diagram generator

swirly design that was actually the side of an old rusty truck that had been sanded

I’ve released the software to generate a mental model diagram. You can feed your spreadsheet to it and a mental model diagram (the top half of an opportunity map) will appear on the page. You can export it as an SVG file to load into a drawing tool.

diagram format

The software produces a diagram that looks like the following. You can choose parameters for all the rectangles and fonts in the diagram. Download this example spreadsheet to try it out.

thumbnail of dog mental model diagram

You can download the generated diagram as an SVG file. People who tested this file format were able to load it easily into Illustrator to add a legend and play a bit more with how the diagram appears.

known issues

SVG: Apparently different browsers handle the SVG image generation differently. This generator doesn’t behave itself on Firefox with respect to line-wrapping, but it is fine on Chrome and Safari.

PDF: My developer and I ran into a bit of an issue downloading a PDF due to the long horizontal nature of the image, and the existing apps would break it up into printable pages. To print a PDF, you will need to load the SVG file into appropriate software, e.g. Illustrator.

spreadsheet format

The software expects your data to be in a certain format. It looks for a spreadsheet where the first three columns represent the labels that make up the mental spaces, towers, and boxes of the mental model diagram.

In many people’s spreadsheets, the boxes are the summaries you’ve written to clarify what the participant was trying to convey.

excel spreadsheet with columns for mental space, tower, and summary.

You can also add a column if your data set is large, collecting several summaries into one box.

spreadsheet with columns for mental space, tower, and box, where the fourth column contains summaries

The rows can appear with spaces where you like them.

spreadsheet where the first summary for a box shares the row with that box label

I have tested it with Excel spreadsheets, but not with other types of spreadsheet.

There can be other tabs in your spreadsheet, and this diagram generator will look for the first tab that contains this format style.

colors & fonts

There are two ways to put color in the diagram and one way to change the fonts.

  1. The page containing the (somewhat primitive) interface allows you to change the color and font of every mental space at once, or every tower or every box.
  2. However, if you would like to color the boxes according to a data value, the diagram generator will look for a tab in the spreadsheet that looks like this. You can name this tab anything you like, but the colors must be specified either in RGB or Hex format. If this tab is present in the spreadsheet, it will override the color set in the interface, above.

screenshot of spreadsheet tab with 12 ID's assigned three different colors

This color assignment tab works based on the ID column. You can assign each ID a different color according to whatever value/type you want. (For example, by thinking-style segment or by concept type.) The color for each ID in the color assignment tab gets mapped as the background color of the box for each instance of that ID in the source data tab.

Mental model diagram (top half) of a dog's thinking during the past day or two


I set up a GoFundMe page for you to chip in to offset the cost of building this software. I don’t have a corporation or association backing me, so the money came from my own personal funds.