Mental Landscapes

Delanie Ricketts and Dan Lockton

Download DXF files to laser-cut (or otherwise cut) your own Mental Landscapes kit: part 1 (zip) | part 2 (zip)

The Mental Landscapes project is exploring the potential of landscape metaphors to be used as visual / physical tools for creative reflection on concepts. We are developing a kit which can enable individual or group ‘mapping’ of thinking about life, career, fields of knowledge or projects, through arranging and annotating simple card shapes.

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Delanie Ricketts, leading the project, notes that landscapes are commonly used as metaphors for complex systems—understanding a complex information system as an “information landscape”, for example, helps convey the idea that such a system, like a landscape, is vast and encompasses many interacting variables. While we commonly use landscape metaphors in speech to help us understand complex or abstract systems or relationships, we rarely use landscape metaphors in visuals. There is an opportunity for visual information landscapes to be part of a creative facilitation, elicitation or reflection tool—but do they provide a useful framework for people to understand abstract concepts? Are there shared methods of utilizing a visual framework?

So far with the project, we have explored career paths, larger-scale life landscapes, and project landscapes, asking students in groups or individually to construct landscapes to map, and reflect on, their own mental models. Our aim is to develop the kit to the stage where it can be a tool for people to explore their own and others’ imaginaries, for personal interest, for research, or in community and business contexts.

Many thanks to Chris Stygar, Josiah Stadelmeier, and the whole School of Design 3D Lab for their help in developing the materials for the project.