff is clarity, efficiency, and on a good day, humor.

How’d that thing get in here?


I got the original steve blank reference from David J Bland, and boy was I off! But as I said, I wanted to demonstrate exploring metaphors, and that I did.

More on Visual Thinking

How to Make a Concept Model
Five Models for Making Sense of Complex Systems
Alphabets and Ideographs
Books on Drawing
More …



Designing business, and the business of design. www.eleganthack.com

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