Friday, July 11, 2008

Visual Thinking and Ideas

It's pretty cool living with someone else who's also a visual thinker. Just had lunch with my wife and we were discussing visual thinking and VizThink '08, specifically some of the differences between the work of people like David Sibbet who do a lot of graphic facilitation, and information designers like Karl Gude who create infographics.

Both deal with visualizing ideas and concepts. The difference seems to be that graphic facilitation, graphic recording, sketching, etc. focus on getting ideas and concepts OUT of people heads and capturing them in a visually engaging way that facilitates better ideas and problem solving. In these disciplines, the group process of creating that visual is as important (and one might argue even more important) than the resulting graphic.

On the other hand, the goal of people creating infographics is to get ideas IN to peoples heads. In this process a designer creates a graphic that is then dispersed to a larger audience to aid in understanding an idea or a concept.

I think that understanding the purpose and the goals of the various visual thinking disciplines is important to help us appreciate the values of each.


thcrawford said...

As we've been talking about it, there's actually one other category in addition to Out (sometimes called Discover among other things) & In (sometimes called Communicate or Deploy among other things). The third category is about Organization & Planning. Once the ideas are out of a person's head, they are often jumbled. There are many techniques that allow one to organize those thoughts into useful information not the least of which are the various mapping techniques like mind mapping & concept mapping. Charts & graphs are also useful for this. The interesting part is that the Organization process often leads to more discovery about hidden relationships and missing pieces. It also can lead to a tool that can then be used for the "Out" part of the process. VizThink's upcoming Visualization in Learning report is organized exactly this way (Discover, Organize/Plan, Communicate). We actually added a final step as well...Measure. Though it's not covered in the report.

Christine Martell said...

I find the techniques to be most powerful in sequence. My specialty is in the discovery using VisualsSpeak, however in order to make the data useful to people other than the participants, I need to organize it with some kind of combination of mapping, charting or graphing. Info graphics can then serve to communicate the message(s) that emerge.

Makani said...

Awesome input Christine and Tom! Thanks for joining in on the conversation. Both your comments make me wonder. Is it actually, usually an iterative process, going through a few cycles or a single sequential process?


Tom Tiernan said...


My take is that the process is on-going like any other kind of process although there is a logical sequence to visual processes. You need to discover before you can organize before you can output.

Going into an organization to help with a strategic challenge issue, for example, might seem like a single sequential process but hopefully ideas are generating other ideas which need to be further discovered, organized and communicated. Not necessarily a linear process.

Makani said...

Thanks for the input Tom. I appreciate the insights from those of you practicing applied visual thinking as part of you daily business.