Visual Thinking

Making a sketch is often the first step towards thinking about a design problem. But I’ve found that oftentimes making that mark feels daunting – it is the first sign of my imagination committing to a solution. A mark feels risky – the idea is now out in the world for more than just me to see.

I often think of sketching an idea as making a visual list. Making lists helps move ideas forward, another kind of decisive first mark. I also think about list-making as a process :

1. Make the list (Thinking out loud, possibly in collaboration)
2. Looking through the list again and re-ordering it. (Fitting it to the needs of the idea)
3. Reviewing your new list (Critique and time for contemplation)
4. Fixing the list and deciding to follow its order (Deciding on a course of action)

With sketching, or visual thinking, these steps happen simultaneously, still holding a lot in common with a simple list.

Here’s an example from one of our recent projects with MIT’s Wolk Gallery for a exhibition promotion piece.

One of several sketches which emerged from this visual thinking process. —  

One of several sketches which emerged from this visual thinking process. —

 

The final design

The final design

Although this process seems based in a visual product, I apply this kind of visual thinking (or visual list-making) many kinds of problems. Because of the quick nature of the process, we’re able to address many questions and answers early on, helping to shape a project’s outcome in the process.