Blob Mapping

UX & Behavioral Research | Spatial design

Psychogeography + design research examining how space becomes place by exploring behavioral, multi-sensory mapping called “Blob Mapping”.


Spatial design, behavioral research

My role

UX designer and researcher

Project timeline

November 2020 — April 2021



What makes a space a place?

Maps and navigational systems have been essential tools for individuals to understand and navigate their physical environment. However, traditional cognitively designed maps may be rigid, as they do not take into account individual interpretations of space. The goal of the Blob Mapping project was to develop an alternative method of spatial communication that could lead to more effective communication between individuals, cultures, and their environment. The project aimed to explore how we navigate and understand space as individuals and the implications of social interaction with spatial decision-making and behavior. Blob Maps was presented at the 2021 “Famous Friends” Design Talks based in Brazil.



Exploring Alternative Spatial Communication

As an American studying in Italy, I was far from home and anything familiar- so I began to see how my experience and learning of this foreign place was different than a short term tourist or long-term local. I began exploring what it is about specific places, buildings or locations that hold meaning for us. Why do we find some places more attractive or repulsive than others? In what ways does this affect how we use, move and interact in that place Fundamentally- how do we organize and interpret space so that it gains significance and becomes a place?

I began to understand that traditional mapping methods and navigational systems have been designed based on cognitive models and are often limited in their ability to represent individuals’ subjective interpretations of space. This rigidity has resulted in maps that are difficult to interpret and navigate for individuals, leading to the need for an alternative method of spatial communication. Blob mapping was developed as a means of exploring this alternative method.



Using tactile communication to gather organic feedback on spatial awareness

The Blob mapping project involved using non-linguistic, tactile communication methods to gather feedback about spatial awareness. Participants were asked to create “blob maps” of large urban spaces using clay or playdough to portray their personal connection to the physical space. The aim was to elicit the most organic responses possible by avoiding any type of predefined city segmentations, zones, or icons. The blob maps were then analyzed to understand the effect of physical geography on emotions and related behaviors.


Results & Takeaways

Can we reimagine space?

The Blob mapping project provided valuable insights into how individuals navigate and understand space. By using non-linguistic, tactile communication methods, the project was able to gather feedback in a way that traditional maps cannot. The project highlighted the need for a cognitive-behavioral shift in mapping, moving away from cognitive models and toward a more subjective interpretation of space.

The project also demonstrated the value of augmented reality in better understanding space. By visualizing blob maps in augmented reality, participants were able to carry their mental maps with them and view them in real-time. The project also showed that cultural influences play a significant role in how individuals interpret space. The place that individuals consider to be their native hometown has the most significant cultural influence on their mental maps.

In conclusion, the Blob mapping project has demonstrated the need for alternative methods of spatial communication that take into account individuals’ subjective interpretations of space. By using non-linguistic, tactile communication methods, the project has provided valuable insights into how individuals navigate and understand space, leading to a more effective communication system that can advance the ways we interact with our environment.