A powerful, visual way to brainstorm and organize content that everybody can use.
Using pictures can help people get over their fear of being creative. It can be used to help reveal unknown or unspoken ideas, concepts and thoughts. It is especially effective for cultural and communication issues.
Both tactile and visual, it allows representation of complex ideas in a way 2-dimensional paper cannot. It naturally allows people to manipulate their environment and literally change physical perspectives to gain new insights.
Display all positions and relationships of an issue, allowing people to move past restating what's known and into finding common ground, solutions and compromises.
A powerful, portable way to brainstorm, sort, and resort information. Standardized decks also exist for some common topics.
Hone your observation, communication, and teamwork skills. A few simple yet profound rules allow anyone to participate and begin the learning right away.
Using building blocks to model both ideas and environments in order to find gaps, look for opportunities, solve problems, and make plans.
Helping people do their best thinking by leading discusssions, asking good questions, and getting the group to discuss and frame the topic.
Getting the right answers is often more about the asking the right questions. Questioning, along with listening, is a key yet underrated skill in brainstorming and communication.
A powerful way to brainstorm ideas, organize content, find gaps, and manage information.
Similar to mind maps, though often without a core, they include more complex relationships between the various entities and are a common component of systems analysis.
Process maps and flow charts are similar to concept maps but they include sequence and sometimes timing information.
Much of our world is words, spoken or written, visually analyzing them for things like frequency, proximity, relationship, and intent can provide powerful insights to an otherwise linear format.
A skilled facilitator who uses live sketching to draw out information from the participants. The process is helpful for capturing content, seeing an entire story, and maintaining a knowledge artifact from an event.
Diagrams take many forms. Selecting and implementing the right one can be challenging, but when done well can help solve complex problems and effectively communicate messages.
Whether mapping countries, cities, streets, buildings, floorplans, or even planets, geographic maps are key ways to display spatial information. Well designed maps are a powerful tools for communicating information quickly.
There are many naturally reoccuring patterns in life. Identifying those patterns can provide insight and allow problem solving from other domains.
Finding trends, patterns, and outliers in data can provide significant insight into a business. Visuals help see things that may not otherwise be apparent.
Pictures can help see how an entire system fits together by displaying relationships and flows. Systems analysis can be used to identify efficiences and potential problem areas.
Whether designing computer systems or business operations, entity relationship diagrams can be a valuable tool to make sure appropriate interests are addressed.
The first rule of giving a speech or designing a computer system? Know your audience. Personas help to understand the motivations and goals of your audience.
Games & Simulations
Often, seeing isn't enough. Practice, failure, recovery, and success are key factors in learning. Games and simulations allow opportunities to try tasks in a safe environment whether it's learning to fly a plane or designing a new retail floor plan.
Regardless of which visualization method is used, good listening and observing (or visual listening) skills are essential. If listening is done poorly, the results will likely also be poor.
Like listening, observing skills are essential to good visualization. What's similar? different? changing? staying the same? macro? micro? Without observation, effective visualization can't occur.
For many, the information graphic may be the single most informative part of a story. Not merely a supporting visual, they put the story into context, provide insight, and provide richness to the story that text alone cannot do.
When people think about visual thinking, presentations are often the first thing that come to mind, yet they are one of the things done least well. Effective design and delivery of presentations can communicate ideas, improve sales, and energize stakeholders, among many other things.
Art style selection can have a huge impact on how a message is perceived by enhancing or hindering the message.
During a meeting, notes are recorded visually, usually in poster size or larger, by a skilled graphic recorder. The process is helpful for capturing content, seeing an entire story, and maintaining a knowledge artifact from an event.
Regardless of print or online or size or format, information flow, layout, space, color, timing, text and image placement, and much, much more all impact how a message is received.
Humans have used storytelling for thousands of years as the primary means for communication, yet it is hard to do effectively. Powerful stories create visual memories that are lasting and effective.
Icons & Symbols
Sometimes simple images are all that's needed, yet designing an effective simple image can be much harder than an information graphic.
Metaphors allow a rich environment in which to tell a story by allowing the audience to compare a new situation to one to which they can relate.
Sketching & Drawing
Sketching & drawing allow ideas to be visualized in the moment. Not only can sketches be used to communicate, the act of drawing or working with an artist can also provide powerful insights.
Videos are easier to make and distribute than ever before. They provide a great storytelling medium that can reach a wide audience quickly.
Sometimes static images aren't enough, and the audience needs to see how something happens or changes. Animations can be very effective for explaining complex concepts or ideas.
Interactivity allows the audience to get involved with the visualization, and can be very effective when video and animation aren't enough.
3D & Virtual Worlds
Virtual worlds and other 3D environments provide opportunities to see and explore things that may not be possible or safe in the real world.
Technology has evolved not only to display visuals, but to make the visual the primary method of interaction. Assistive Technology allows people with disabilities of any sort and of any extent (from slight to extreme) ways to interact and communicate using visuals.
Nearly device now has a computer interface of some sort. User interface design and user experience defines how people interact with devices of all sorts.
Marketing has been around as long as there's been something to sell. The visual is a integral apart of how the marketing message is perceived.
Maps are a useful tool, but sometimes an effective sign or environment design can supercede the need for a map.
Comic & Cartoon
Comics aren't just for kids. They can be used to tell stories and express ideas ranging from simple to complex. Comics can also add a time and sequence element to single visuals.
Graphs & Charts
With so many graphs and charts to choose from (bars, lines, pies, scatter, and hundreds of variations), selecting the best one can make or break a communication. Once selected, effective graph design can uncover, enhance, and even tell your story.
Extremely large, complex, or unstructured data sets can be difficult to analyze and visualize. Selecting and designing the right one can provide tremendous insight.
One time analysis can be helpful, but ongoing trends, overviews, insights and analysis allow you to visualize and track your business on continual basis.
Many brilliant people are doing research into how visualization works and how it can be applied effectively. Check out our research page for a few examples.
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Copyright 2009 Tom Crawford. All Rights Reserved.Any images or trademarks represented are the property of their respective owners and are used here with permission.