1000 Words is Worth a Picture

They say; “A picture is worth a thousand words.” a portrait for storytelling. This may be true, yet for those Sketchnoters, Graphic Recorders and visual note takers, it should be restated as “A thousand words is worth a picture.”

1000wordsEvery time a presenter or a group gather to share ideas in the presence of a graphic recorder, we scribes of the visual canvas, translate the spoken word into powerful images, pictures as you will, for all to see. Not just pretty sketches in a book or murals stretched out upon a wall, but ideas captured on canvas or in the digital cloud. Sound too poetic? Maybe.  Yet this is what we do each time we touch pen to paper. We create a picture from the words of others so they can experience the storytelling and validity that traditional cliché, “A picture is worth a thousand words.”

Express yourself, keep (th)INKing and sharing and maybe your pictures will be worth more than a thousand words, rather a thousand ideas.

Hope to see you at TED Conference Remote in Chicago and joining in on the experience of visual (th)INKing.

Tattooing the Brain

What visual does this title bring into focus?Tattoing Brain

As practitioners of visual communications, we all are performing this task of tattooing on the brains of the participants, viewers and even ourselves at times. We are, in essences, tattooing information and ideas for clarity, collective vision and retention. We become tattoo artist on the cerebrum once we begin putting ideas to paper for all to see.

Visuals play an important role in memory retention and information recall, but why? As a visual translator and graphic facilitator, the question of the impact that graphics have on learning, retention and recall always slips into the conversation, especially when a potential client, who may have never experienced visual thinking before, is trying to assess the value and benefits of graphic facilitation, graphic recording or visual translation. The very question can stop the flow of the conversation dead in its tracks if you’re not ready to respond appropriately.

To aide myself as well as others, I went searching for empirical results from research as well as articles by leading researchers in neuroscience, education and psychology. Here are some of my search findings. I hope they help you as much as they have assisted me in my preparedness to present the power visuals have on retention and learning.

Research and Articles:

Learning Through Visuals in Psychology Today by Haig Kouyoumdjian, Ph.D.

Effectiveness of Visual Imagery Versus Rule-based Strategies in Teaching Spelling to Learning Disabled Students by Craig Darch & Robert G. Simpson at Auburn University

Presentation Skills 1. Use Visual Aids from online Presentation Magazine

Improve Retention of Your Complex Learning Material By J. Jones

BrainRules by John Medina

Defining Style

As the calendar moves from 2012 into 2013, I took a moment to reflect on all the changes in my life, work and achievements. Many things have changed over this last year, many that affected my view of communication. The biggest impact has been in my visual thinking style. Which events or interactions may have influenced my style is unclear, but I have noticed that my style has become more illustrative and storytelling in my canvases. I have migrated away from the more technical diagramming format and more to the graphic illustration of pen and ink. Possibly because of my background in art and architecture. Whatever the reason it has led to a question of style; what are the various formats and how do they differ?

Before we can define the various styles, a description of the key elements must be expressed. These two elements will define the framework that will help outline the various styles of recording. In any process of visual recording, graphic scribing and even graphic facilitation, the process focuses on two key elements at work; content capturing and presentation format.

Content Capturing:

Content is that which is communicated or presented within a session. It is the conversations and ideas that are shared by participants and facilitator. As the recorder, one must decide which content will be capture and to what level of detail to create the best impact and convey the best idea or ideas. Capturing can be as simple as high level ideas or as detailed as verbatim. At this point, it is the role of the recorder to decide how accurately content is recorded. Is it to be precise or interpreted?

Presentation Format:

Format of presenting is the manner of how the recorder chooses to convey the content. As the conduit from conversation to document, the recorder chooses a format that best compliments the content. This presentation format can range from very technical in design to that of a highly creative or artsy in nature.

Pure technical conveys information in predefined formats with less fluidity in the imagery, rather uses consistent images patterns such as flow charts, spreadsheets, graphs and diagrams. In most cases, technical presentations rely on common accepted frameworks to create structure and rigidity in the delivery.

