Founded originally as an information design studio, the name Tellart comes from the “art of telling.” When we started out in 1999, digital layers on objects and architecture were becoming more and more common. Unlike a bicycle, where a quick look at its parts gives the rider a mental model for how to get on and ride it, objects as simple as television remote controls are much more mysterious–the vast majority of their functionality is hidden inside a box on a circuit board and in software. In order to design and build objects and spaces that involved these invisible and intangible software layers, we first mastered visual map making. Since our founding, the internationally recognized information designer Krzysztof Lenk was our in-house guru, and even in his official retirement remains an active part of Tellart. We have applied our mapping techniques beyond the design of software and services to projects including a surgical procedure using a new type of digital instrument, and to the massively complex process of debris removal and sorting following the World Trade Center disaster.
Systems of software and services are inherently invisible and visual map making is a critical method for working collaboratively with clients and other project stakeholders. Though some “front-stage touchpoints”, like a ticket kiosk at an airport, are visible and tangible, the ecosystem of backstage and linked elements and systems (such as where your baggage goes after it leaves your sight, or the huge software architecture in the ticketing software system), are not visible. Even when planning something as simple as a small website, a visual map can do more than just reveal the number and type of pages to be built, it can detail navigational routes, “experience flows” through common tasks, and inventory hardware and software elements to be implemented.