Re-Discovering Creativity: A Journey In Visual Thinking & Sketchnoting

I’ve always found myself going up to dry erase boards and hashing out ideas. This usually meant boxes, arrows and simple digrams trying to tie together concepts or brain storms. Recently I had a project to complete that needed to express a lot of idea’s visually, but I felt I was running into a creative block. That’s when I came across this great TED talk by Ken Robinson on ‘schools kill creativity’.

The two big take aways I had from the presentation were:

  1. To be creative, you need to be prepared to be wrong. Unfortunately we become frightened out of being wrong through education – where making a mistake is the worst thing that you can do.
  2. We think in abstract terms and best learn things through interaction.

We are very visual learners, even more so when we can interact with a diagram to create a deeper understanding of a concept. Ken Robinson defines creativity as “the process of having original ideas that have value — more often than not comes about through the interaction of different disciplinary ways of seeing things.”  According to Dan Roam, around  3/4 of the neurons in our brain are used to visually process information. If we are able to take concepts to the next level, we can sum up complicated idea’s and information with a few pictures that are more easy to understand.

I picked up Dan Roam’s ‘Back of the Napkin‘ book in the summer and it’s a great primer on Visual Thinking and back of the napkin sketches (hence the title). However, if you’re interested in learning how to problem solve visually, I suggest his second book ‘Unfolding the Napkin‘ since it contains sample problems to try out.

As I researched Visual Thinking more, I came upon the concept of Visual Notetaking and Sketchnoting. Nifty at notebookstories had a great definition of what they are: “In the long list of tools one could use for visual thinking, sketchnotes are one of the most exciting. Simply put, sketchnotes are visual notes that are drawn in real time. Through the use of images, text, and diagrams, these notes take advantage of the “visual thinker” mind’s penchant for make sense of—and understanding—information with pictures.”

Sketchnotes of Mike Rohde's Sketchnoting presentation

My next posts will contain some sketchnotes and visual thinking processes that I’ve worked on in the past few months. I’ve been hand drawing them so far since I cant seem to find a good android application – but that’s another story! Feel free to chime in if you have any suggestions on what you use for your notes.

Here are a few blogs/sites I recommend you check out for more info: