Mental mapping

This tool allows a user or stakeholder to draw her/ his perception of a specific area. This tool is about capturing subjective matters that are influenced by experiences, motivations and abilities of the user. For example, the same distance of a place seems shorter if it covered on a daily basis. Another example is when an individual perceives a familiar environment friendlier or safer than other unknown parts of the city.

Format MethodTimeframe 1 - 3 hoursGroup Size AllFacilitation Level LowRequired Materials Pen and paper, Post its, Clipboard


  • Ask the users/ stakeholders to draw their perception of a specific space/ area.
  • The user might be hesitant, try to make them feel comfortable and be open and don’t judge their drawings: it is no right or wrong in mental mapping.
  • After the drawing/ map has been made you can ask specific questions to clarify and better understand the perception of the user, make sure to record the answers.


This method can be useful for researchers to get an idea of how local stakeholders perceive the same places. It is a data collection tool that you can use when you have a rough idea about the issue at hand and after identifying stakeholders.


1) Use the attached template to capture the details of the person who drew the map as well as some metadata about the assignment you asked them to do; 2) Try to get perceptions of how users/ stakeholders with different backgrounds or age or daily routine perceive the same places; 3) Be aware that you ask exactly the same question and provide exactly the same instructions for all users/ stakeholders; 4) It works especially well with kids.