Boundary objects

Boundary objects are physical manifestations of understanding. They sit at the boundary of multiple people’s understanding. Boundary objects are how people all know they’re talking about the same thing.

Making effective boundary objects is one of the most difficult parts of the craft of design. It’s a skill I’m especially interested in developing since it simplifies: complex and misinterpretable language becomes unnecessary when you have a clean visual representation of an idea.

I think I first heard the term boundary object from Skip Shelly , a professor I had at CMU. It’s a really design-y term but is a pretty perfect description of the purpose these sorts of artifacts serve.