Visual Thinking: Revolutionise your communication with visuals

visual thinking

In my interactive approach to communication, where I see my role as a bridge that facilitates dialogue with specific groups in society, I have learned that for a message to resonate, words are not always the most important.

Complex ideas simplified into captivating images or information conveyed understandably through fascinating visual stories seem impossible to achieve. Well, it is possible, and it is thanks to Visual Thinking.

Forget about boring presentations full of text and endless slideshows forever. Visual Thinking allows you to turn your ideas into memorable images that attract the eye, arouse curiosity, impress and generate a lasting impact on your audience.

Whether you are a student, an experienced communicator, a social development agent or another type of professional with a message you want to share, Visual Thinking offers you a universal language that allows you to connect with your audience in a deeper and more effective way.

But what is Visual Thinking?

Visual Thinking is a process that uses images to organise ideas, communicate information, and solve problems. It is a way of thinking visually, using drawings, diagrams, mind maps, and infographics to express ideas clearly and concisely.

In Visual Thinking, the image ceases to be an ornament and becomes a fundamental element of understanding the message.

It is not a new technique, but it has gained great relevance in recent years thanks to new technologies and digital tools that allow us to create images and graphics quickly and easily. These tools have democratised the use of Visual Thinking and made it available to anyone.

Would you like to try it?

What is Visual Thinking used for and how?

While institutional preference tends to lean towards text-based communication, it is important to remember that most of the information we process and transmit is not limited to the written part. Psychologist Albert Mehrabian, Professor Emeritus of Psychology at the University of California, established that communication is 55% body language, 38% tone of voice and only 7% words.

In this context, Visual Thinking becomes an effective tool to complement and enhance written communication. Through images, graphs and diagrams, we can:

  • Capture the public’s attention more effectively.
  • Facilitate understanding of complex concepts, especially those that are abstract or difficult to explain in words.
  • Encourage retention of information, as images have a greater impact on long-term memory.
  • Awaken creativity and generate new ideas by allowing us to think more openly and visually.
  • Promote participation and collaborative work by facilitating communication between different people.

As you will see below, Visual Thinking can be used in various contexts, from educational to business and personal. In addition, I will show you some strategies for communicating by evoking emotional responses and creating more dynamic and participatory collaborative spaces.

Education

  1. Creation of interactive teaching materials: mind maps, infographics, animations, etc.
  2. Explanation of complex concepts: diagrams, illustrations, 3D models, etc.
  3. Facilitation of understanding of abstract topics: visual analogies, metaphors, storyboards, etc.

Business environment

  1. Making presentations more attractive and impactful: infographics, graphics, images, etc.
  2. Team decision-making: mind maps, flow charts, visual brainstorming, etc.
  3. Development of more effective marketing strategies: visual ads, social media campaigns, visual storytelling, etc.

Personal sphere

  1. Organisation of ideas and projects: mind maps, to-do lists, visual calendars, etc.
  2. Creative problem solving: visual brainstorming, cause-effect diagrams, etc.
  3. Communication of ideas to family and friends: photo albums, collages, visual presentations, etc.
notebook

Communicating complex ideas in simple ways

Visual Thinking allows complex concepts to be broken down into simpler visual elements, making them easier to understand. A practical example could be a company’s internal communication, using infographics to summarise quarterly results, sales trends or organisational structure.

Mind maps, on the other hand, can help to organise and present ideas in projects, showing the connections between different components in an intuitive way and fostering a deeper understanding among all team members.

Generating emotional impact

Not only do images capture our attention faster than text, but they can also evoke emotions and create deeper connections. Visual Thinking harnesses this power, allowing communicators and educators to generate great emotional impact. For example, a communications campaign designed with impactful visuals can arouse empathy, joy or urgency, driving audiences to action.

This approach improves understanding and increases long-term recall of the message. When designing these campaigns, choosing images and colours that align with the message you want to convey is crucial, thus creating a coherent and emotionally resonant experience for the audience.

Encouraging participation and collaboration

Visual Thinking enhances individual communication and promotes group participation and collaboration. In educational settings, for example, developing interactive learning materials such as mind maps or infographics can transform a lesson from a passive to an active experience, inviting students to contribute their own ideas and perspectives.

In business, engaging visual presentations can encourage more dynamic and participatory dialogue during meetings, while flowcharts and visual brainstorming can help teams collaborate more effectively in problem solving and decision making. The key is to use Visual Thinking as a platform for expressing and exchanging ideas, creating an environment where everyone is motivated to contribute.

Empowering the creative in you

The strategies I’m going to show you below are inspired by the wisdom and practice shared by Steve Lambert and Stephen Duncombe, the founders of the Center for Artistic Activism and authors of The Art of Activism. Their advice, born from years of experience at the intersection of creativity and activism, offers an invaluable framework for awakening and nurturing our inner creativity.

Personally, I have adopted these practices in my own creative process and can testify to their effectiveness in unlocking the creative potential within us all.

girl thinking of creativity

Creating your space for creativity

Physical and mental space is key

To unlock your creative potential, it is essential to establish a space that fosters concentration and inspiration. This space is not limited to the physical; it also involves preparing your mind for the creative process. Dedicate a quiet, stimulating place where you can experiment without interruption, and prepare yourself mentally to embrace creativity with an open and curious attitude.

