Friday, March 18, 2011

Making models from text

The purpose of this post is show the steps I went through from text to diagram. Turns out this a useful skill to have!)

Step 1: What data 'fields' do you want to communicate?

The text I was working with was:
  • Council Strategic plans,
  • Library Trust aims,
  • Key activities,
  • Operational plans and activities
  • Key performance indicators.
First step is work out what are the relevant or crucial data 'fields' that will illustrate the point you want to make. Make sure you know what the point you want to make is and remember that less is more so strip it back as far as possible.

I wanted to map Trust activity directly to Council strategy. Council are interested in governance not operations so I eliminated all operational data. This left me with a list of Council Strategic documents and a list of Library Trust aims.

Step 2: Mapping A to B

I 'tweaked' my list of library aims so that I ended up with a clear 1:1 mapping between the two lists. I dropped some Council Strategies which were not supported by Trust aims.

Step 3: Layout

Next play around with the sort of shape that would work for your data. One time I made a model like a lego construction with cyclinders resting on platforms. This was to illustrate distinct 'pillars' (focus areas of activity) that together formed a 'platform' of admin.

In this one I was playing with interweaving, perhaps using Council Strategies as the warp and Trust aims as the weft. Then I thought about library activity reaching out (into the community) from a strong (Council strategic framework) centre. I settled on Trust activities as the focus because it is OUR document. Council strategy is the background or framing.

Step 4: Mock Up
I liked this shape because the circle 'corners' bulge or flex out from a fairly 'prescribed' or focussed set of library aims (straight lines). The useful 'space' in the middle was formed from using square text boxes in triangles.

I use Microsoft Publisher for almost all of my diagrams, but sometimes Google Sketchup. (Actually to be totally honest, I take my pencil drawing and ask my 13 year old son to do it for me.)

Publisher as a format is a bit tricky but its a great creation tool. Think about negative space as well as positive space. Colours and fonts are really important too: some colours will make things pop off the page while other colours will help shapes 'recede'. When you have it all done select all and then save as a jpeg. This means you can insert it as an image in to any document.

Step 5: Finish
Also, jot down the colour 'formula' so you can match it with a colour scheme in your finished report.

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