System map

Published on February 18, 2019 by

Themes: , , , , ,


To visualise the service technical organisation


The system map is a visual description of the service technical organization: the different actors involved, their mutual links and the flows of different goods (eg. materials, energy, information, money) through the system


One Hour


Big sheet of paper, visual material, scissors, coloured pens, stickers, computer


In Small Groups

Image courtesy of Service Design Tools, click here to visit site


The map combines together text and pictograms in an effective visual representation: the use of colours, the different sizes of the objects and the way in which they are related inside the space of the visualization helps the “reading” of  the graph and the understanding of the entire system. The tool is based on a given set of graphical elements including objects, arrows and actions that can be put together according to the specific service idea to visualise. The use of the same graphical set of elements allows a quick comparison between different concepts and the simplicity of the language ensures common comprehension across extended teams.

  1. Write down on post-it notes all the significant people and places in your service. People includes service users, service providers and all the other stakeholders who are affected by or have an interest in the service. Places includes both the real and virtual places where your service is encountered (e.g. rooms, buildings, websites, apps…);
  2. On a large piece of paper, start to group your post-it notes and make connections between them: What connects individual people and places? How do they affect each other? Who interacts with who? How and where? Draw arrows and symbols to illustrate the groupings and connections you make;
  3. Move notes around if some groupings or connections suggest others;
  4. You’ve finished when you think your diagram could be used to explain your service to others;
  5. Stand back and think what making the map has taught you: Are there groupings and connections that you can see now that you couldn’t before? How does the map help clarify what your project needs to achieve?


System Map, Service Design Tools, access at

Flickr User Model, Soliderant, access at

François Jégou, F. Manzini, E. Meroni, A. (2002) Design plan, a tool for organising the design activities oriented to generate sustainable solutions, working paper, SusProNet conference, Amsterdam


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