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Why is Visual Thinking Important?

Let's face it: not everyone is a natural artist. But even if you can draw like Leonardo da Vinci, visual thinking isn’t just about making pictures. It can support you in improving your recall; becoming a more creative and effective communicator; and more. In this post we'll talk about why visual thinking is important and how you can use it to improve your daily life.


Visual Thinking gives you a different perspective.

The word “visual” doesn't just mean “seeing.” It means that the way you think about things is based on things you can see, like images, drawings or photographs. When you start to look at things in this way, it can help you see things from a different perspective. When we learn to draw (or doodle as we prefer to call it), the act of doing it forces us to think about what we're seeing/ hearing in a completely new way. It develops connections in our brain and in doing so, helps us focus on details that we might have otherwise overlooked. By learning to use visual thinking methods, you'll be able to see more detail in your surroundings and find inspiration for new ideas.


Visual Thinking allows you to take in information more quickly.

Visual Thinking is an effective way of processing information because it provides a visual representation of what’s going on in your mind. However, rather than a literal depiction of what’s in your head, what you lay down on the paper in front of you becomes a metaphor for your thoughts.


Take, for example, the lightbulb. This could represent a multitude of things: creativity, innovation, intelligence, wisdom, awareness. The list goes on.

Notice how the lightbulbs aren't the same. It really doesn't matter what they look like - as long as they're understood to be a lightbulb in the context you're sharing.

And that meaning changes when it’s doodled in a different context. If it’s on someone’s shoulders, they might be having a bright idea. If there are two swinging next to each other, it might suggest conflict which must be handled carefully.



This can lead into full pages covered entirely in metaphorical doodles. Though we would always suggest you don’t stick only to the images – text is also vital to make sure that no meaning is being lost. Things like facts, figures, and quotes are important to take note of, as are short pieces of information and titles to act as reminders for each area.



Visual Thinking allows you to share information with others more clearly.

When you share a thought or an idea, how often does the person receiving the information get it perfectly? It’s pretty rare, right? There’s often going to be something in what you’ve said that is missed or misunderstood once the other person hears it. This might be because your body language is off; or you used a word incorrectly; or the person isn’t as fast at grasping a concept as you are at sharing it. It might even be that they understood it perfectly at the time but then after a while forgot exactly what it was that you were saying. Whatever the reason, it’s going to happen.


Instead, you can mark down your thoughts, ideas, and concepts on paper. Not only does it give something for the person receiving the information to follow, but it also gives them something to question against. “Tell me more about this connection” they might say, or “what’s the significance of this area being so much larger?” Whatever it is you’ve doodled for them, getting it out of your head and onto paper makes it a joint activity that both people (and more, of course) can be involved with.


It also means that you don’t have to hold onto all this information in your head. Which brings us to our next point…


Visual Thinking helps reduce cognitive load*

*”Cognitive load” refers to the amount of information one can hold in their memory at the same time. There is a limit to this before you start forgetting things.


Getting this down on paper frees your mind up to think and try different things. Now that your mind is free of this information, you can see new connections or realise where you have gone wrong.


Consider this.. you’re driving to a friend’s house and didn’t take a map. You thought you’d be alright because they live in a fairly small town and you’d been there before. After a while you realise that you’ve got lost so stop the first person you see to ask for directions.


“Sure” they say, “it’s a left at the post box then you take the second right followed by another right. Left at the end of that street then take a left just after the field with the scarecrow and before the field with two scarecrows, you’ll have gone too far. Down the end of the road with the one scarecrow you…”


As they’re telling you all this, you’re trying to remember the list of turns they’re giving you so that you don’t forget it and end up going past field with two scarecrows. Each time, you’re filling up your available cognitive capacity and sooner or later, it will burst. As you head off on your way, each move you make in the car (steering, indicating, braking) increases your cognitive load. Only for short bursts but it’s enough to start forgetting things. Making a fairly slow journey, you inevitably end up lost again.


However, if the person you stopped were to make a rudimentary map on the back of a tissue for you, with pictures of the fields with the scarecrows etc, you’ll make your way quite happily. It’s also possible that buy doodling it, they notice that there’s an even easier way to make the trip!



If it had been doodled, they may have seen that they could have continued after that first turn!

You learn better and remember more when you draw, so try doodling your notes in meetings or conferences

If you're like me, you probably thought that writing notes was enough. I definitely did when I was younger. But when it comes to getting the most out of meetings or conference talks, I have found visual thinking (more specifically, sketchnoting) can be very helpful.


Doodling your ideas helps you remember more about what you've seen and heard. And if you share your work, people will probably take notice. If they see that same thing drawn multiple times throughout an event or over several days or weeks, then the image will stick with them for much longer than just one viewing of your drawing could accomplish on its own!


Think of your doodles like a holiday photo. You can look at these photos years and decades later and still be able to tell who was holding the camera, what the weather was like, the smell in the air. It’s incredible how much information a picture holds.


Visual Thinking is fun!

If you've ever sat down with a sketchbook and a pencil, you know that doodling can be a pleasant activity. It can give you a creative outlet, help you relax, and is something that can be done with friends or on your own. You don't need to be an artist to get enjoyment out of doodling; even stick figures are enough to get ideas flowing. With visual thinking there are no limits as to where or when you can do it; all it requires is paper and pencils (or pens!) which means this skill is available anytime and anywhere at any time of day.


Conclusion

Visual Thinking is a great way to learn, remember, and share information. It can help you see things from a different perspective, understand concepts more clearly, remember details for longer and with more clarity, or even just help you communicate more effectively and make better decisions! So why not give it a try?


If you want to learn more about Visual Thinking, join us on one of our Visual Thinking for Everyone classes where we’ll teach you the who, what, where, when, why, and most importantly the how of thinking with your pen.

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