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Maps as Innovative Tools in Design Research

Sara Queen and Tania Allen discuss how they use maps in their work to "make the abstract concrete and to connect meanings and concepts."

Published onAug 04, 2023
Maps as Innovative Tools in Design Research


Sara Queen and Tania Allen discuss how they use maps in their work to "make the abstract concrete and to connect meanings and concepts." Maps can do a lot. They can measure place, isolate information to show relationships, show relative size or importance (i.e. scale), frame and orient our interpretation of data. represent visible or invisible phenomena visually, and tell stories. Maps are “constructs of reality,” When we are making them, we are “creating a view of reality that will impact how we understand the world.”

Tania Allen has a B.A. in history with a minor in fine arts / graphic design from Washington University in St. Louis. Allen holds a post-baccalaureate certificate in visual communication from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and a Master of Graphic Design from NC State University. Along with Sara Queen, Allen is the co-director of the design research group co-lab, which focuses on critical mapping as a participatory design research tool. Currently, co-lab’s focus is on developing a methodology for critical mapping that simultaneously embraces cartography as a powerful analytic and synthetic research tool, while also challenging the assumptions that the mapping and visualization process embeds within it. Recent publications have included “Beyond the Map: Unpacking Critical Cartography in the Digital Humanities” in Visible Language (Fall 2015), co-authored with Sara Queen.

Sara Queen, AIA, holds a Bachelor of Environmental Design in architecture from NC State and a Master of Architecture from Harvard University. She is a licensed architect and urbanist who has led award winning projects across the southeast and served as an appointed member of the City of Raleigh Planning Commission. Sara is an associate professor and director of undergraduate programs within the School of Architecture and the director of the College of Design’s First Year Experience at NC State. As the co-director of Co-Lab, her ongoing research investigates structural inequities of infrastructural networks through mapping methodologies with the goal of facilitating deeper, more diverse understandings of urban systems and the processes which shape physical place, cultural space, and social territory.

Maps as Innovative Tools in Design Research, Pt. 1 (Sara Queen & Tania Allen)

This video was originally produced for an audience of entering first-year and transfer students at NC State University as a part of an interdisciplinary experience. It is available for noncommercial reuse under a Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial 4.0 License,


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