Visual Thinking: Private, Public, Civic, Social

I tend to ponder on big issues – politics, the state of the planet, humanity in general – the usual. Recently I’ve been trying to map out some of thoughts like:

  • What do certain political ideologies look like?
  • What does the Panama Papers means for our societies?
  • How does Silicon Valley effect my local community?
  • What did societies look like at certain points in history?

To achieve this aim I started with simple graphs, then started to think in 3D and then it all got too complicated.

I came back to this problem this week and developed this simple concept:


This maps out the main domains we tend to inhabit, the:

  1. Private
  2. Public
  3. Civic
  4. Social

These represent quite different ways of operating and forms of expression.

The way that I’ve been thinking is that the Private domain represents a personal expression – “I am” and is individualistic in its operation. The Public domain however is group driven “We are” and operates as a competitive environment. The Social domain is about an individuals constructed connection – “I am part of” and operates as a cooperative, together but with a personal outcome. The Civic domain represents communities that we inhabit, “We are part of”, they are collaborative achieving effort for the community as a whole.

The idea with the graphic here is to adjust size and overlap to represent different ideas. You could also overlay additional domains one might interact with, for example the Corporate domain:


And then you can play around with different ideas – like the Neo-Liberal Agenda:


What might Communism have looked like?


What about a local community?


At the moment I’m just playing around with the idea of thinking visually … and as a way to represent thoughts in something other than words. I’ve been thinking about the overlaid areas and what they might mean – for example is the cross over between the Civic and Personal domains Family? Social and Personal friends?

I just thought I’d put this out there – I’m not sure it’s of any use – or just a copy of something someone has already done. Just thinking out loud.

Everything on this page is CC-BY and if you want source files get in contact – happy to provide them. 

By Tim Klapdor

Passionate about good design, motivated by the power of media and enchanted by the opportunities of technology.

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