Creative or artsy allows for full freedom of imagery and use of canvas. No limitations or expectations guide the hand of the recorder. As implied by the name, the artsy format can be abstract, simple, elaborate or many other possible methods. As an example, I prefer the more artistic imagery of pen and ink as seen in many of my works.

Along the Axis:

We now have two elements to define our axis; content capturing and format of presentation. With each of the elements we have introduced a range of variables. For content capturing two variables have been defined, that of precision and interpretation. With format of presentation a set of variables has be established; technical and artsy. Combining these elements with their variables to the axis, it expands from an axis into a basic 2×2 grid. This grid offers a guide to the various methods recorders may use when creating their canvases. Yes, the grid can even be broke down into smaller regions since the variables are graduating in endless variations. But to keep it somewhat simple, I rely on the basic 2×2 grid for simpler explanation.

On the Grid:

On the grid, there are four basic regions defined which I labelled; Creative Canvas, Idea Flow Chart,  Conversational Wall and the Note Taking Sheet. Each region has graduating levels and offers many possibilities within its framework as you migrate from one region to the next. Each region in the grid is merely a description, never meant to be a definition.

To better understand the grid and where your style or the style of a recorder may reside, allow me some examples of extremes. In the region of Creative Canvas which resides in the upper left hand quadrant, the variables of artsy presentation and interpreted content exist. This can be conveyed as more graphic in format and less about transcription of words or text.

In this quadrant, if we located a pin in the further most upper left corner one could imagine a cave wall where Neanderthal man drew his stories of great hunts, battles fought or unusual animals encountered. No words only images are used, but the story is still told. These stories have remained understandable across time and the barriers of language.

In the opposite, lower right hand quadrant exists the Note Taking Sheet. This quadrant combines the rigid control of technical with precise content capturing. Here one could see boxes of text defining ideas. In the extreme case down into the very lower right hand corner one could imagine a transcript from a conversation such as court case or a secretary’s dictation. In this quadrant frameworks and text reside predominant as the method of recording.

I could continue on with multiple variations with subtle changes and nuances, but I think you get the picture. If not, allow me to present in a method of Interpretive Artsy style which would exist in the Creative Canvas quadrant.

Defining Styles Grid


I hope this post helps the recorder discover their style as well as those who seek the talents of a recorder to better understand the multiple formats of content creation and delivery.

As a side note, I see my style bordering along the line between interpret and precise, but always in the artsy columns. I have drawn a pin to illustrate this on the canvas above.

What’s your style? Where would you stick your pin?

Until next post, keep your ideas visible so that others may see and share.

Cave Walling, 40,000 Years Later

Folks, I am happy to present a concept that has churned around in my head for a few years now. Since chatting with a good friend, Renee Malone of Kick the Moon about the image you see below.

The concept is called Cave Walling, an experience in visual thinking beyond that of graphic facilitation or visual scribing. It’s a thINKing experience.  An experience where groups of people can create, resolve or refocus ideas with visual clarity in a collaborative space.

Why do I think it is a powerful method, because “Cave Walling” taps into the earliest and most powerful of communication languages, visual imagery or graphic story telling. Combined with the written and the verbal language, Cave Walling presents an environment of communication that touches all levels of language as well as accessing and utilizing all the experiences and knowledge each participant brings to the wall. The blending of all three aspects of communication and the human resources of groups, delivers an exponentially higher level of creativity and idea development.

I hope to bring this event of Cave Walling to the masses, if not, to those seeking a better, more dynamic way of collaborating on ideas.

Innovation, Failure or Success

Have you ever wondered why a great idea just didn’t fly? Or why a product or service is thee one day and gone the next?

Ideas, in any form, have a life. Some ideas lives are long and prosperous, some take strange turns and soar to new successes, unfortunately, others quickly crash and burn into a pile of smoldering junk never to see the light of day.


As I have illustrated here, ideas have a cycle they follow. The all begin pretty much the same. They are created, then adopted by those early followers. Soon they are accepted by others and move to the next level or cycle of their life. Here the mystery begins.

As with all ideas, external influences determine the success or failure of a given idea or product. It is the exploration of conditions that can help us expand the life cycle and add to the level of success. The mystery I am presenting is that of change.

