Synthesis Maps References

Synthesis Maps  |  2019  |  2018  |  2017   |  2016   |  2015 + prior   |  References  

Synthesis Maps are rich, information visualizations of problematics in complex systems, that portray both challenges and solutions within a "wicked problem" context, based on evidence and action research. They visually communicate salient issues and complex concepts for stakeholder decisions, strategic envisioning and service design, and serve as narrative artifacts for presentation in conferences and publications.

The GIGAmap (Sevaldson, 2009) and Synthesis Map are two types of system maps being developed in the context of complex problem practice research.  They have different processes and even intended uses – the Synthesis Map being the model trained at OCAD University.  Synthesis mapping was developed over several years of studio education and formative process enhancement at OCAD U’s Strategic Foresight and Innovation (SFI) graduate program. Advised by Sevaldson, the SFI program adapted the GIGAmap process in its Systemic Design course in collaboration with Oslo School of Architecture and Design.  SFI professors Jeremy Bowes and Peter Jones teach the Systemic Design course using a mixed-studio and seminar pedagogy, training fundamental system mapping skills and then integrating models and research into synthesis map projects. Synthesis maps are developed for course-based problems, typically without sponsors, over a half-course time period. Therefore, most of the maps can be considered formative starting points for further research with problem stakeholders or in pursuit of system redesign.


Horn, R.E. (1998). Visual Language: Global communication for the 21st century. Bainbridge, WA: MacroVU Press.

Jones, P.H. & Bowes, J. (2017). Rendering systems visible for design: Synthesis maps as constructivist design narratives. She Ji: The Journal of Design, Economics, and Innovation, 3 (3), 229–248.

Jones, P.H., Shakdher, S. & Singh, P. (2017). Synthesis maps: visual knowledge translation for the CanIMPACT clinical system and patient cancer journeysCurrent Oncology, 24 (2), 129-134. 

Sevaldson, B. (2011). Gigamapping: Visualization for Complexity and Systems Thinking in Design. Nordes, 4. Helsinki: Nordic Design Research Conference