One Squiggly Line Blog

Hand-drawn pictures can make things clear, simple, and fun in blogs, too!

Visual Thinking & Creativity: Visualize!


Visual thinking and creativity have a lot in common. A whole lot. So much I did my master's project on the topic!

One key part of creativity and creative thinking is visualizing. That's really just another word for using and being aware of your imagination. Most people don't think about it much, but your imagination uses a lot of pictures. Just try to imagine a red rose without seeing a picture of it in your head...not gonna happen!

Getting those ideas and pictures out of your head is the first step towards creativity and innovation. As long as those ideas live only in your head, they're only a part of your imagination. They're dreams, not reality.

When you start putting those ideas down on paper, it helps you see them more clearly. And flesh out your idea more fully. Then you can better explain them to others. And they'll be more likely to understand them.

That's why visual thinking is not only powerful, but productive. Visual thinking leads to clarity. Clarity leads to confidence. And confidence is much more likely to lead to action.

Visual Thinking: Simple as 1-2-3!


One of the most powerful things about visual thinking is that it makes things simple. When things are simple, they're much easier to remember. And the more often you see something, the more likely you will be to remember it, too.

That's why simple posters are so powerful when working in person. And why simple online visuals are so powerful before and after events, or when you can't be face-to-face.

A super simple way to keep your visuals super simple is as easy as 1-2-3. Choose 1 central image. Use no more than 2 colors. And limit yourself to only 3 words. That's it!

That formula doesn't always work for everything, but it's a great place to start. Even if you have to sneak in an extra word or two, your visual will still be pretty simple.

Visual Thinking & Creativity: Keep it Posted!


When people look at things, they generally think about whatever they're looking at. So if you want to be sure people focus on certain things during your meeting or presentation, visuals can really help.

Posters are a great way to keep that info front and center in everyone's mind. Your posters don't need to be fancy. But they do need to be clear. Very clear. So clear people can get the info in a glance.

The poster above was created for a workshop I taught about thinking styles. It was used during a hands-on group activity to remind each group to try out all four thinking styles. The thinking styles are color coded, so it's easy to focus only on one square at a time. Yet, it gives a clear picture of the whole process. That way, people can move about the process at their own pace and see how they're connected.

Visual Thinking & Creativity: Use Things in New Ways


When it comes to innovation and creativity, it's common to think you need more. More ideas. More resources. More people. More money. More, more, more!

Truth is, more is not always better. In fact, the more you have, the more confusing things get. Striving for more can prevent you from taking a good look at what you already have. And putting it to good use.

When you pull apart what you do have and look at each part individually, it helps you see things in new ways. When you see things in new ways, you think in new ways. Use things in new ways. Do things in new ways. And that's what leads to creative and innovative breakthroughs.

Visual thinking can help you get a clearer picture of what you already have to work with. And think about how you might use whatever you have in new ways. Because there's always more than one way to build a snowman...or anything else!

Visual Thinking & Graphic Recording: One Main Image


Graphic recording involves taking notes with a lot of pictures. Sometimes, especially with shorter presentations, there's simply no time for a lot of pictures. A lot of pictures may not be needed, either. One large central image can be mighty powerful. And it may be all you need.

There's more than one picture in the graphic recording above. There are some musical notes, a couple of light bulbs, and some simple people at the bottom. Then there's a big face in the center, towards the top. Notice how that face really grabs your eye?

If you're pressed for time, pick one thing to draw. Draw it big and bold. That alone will make your notes or poster much more visual. That one drawing will catch people's eye and bring them into the content more than just words alone.

Visual Thinking & Drawing: Label It!


There's a huge difference between drawing to create great art and drawing to think or communicate better. But there's a lot of overlap, too.

Some of those overlaps have to do with the way the brain works. Like when it comes to labels and titles of things. Your brain likes to keep things neat and tidy, so it matches up new information with something similar it's already seen. That helps your brain to keep track of things better.

When abstract things are labeled, your brain has a better idea what to do with them. Take the drawing above. Right now, it's untitled. It's ambiguous. But what if I told you it's a picture of 2 chairs? Then your brain immediately sees the chairs. But if it was titled something like "My Sleeping Cat" or "Flowers at Sunset", your brain would wonder why. The image looks nothing like those things, so your brain will search the image for clues, trying to believe it really is a picture of a cat or flowers.

So when drawing to think or communicate, labels can be very helpful. If you draw something that doesn't quite look like what you were trying to draw, just label it. Then there's no doubt people will know exactly what it is.

The picture above was created in a college drawing class. It's an abstract representation of two chairs.

Visual Thinking & Creativity: Take It Apart!


One of the great things about visual thinking is that it helps you see the big picture. If you're trying to see something common in a new light, it might be more helpful to take that big picture apart. Visual thinking can help you do that, too.

Say you want to build a different kind of snowman. You'll need to change something about the way you usually build a snowman. In the visual above, I drew a regular snowman, but he's not quite put together. That way, it's much easier to see all the individual parts. And look at them individually. And think about which one you may want to change to create a whole new snowman.

That's not just for snowman. It works with pretty much anything. Seeing things visually like that just makes the whole process faster!

Visual Thinking: Tracking Progress


Setting goals is one thing. Reaching them is quite another!

You're much more likely to reach your goals when you track your progress. Doing that visually helps you see the big picture at a glance. It also keeps your goals in the front of your mind so you're less likely to forget about them.

That's what performance dashboards are for. They're like the dashboard in your car in the way you can see at a glance how things are going. But they're for tracking progress towards your goal, instead.

Here's a performance dashboard I created to help me track how often I stretch throughout the day. All I have to do is put a dot by the time of day when I stretched. At a glance, I can see if I've been remembering to stretch or not.

A performance dashboard like this is super simple, yet so much more specific than just saying, "I need to be sure to stretch throughout the day."

Visual Thinking & Synthesis Images: 2014 in Review


The brain likes to keep things simple. Then it knows just what to focus on. And remember. When there's a ton of information, it's far too easy to get distracted. Or confused. Or just plain tired.

That's one reason synthesis images are so helpful. They make things simple so you can easily understand and remember them. Because they're visual, you literally see the whole picture. That means you get to see how things are connected or related. And new ideas and insights are more likely to occur.

Here's a super simple synthesis image of a few major headlines and topics of 2014.

Visual Thinking & Lettering: Use What You Have!


There's a myth floating around that creative people are not so practical. Truth is, the most successful creative people are really highly practical. They think about what can be accomplished with what they already have. And then use what they have in new ways.

One of those things is time. The great thing about visual thinking is that it doesn't take much time. It's quick and simple. And that frees up your time to really accomplish things.

Even one little picture makes a huge difference. And there's no need for it to be fancy. Just keep in mind: The simpler the drawing, the more you'll have time to draw. And the more you practice, the faster you'll draw!