opioid crisis gigamap maggie ma

mapping a wicked problem:

the opioid crisis.



Zimmy Kang, Joseph Kim, Teresa Lourie, Elysha Tsai


Figma - worked on gigamap remotely due to Covid-19


Over recent decades, the opioid crisis in the United States has become the worst addiction epidemic in our nation’s history, and present research shows an upward trend in opioid-related death rates in northeastern states especially. This gigamap serves to visually represent the current causes and effects, inputs and outputs, stakeholders, and feedback loops that fuel this wicked problem while demonstrating the interconnectedness of individual facets in the system.

Our map proposes several leverage points that aim to intervene in terms of education, policy, healthcare, the environment, and the economy.​ Because the complex and changing nature of a wicked problem prevents the existence of one overarching solution, we aim to propose methods and ways that could manage and contain the issue at smaller scales.


The concentric layout represents the scalar complexity of the opioid crisis. Each oval demonstrates “personal,” “communal,” and “national” lenses along with the change in hue as the scale increases. The information on the map follows a linear flow, beginning with “inputs” and concluding with “outputs.” 

Many of the subcategories, however, cannot simply be represented in a linear format, thus the yellow lines demonstrate the interconnections and loops that exist within the nodes. The placement of the yellow numbered dots on the map represent where in the system designers will intervene, and corresponds to the intervention methods listed below the map. 


research + initial mapping

The first step we took to tackle our wicked problem was to map preliminary research and overarching topics such as treatment attempts, government intervention, mental and physical health effects, etc. We continued to branch these larger topics out while considering all levels of analysis—social, technological, environmental, political.

layout considerations

We then thought about how we wanted to format our map in a way that best demonstrates the scalar complexity of the wicked problem. We decided upon a concentric, "pill-shaped" layout.

color + design

We created both a "light" mode and "dark" mode version of our map, ultimately settling with the "dark" mode version. We also created multiple iterations of the "history" and "opioids by numbers" sections.


Click to magnify.

© 2020 by Maggie Ma.