Change is a cloud of uncertainty. Many things can bring about change to an idea, but once change is introduced, the reaction or effect drives the idea into the Durability Delta. Here the true test of an idea plays out.

So how can this diagram help? By thinking of the possibilities that can create change such as; competition, quality, supply, demand, etc.. and thinking about all those things that can impact an idea. List every possible cause for change in one column and call this column “Causes”. In a second column, list the possible effects from these causes. Allow yourself some room. In a third column create a list of possible defenses to the causes.

Okay now you have the idea, what can impact it, the possible outcomes from those causes and even possible ways of defending those causes, maybe. Now add one last column. Label this column as “Employ”. This column is where the devil advocate likes to play. Here you think of ways to use the cause to your advantage. Let me show you an example.

The Cause

A competitor has improved the idea by adding some new benefits and has been able to keep the selling price close.

The Effect

Consumers begin shifting to the newer idea because the benefits out weigh the price difference. It’s a better value.

The Defense

Lower your price, change your idea or give up the idea for a new idea.


Act like your own competition. establish a team or panel whose sole task is to try to improve or “knock off” your idea. What changes could be made to make the product competitive to the original idea. Maybe you could spin a second brand where you are your own competition.

Using the Cycle of Innovation chart helps developers and business owners to look beyond the moment and play “What If” game around the idea. It may reveal weaknesses that  can be re-enforced or unseen strengths which you can build on to further improve the idea. It doesn’t matter what your idea may be or how innovative it is, it still has a life cycle which is always affected by change. The more we can understand the causes and their effects, the better we can plan for the life of the innovation or the anticipation of the next level of the idea.

I hope this helps you as much as it helps me.

Making Change

Have you ever wondered what is “Change” and how to see change in your business? To answer this question we must first understand how change is defined and then see how that manifests itself in a business model.

Change, as defined by Webster’s dictionary, is to make the form, nature, content, future course, etc., of (something) different from what it is or from what it would be if left alone; to transform or convert; to substitute another or others for; exchange  for something else, usually of the same kind. To change is to alter the current state.

When brought down to the fundamental level of change, three states exist working in combination with another; maintain or extend further the current offering, add other products or services and finally, remove products and services. The outcome is clear, the effect from change produces one of three conditions to a business offering, at least from the customer stand point; you can either refine, revalue (re-engineer the value) or reinvent the offering.

Enter the Change Triad. The illustration above demonstrates the process. By selecting two of the three options available, a business owner can decide the course of change. Pick two for change. Sounds like a campaign slogan, but it is true. Take a look at the process. To make something different you must do something other than stay static, you must add or remove something from the current state.

Take your offering and extend it forward, now add something new to the mix and you effectively revalue your offering for the customer. This is usually the common path of growing businesses. Let’s repeat the same sequence, except this time, rather than add new offerings, we remove some old items. Maybe these items are outdated, unused or just didn’t match you customer’s needs. Now the business offering has been refined, eliminating unneeded content or streamlining the business. Sounds all too familiar in these economic times.

The last combination is a more dramatic and harder option to attempt. This is a complete reinvention of your business. By eliminating everything current and replacing it with a completely new offering, you , in essence, have a completely new model. At this point, you might as well change the name too, because you are no longer who you were.

That’s the Change Triad and how change is seen in a business environment.

Okay, by now you may have realized, as the person sitting behind me reading over my shoulder so proudly stated loudly, there is still one more combination. The “All In” option. Yes, opting to do it all to some degree is the fourth and last option. Keep a bit, remove some and add some. By following this option, you have enacted a change that touches all three aspects at some level; refine, reinvent and re-engineer the value. This type of change, when done correctly, is evolution and should be done with the customer in mind to ensure success.

So when you state you are going to change your business offering, decide if it is for refinement, adjusting the value proposition, reinventing the offering, or, as my new-found vocal editor states, going all in to evolve the offering. Decide first which is the best option and plan your change in every detail. Be proactive and guide your change and never let change guide you.

That’s how I see it and now I hope I’ve helped.