thinking visually

March 10, 2009 ·

how do you think? visually i hope.

unknowingly, i started doing this last august when at work, i devised a few visuals to illustrate some key strategic points. only after that did i come across a gentleman who is a master at this art. his name is david armano and not only does he have a knack for coming up with great new ideas, but visually representing them. once i saw his work, i was converted.

here's armano's syllabus on thinking visually:


i'm writing this because the last 3 weeks of my job has been consumed with one project, that at every chance, i tried to apply visual thinking. i'd like to believe that the work was better and the points were made more effectively because of it.

thinking visually is all about communicating an idea not entirely through words, but with images diagrams, art, photos or line art. it's weaving these elements into a clear, cohesive and meaningful representation of a thought or idea. it captures the idea and all the context into a concise snapshot that people can easily recall. think of it as a packed box - everything goes into the box but simply looking at it with 'kitchen' written on it tells the entire story.

there's no official rulebook to thinking visually, but here are a few considerations that i came up with:
  • words can't always be replaced, but use them sparingly
  • save it for the big ideas so they stay powerful
  • it's not just putting a picture on the page
  • aesthetics complete the sale
  • distill them, make them unconfusing and focused
  • use words as tags and let the visual explain
  • they don't always stand on their own - add context
armano has the gift of being a good designer and artist, which makes his visuals pop. unfortunately, i don't have those gifts. my tool of choice is a powerpoint. the latest version has some great tools embedded that will take you far in thinking and expressing visually.

i think this is a powerful way of applying yourself that makes what you have to say more compelling. it's more than just impressing people with creating eye candy, but conveying the idea in an interesting, thought provoking way. people will take more notice to your ideas, not because it looks pretty, but because the idea has been presented in such a way that is intuitive and more impactful than just words. from a guy who knows little brevity, visually thinking is a great way to condense what normally takes me a hundred words to do.

here are a couple of resources from armano himself that will start you off down the right path:

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