In my office, I have designed the workspace to catalyse creativity. Stimulating scents of lemon and bergamot, sculptures and paintings, and souvenirs of my travels provide a constant source of inspiration and connection to the world’s cultural diversity. My lift-up desk is always clean and organized, ready to capture the spark of the next great idea. This carefully configured environment facilitates the creative flow and invites me to reflect and innovate.

Routines that trigger creativity

Establishing a regular schedule for your creative activities can be tremendously beneficial. Routines act as cues that prepare your mind to enter a state of creative flow. Jot down ideas and observations throughout the day; these notes can become the seed for future projects.

From my own experience, I have found that conscious structuring of time is fundamental to nurturing creativity. Personally, I organise my working day in specific blocks, dedicating different time slots to different tasks, which allows me to fully focus on each activity.

Beyond any planning, my ritual to invoke creativity starts with something simple but that automatically gets me in the mood I need: a steaming coffee and a soft jazz playlist in the background. This combination prepares my mind for the day ahead and marks the start of my creative flow. And, of course, it never hurts to always have a pen and notebook at hand, ready to capture those fleeting ideas that can pop up at any moment.

The importance of practice and experimentation

Permission to experiment

Creativity flourishes in experimentation and play. Instead of pushing for perfect results from the start, give yourself permission to explore and make mistakes. These “disasters” are often precursors to great ideas and valuable learning.

I admit that, personally, allowing myself to experiment without fear of error has been one of the biggest challenges. However, I have learned to accept that, after a dedicated period of work, there comes a crucial moment when we press “send” or say “this is finished”. It is then that we must stop polishing and repolishing the concept itself. This acceptance has been a crucial process for my personal and professional growth.

Embracing risk and failure

Risk and failure are essential components of the creative process. Dare to try new ideas and approaches, even if it means stepping out of your comfort zone. Learning from mistakes and adjusting your direction is part of the path to innovation and discovery.

Personally, I have discovered the value of selecting projects that challenge me to step out of my comfort zone and have led to my greatest professional and personal growth. I encourage you to consider this path, remembering that every experience, whether successful or learning, is a stepping stone to developing your potential.

Tools and techniques for Visual Thinking

Recommended software and applications

For those looking to digitise their ideas, tools such as Procreate, Adobe Illustrator or Canva (even in their free version) offer intuitive platforms for creating stunning visualisations. These programmes allow you to experiment with different styles and media, from hand-drawn sketches to complex graphic designs.

Tips for hand-drawing and visual structuring

If you prefer the tactility and immediacy of paper, keeping a sketchbook can be a great way to visually record your ideas. Practice drawing basic shapes, diagrams, and use colours to differentiate concepts or priorities. The key is to start simple and allow your visual skills to develop with practice.

Structuring ideas visually

To organise your ideas effectively, use mind maps or storyboards. Start with a central idea and expand outwards, connecting related concepts or sequencing stories. These techniques not only help clarify your thoughts but also make it easier to communicate your ideas to others.

Challenges and limitations of Visual Thinking

Although Visual Thinking is a powerful tool for communication, creativity, and problem solving, it also has its challenges and limitations. Recognising these aspects is crucial to applying Visual Thinking effectively and adaptively.

Subjective interpretation

One of the greatest challenges of Visual Thinking lies in the possibility of subjective interpretations of both the images and the words that accompany them. Knowing how to communicate effectively through Visual Thinking goes beyond the creation of images; it involves the careful use of visual cues, norms, cultural traditions, references and icons to enrich the message.

Complexity and information overload

Although the aim of Visual Thinking is to simplify and clarify, there is a risk of overloading visualisations with too much information or making them too complex. This can lead to the opposite of the desired effect, complicating understanding rather than facilitating it. It is essential to strike a balance between detail and clarity, carefully selecting each element to ensure effective communication.

Skills and resources

Developing Visual Thinking skills can take time and practice, which can be challenging for individuals or teams with time or resource constraints. In addition, creating high-quality visualisations often requires access to specific software or materials, which can be a barrier for some.

Focus and visual storytelling: Problems and solutions

The way in which we choose to represent visually and for the first time the issues we want to communicate, lays the foundation for the debate that will be marked in society. Through images we help to reinforce the conclusion we wish to draw.  Presenting only problems can lead to demotivation and fatigue among the audience, while focusing on solutions can inspire hope and action.

Conclusion

Visual Thinking is a key competence in the 21st century. It stands out as a robust solution for simplifying the complexity of ideas, improving communication and fostering creativity. It facilitates understanding and collaboration by converting complex concepts into clear visual representations. This methodology not only optimises learning and problem solving, but also enriches the way we interact and generate ideas together.

If you are convinced that you need to incorporate Visual Thinking techniques in your communication but feel lost, I am here to guide you. Contact me and we will work to transform your communication strategy into a visually memorable experience.

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