When I make a diagram, I just draw. My only goal is to understand what’s going on. I make diagrams when my head is exploding – the amount of information that I’m receiving is too hard to digest. Conversation is not enough. Writing is out of the question because that’s not how my brain works. The logical choice, and the only choice, is to diagram. Basically, my diagrams are maps of how my brain is processing information on different topics.
When I started this diagram, my goal was to understand the components of one of my current projects. When I make a diagram, I start with the simplest aspects of the project – things I can easily understand, things that are very clear and concrete. Then I ask myself, or the people I am working with: How do these initial components relate to each other? For this diagram, I drew the initial components of the project (developing a climate action plan; energy efficiency retrofits on college campuses; and a sustainability action plan) and then I said to myself: “Ok, now you have some elements. How do they relate to each other?”
I start by connecting one thing to another. If I can’t connect them, I look for intermediary concepts that could connect them, to make a bridge. When I find that things are starting to have more complexity, such as hierarchy, relationships, or funding, I enhance those areas of the diagram accordingly with colors, dash lines, arrows – whatever.
This post is part of a series called Making Sense through Diagrams. Carlos Espinoza-Toro uses diagrams to understand the world. Each post features one diagram, however rough, and a little bit of information about it.