NEWS & VIEWS

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Doodling and Drawing Make the Mental Wheels Go Round

by Thaomy Lam - January 26, 2016

As the visual creatures that we are, we depend and thrive on visual language and content. Most of the information that feeds into our brains is visual (90% of it, in fact), and visual content is integral to the way we communicate and learn. Some 65% of us identify as visual learners, and 40% are visual people who overall respond better to visual content. Even for the less visually inclined, our retention rates increase by 40% when a picture is added to text or sound.

As an agency, visual content is a central part of our creative offerings. But we also like to inject visual thinking into all the other great things we do. Thinking visually is a strategy and a communication tool. For us, it’s a powerful way to stimulate ideas, organize information, breakdown problems and think critically and strategically about solutions. From the graphic facilitation in our client ideation sessions to our kitchen table doodles, we use the visual to elevate our discussions, to engage our teams and have a little bit of playful fun.

“We sit with computers every day, but I truly think the most powerful tool we use is the whiteboard.  Being able to share ideas, collaborate in real time, and ultimately synthesize a complicated strategy or concept into a clear and compelling visual is truly where the magic happens.  It really isn’t about how well you can draw, it is really about how succinctly you can communicate, and I believe that the ultimate test is “draw it out!” says Neil Follett (Opens in a new window), President and Founder of Brightworks (Opens in a new window).

Drawing results

There is compelling research that shows visual thinking, specifically doodling in this case (Opens in a new window), improves memory, focus and attention spans. Proponents like Sunni Brown (Opens in a new window), champion doodling and visual language for their ability to increase productivity, clarify thoughts and get teams thinking critically. “It’s a thinking tool,” says Brown. “It can affect how we process information and solve problems.”

By putting an idea to visualization and not in sentence form, we are able to “see” our ideas, and view them in an active space where we can better analyze them for how they work, relate to other ideas, or find flaws that need improvement. It’s the difference, according to research, between our cognitive process to “think” and cognitive process to “do”—when we think or work visually, we are able to separate these and approach projects more efficiently.

Back to the drawing table

Drawing, doodling and visual thinking also have playful and mind-freeing aspects to them, allowing our creative spirits to wander and explore new places. The Brightworks Tuesday Doodles came about as an idea to get our creatives thinking outside their routines and have a little fun.  Each Tuesday, a lucky designer puts pen to paper and churns out… really anything that’s on their mind. The results have been fun and inspiring for the team. Follow all our #TuesdayDoodles on Instagram (Opens in a new window).  

As a visual thinking challenge for all the Brightworks troops, Grace Marquez (Opens in a new window), Creative Director (Chief Doodler (Opens in a new window)), dressed the kitchen table in craft paper and threw down a box of Crayolas and markers.

The challengetake a moment out of your day, turn your mind in a different direction, and let those ideas wander. The result: a collaborative exercise in teambuilding and creativity. Symbolic of just how well our team comes together in building ideas and sharing a vision. We impressed ourselves with what turned out to be a stunning seascape mural.

Meetings made better

Graphic recording and graphic facilitation are terms we’ve built into our vocabulary to put a spin on live content and make our meetings more impactful.

Graphic recording gurus ImageThink (Opens in a new window), has been a fixture at the Brightworks Innovation Day (Opens in a new window) for the last few years. The ImageThink team delivers live, real-time visual interpretations of presentations and meetings. It’s doodling, but amplified for the whole room to see, and refined to help our visually inclined minds consume and recall information quickly.

We’ve also incorporated graphic recording and facilitation into many of our client sessions, with great success. The visual content in the live setting helps drive discussion and ideation, giving space to bring voices and ideas into the mix that might not otherwise emerge. And at the end of the day, there’s a visually brilliant record of the experience. Not just a slide deck, but a lasting representation of the fluid nature of our brainstorming and discussion.

 “We’ve used other graphic recorders with great success.  Especially in meetings with key stakeholders, visual notes accomplish a few really clear goals – they show the audience you are listening and act as a reference point through the day as the discussion evolves.  There is something really powerful about being surrounded by the content of the event as the event unfolds – be it in a meeting, or in a conference setting like Innovation Day (Opens in a new window),” says Neil Follett (Opens in a new window), President and Founder of Brightworks (Opens in a new window).

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