Caro Van Leeuwen recently posted an inspiring video about how she started using drawings during her internship at SDC, encouraging others to try it too. We did! At a recent Lunch & Learn event, we experimented with simple drawings of people, things and concepts. But what can we do with these drawings? And how can we go further?
By Sarah Clark
On a mundane level, visual thinking is what almost all of us do daily when we imagine our ideal summer holiday, a new arrangement of furniture in the office, or a forthcoming meeting at work. We conjure up images in our heads that help us make sense of the world. But sometimes that’s as far as it goes. We may then communicate our thoughts only with spoken or written words.
If we go one step further, we can translate these mental images into simple drawings. They can be fun to create and have huge potential to enrich meetings, presentations and facilitated workshops, to share ideas, and to encourage dialogue and collaboration.
All you need are coloured pens, paper and sticky notes — and a willingness to give it a go.
Drawing for sharing, creating, engaging…
How could you use simple drawings in your work? Here are some ideas:
Present a meeting or workshop agenda in visual form.
Create with colleagues a large-scale visual to help clarify and communicate a complex concept, strategy or process.
Work with a pre-drawn visual template or metaphor (e.g. a journey or landscape) to engage your team in solving a problem or creating an action plan. Use sticky notes with images and words to complete the template.
Use a mix of drawings and words to record the key elements of a presentation, meeting or discussion — often more powerful and memorable than traditional “minutes”.
Use hand-drawn visuals to illustrate the key concepts for a training seminar.
If you are using PowerPoint, enliven your presentation by incorporating simple scans of your own drawings into your slides.
Dare to draw!
When I ask “Who can draw?” at the start of a workshop, usually only a few people raise their hands. I too would never have raised my hand in the past. Somewhere between primary school, when I loved to draw, and adulthood, I decided “I can’t draw” and abandoned it for 35 years. Until I dared to experiment again…
During the hour’s Lunch & Learn session, everyone proved they could draw — the group created a wonderful diversity of images.
Create your own visual vocabulary
It’s easy to build on this:
Write a list of words, actions and concepts you often use when communicating at work.
From books, the web and your daily environment, pick images that are relevant to you, practise drawing them, and adapt them.
Create a notebook for your own “visual vocabulary”.
Refine your drawings: ask for feedback (how do colleagues interpret them?), add explanatory words where the meaning may be ambiguous. If your “cow” (like mine!) is anatomically impossible, just write “cow” beside your drawing!
Try out using simple drawings in a regular meeting with colleagues.
Get tips and ideas from the books, websites and LinkedIn groups below.
Why not give it a go? And have fun experimenting and learning!
Further inspiration and related stories
Here are some recommended books and links for practice and ideas:
- Book list
- Bikablo “visual dictionaries” and materials
- LinkedIn groups “Visual Thinking” and “Graphic facilitation”
- https://www.verbaltovisual.com/video/ (video blog on the techniques of “sketchnoting”)
- Let’s draw
- The art of presenting and commenting reports: visualize information in an eye catching way
- Creating images in mind and memory