Mode Mapping for User Experience and Industrial Design

Stuart Karten Design ( is an industrial design consultancy that creates products using a user-centric approach. 

Karten outlines a specific process, “mode mapping,” that visually represents observational and ethnographic data. The mode mapping process typically involves the following key steps:

  1. Do the research, then determining personas for the research subjects and a common set of appropriate “modes.” For example, the modes for a person’s average day might include: family, friends, work, play, rest, transit, etc.
  2. Determine more specific modes for specific inquiries. Peoples’ relationships with their cars might generate modes like: chauffer, errand, commute, maintain, etc.
  3. Create sub-modes for the personas that tie into a primary person’s mode. A “parent” may link to a “child” or a “patient” may be linked to a “caregiver”.
  4. Map the modes against appropriate axes, such as “State of Mind” and “Time” or “Active / Passive” and “Time.”
  5. Add pressure points, or the fixed demands on individuals, features that do not change (e.g., soccer practice schedule).
  6. Mark decision points — points where subject has choices.
  7. Look for patterns across multiple subjects and label them with descriptive terms (e.g., “mad rush”)
  8. Look for ways to improve transitions and decisions within the key patterns.


  1. Actually a very simple way of describing how how to build the model. Of course, “the devil is in the detail” where there are a lot of priorities to balance. Did you see this yet?
    Very very good thought leadership stuff from Tungle.

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