Defrag Your Brain with a Concept Diagram


Notes from Scott Kubie’s (@scottrocketship) session at PSU Web, "Defrag Your Brain with a Concept Diagram".

Working at Wolfram

Is versus Ought: "Minding your isness"

Pages aren’t stories.

Websites aren’t products.

Wireframes and mockups only do so much. What if you’re missing something? How are things connected?

If someone assigns something to you, do the research to truly understand where they’re coming from. What they want. Their perspective.

Concept modeling is a process to develop a concept map/diagram.

Concept diagrams are graphical tools for organizing and representing knowledge.

Concept diagrams are made up of nouns and verbs. Nouns = concepts. Connected by verbs (link).

What they are NOT:

  • Sketch notes
  • Affinity diagrams
  • Mindmap

Five steps to building diagrams:

  1. Ask a question (you need to know what you want to understand)
  2. Do research (materials, competitive, interviews with experts, mind mapping)
  3. Make a list (parking lot, brain dump, big freaking list – nouns and verbs, interactive words for UX)
  4. Arrange the pieces (allow yourself to move around, shuffle – stickies, notecards, omnigraffle)
  5. Create links (trust your gut, your understanding)

Then, refine, refine, refine…or don’t.

Start with basics, then introduce size, color variations. What happens if you pull out the central concept? Can someone understand what your diagram is describing? Introduce larger circles, then you have Venn diagrams. Introduce icons or visuals that represent things. People, especially. Personas, etc.


  • Use content diagramming to do some Gap analysis
  • Concept model plus content model for strategy
  • Stakeholder meetings: can be tricky. But these are your propositions, not theirs. Remember that.
  • Tell a story with one or more diagrams
  • Works really well as a suggestive device

Other thoughts: Concept maps are never finished. Start with something you know well.

Dan Brown
Stephen Anderson

2 thoughts on “Defrag Your Brain with a Concept Diagram

  1. You know how you have to defragment a computer every once in a while, because it stores information randomly? Do human brains work the same way – and is there some kind of ‘defrag’ machine we could build to organize our information?

  2. Fragmented, like in a computer-term kinda way? I just wanna know if it’s theoretically or scientifically possible. And, that sleeping holds the key to defrag it back. ‘coz if it is maybe, that would explain a lot of things that are going on about being forgetful at a young age or just simply having a slow mental processing. Just wondering.. What’s your opinion?

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