Kumu Blog

Tools and practices for tackling complex systems.

Data-driven design

Featured Beneath Kumu lies a powerful and flexible data model that let's you track an essentially limitless amount of information for each of the elements, connections and loops in your map.

But, what to do with all this power? And when it comes to decorations, how does using data make for a more powerful map?

All this information gets stored on what we call the profile. Any time you select an element, connection or loop, the sidebar changes to show you the profile for the given entity. You start with a blank slate and can easily add whatever attributes you'd like (such as "skills" or "level of influence").

Once you've got some data in place and start decorating your map, you'll notice we push you towards using information stored in these attributes rather than just coloring a given element or connection "just because."

We see a lot of people following a thought pattern somewhat like this:

Jim is influential, I want him to stand out.


I know! I'll change his size and add a nice bright orange as his element color.

Oh! Jane is influential too, let me change her size and color as well.

You can imagine where this leads!

Rather than changing the style of "Jim" so that his element is large and orange, we want you to first add the information that he is "influential" (through a tag for example), and then create a rule that makes it so all "influential" elements are large and orange.

This has a couple immediate benefits:

  1. It forces you to be clear about why you're adding a given decoration
  2. It makes it so that by simply changing the data (in this case, adding the "influential" tag to other elements), the map automatically updates
  3. If you've decided that you hate orange, you can just edit one decoration and suddenly have all "influential" elements large and purple

Friends don't let friends decorate directly.

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This takes a bit of getting used to, but you'll find it far more powerful in the long run. Of course if you ever need to decorate an element "just because", we'll let you. Just don't do it too often or we'll send the data police after you... :-)

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