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Dan Brown on Concept Modeling

I work for an organization that is current embarking on a rather significant metadata initiative, that will inevitably require some serious modeling of concepts and relationships.

Therefore, I was very delighted to come across a presentation that designer Dan Brown, author of the book Communicating Design (2nd ed. has just been released), gave at the IA Summit 2008 titled Concept Models: A Tool for Planning Interaction. A video of the talk can be downloaded here, and the accompanying slide show is here (although for some strange reason, the text is garbled, but you can see all the images from the talk).

Dan Brown says “by far”, he gets asked more about Concept Models than any other design artifact. He uses Concept models for several reasons: (i) to get a better personal understand of a domain, (ii) to communicate and share that understand with others, (iii) to begin to evolve a common vocabulary (or set of terms) around a domain, and (iv) as a design tool. He doesn’t emphasize building a formal semantic model, but it’s a pretty logical next step.

I’ll provide a couple of visuals, just to get a “feel” for what Brown means by a concept model. Here’s a slide from his presentation modeling essential concepts around the hospitality domain:

And here’s a wonderful model developed by Bryce Glass to understand and describe Flickr:

Finally, here’s an article Brown wrote in March 2009 explain his use of concept models: In Which a Concept Model Makes Me Giddy.

Interesting stuff.


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