The Scatter Diagram
How to organize 567 ideas.
A few persons with a big research idea on placemaking were thinking in a small vacuum. With a resource of local, national and international knowledge available between offices in New York City and San Juan, Puerto Rico, the thought process was opened to all of Marvel’s employees. The broad concept and initial ideas were presented to the office as a whole with the invitation for all to insert their own ideas and experience. Digital presentations were composed and broadcast with digital voice and video across a 1,600 mile divide.
The return formatting request was pure analog: Ideas and thoughts written on 3”x5” ruled index cards and pinned to the wall.
Within a week, there were hundreds of cards. Those cards in remote places were scanned and printed hardcopy in the New York office. The total count of 3”x5” cards was a touch overwhelming.
On a Friday morning, a group took all the cards and began organizing them into topical groupings. These groupings were combined with our prior topic lists and other broad issues the research group had uncovered from various resources including the US Conference of Mayors, the Bloomberg-Harvard City Leadership Initiative.
The result was a physical scatter-diagram of issues and relationships, grouped into 9 broad categories. In no particular order:
1. Placemaking + Livable Cities
3. Arts + Parks + Recreation
4. Education + Workforce
7. Political + Social Issues
8. Regional + International Issues
Placemaking, combined with livable cities, remained in the mix of topics as its own category, despite the fact it was one of the key inspirations for the entire research endeavor. In this case, place referred to the physical buildings and landscape.
Resiliency and Environment began as a single topic but were later split to independent issues after a thought-provoking presentation by Dr. S. Atyia Martin at the AIA in New York.
As we discussed the arrangement, we began to realize the value of the scatter diagram as compared to a straight listing. It had the potential to reveal the bond or lack or relation between topics through adjacency or distance. Are all the relations correct on this first pass? No. But it is a start towards organizing our thoughts.