66 best resources to communicate better visually

Many have been asking us to share references and resources to get started on keep learning about visual communication and visual thinking. Each conversation I've had lead to this one blogpost putting together the ultimate collection of different resources.

Many have been asking us to share references and resources to get started on keep learning about visual communication and visual thinking. Each conversation I’ve had lead to this one blog post putting together the ultimate collection of different resources.

How and why visual communication and thinking helps you communicate better

Below is a list of researches, blogs, and whitepapers covering why visual communication, how it helps you communicate better (and improve many other things, too).

1. Improving memory

1.1 [INFOGRAPHIC] The Power of Visual Communication via HubSpot.

A new infographic from Wyzowl shows that only 10% of people remember what they hear. Reading doesn’t help the cause much, with only 20% of people remembering what they read. But 80% of people remember what they see and do.

1.2 [SKETCH-NOTE] 5 reasons to draw your ideas via Deekit.

It is proven that humans process visual 60000 times faster than text. This is why we remember much more of the conversations in front of whiteboards – we draw and visualise our ideas and we interact with the content.

1.3 12 things we know about how the brain works via The Week.

We are incredible at remembering pictures. Hear a piece of information, and three days later you’ll remember 10 percent of it. Add a picture and you’ll remember 65 percent.

1.4 [BOOK] Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School by John Medina.

See how the brain works while using it in the process of reading this book! Most of us have no idea what’s really going on inside our heads.

1.5 Vision Trumps All Other Senses & Images Trump Text via DreamSmall.

The brain is actively deconstructing the information given to it by the eyes, pushing it through a series of filters, and then reconstructing what it thinks it sees. Or what it thinks you should see.

1.6 [RESEARCH] Drawing and doodling can help you learn science: study by Lin Edwards.

Dr Ainsworth said science students applied more effort to learning when they read and then drew pictures of their understanding of the text. The amount of enjoyment they derived from the activity was “striking,” when compared to just reading or from reading and then writing summaries.

1.7 SHIFT’s eLearning Blog by Karla Gutierrez.

We are now in the age of visual information where visual content plays a role in every part of life. As 65 percent of the population is visual learners, images are clearly key to engaging people in eLearning courses.

1.8 [RESEARCH] Syntactic Theory of Visual Communication by Paul Martin Lester, Ph.D.

If you have seen the picture, you remember it not only because it is a highly emotional image, but because you have thought about the image in your mind with words. Words and pictures become one powerfully effective communicative medium inside your own mind.

1.9 Active Learning via ChangingMinds.

We can learn by reading, listening and having experiences. The best way for most people is often a combination, but with a strong active component.

1.10 Successfully Using Visual Aids in Your Presentation via University of Alabama School of Medicine – UAB.

Sixty-five percent of the population are visual learners. That is, they use images, pictures, colors, and other visual media to organize and learn information. The remainder of the population is comprised of auditory and kinesthetic learners. Therefore, by adding effective visual aids to your presentation you will increase the possibility of your students remembering the message simply because most people are visual learners.

Photo via Unsplash

2. Improving creativity

Visual thinking and communication do not only help you become better at communication. It also helps you to become more creative. Below is a list of great resources.

2.1 [TED talk] Doodlers, unite! by Sunni Brown.

Studies show that sketching and doodling improve our comprehension — and our creative thinking. So why do we still feel embarrassed when we’re caught doodling in a meeting?

2.2 How to have more creative conversations via Invisionapp.

Many ideas came about, but most surfaced from our collaborative conversation.

2.3 Here’s Why, How, And What You Should Doodle To Boost Your Memory And Creativity by Sunni Brown.

Studies have shown that doodling can free up short- and long-term memory, improve content retention and increase attention span. It can also produce creative insight.

2.4 7 Ways to Boost Your Creativity via 99u.

Researchers have noted that creative people tend to re-conceptualize problems more often before starting a creative task.

3. Improving thinking

3.1 Visual collaboration is taking over the world by Barbara Peric.

We are visual creatures. When you doodle an image that captures the essence of an idea, you not only remember it, but you also help other people understand and act on it – which is generally the point of meetings in the first place – Tom Wujec, global leader in 3D design, engineering and entertainment software.

3.2 3 ways the brain creates meaning by Tom Wujec.

How can we best engage our brains to help us better understand big ideas?

3.3 [RESEARCH] On Empathy: The Mirror Neuron System and Art Education by Carol S. Jeffers.

We don’t just perceive with the visual system, we perceive also with the motor system. Indeed, action and perception are not separate, but inextricably linked.

3.4 Pretty pictures: Can images stop data overload? via BBC News.

In a lab in Sussex a group of people have had their brainwaves scanned while completing a series of tasks, individually and in groups, to see if data visualisation – presenting information visually, in this case a series of mind maps – can help. The results showed that when tasks were presented visually rather than using traditional text-based software applications, individuals used around 20% less cognitive resources. In other words, their brains were working a lot less hard. As a result, they performed more efficiently, and could remember more of the information when asked later. Working in groups, they used 10% less mental resources.

3.5 On the Power of Visual Thinking by Clive Thompson.

But dynamic, complicated problems—like global warming and economic reform—often can’t be boiled down to simple narratives. They’re systems; they have many little parts affecting one another. In those situations, drawing a picture can clarify what’s going on.“Words,” Roam says, “won’t save us.”

3.6 A New Look at Visual Thinking by Laura Otis, Ph.D.

Einstein’s description indicates that visual thinking is active, not passive. Those who don’t use visual images to invent things might imagine that thinking visually means relaxing and watching images float by. Nothing could be further from the truth. Visual thinking comes in many forms, but in every case, it is hard work. It may involve the derivation of a new image that connects others, or the manipulation of an image that needs to change. In many cases, mental images move. Creative ideas emerge as images from different contexts “speak” to one another.

3.6 Visual thinking for engineers via MIT News.

Students come to MIT and they are very strong mathematically, but visual thinking is part and parcel of being a mechanical engineer. We need to think about how things fit together, how gears work, how a product works.

3.7 Visual Thinking in Education via Drawn an Idea.

It’s important to understand that we are entering a new technological world built upon ideas, visuals, creativity and imagination. We are entering the age of innovation, and tomorrow’s innovators will be the visual thinkers of today.

Photo via Unsplash

4. Improving focus

4.1 5 Ways Doodling Improves Learning And Creativity via OpenColleges.

In the conscious mind, doodling can assist concentration and focus but even in the unconscious mind, while doodling and day dreaming connections are made.

4.2 [Study] Doodling Helps You Pay Attention by John Cloud.

In a delightful new study, which will be published in the journal Applied Cognitive Psychology, psychologist Jackie Andrade of the University of Plymouth in southern England showed that doodlers actually remember more than nondoodlers when asked to retain tediously delivered information, like, say, during a boring meeting or a lecture.

5. Improving communication

5.1 Why Do Visuals Work with Teams? by David Sibbet.

A simple graphic template, a simple provocative question, and some small sticky notes create a “system” that is optimized for useful accidents and surprises.

5.2 Don’t Dis Doodling: It’s Made Our Meetings Way More Productive by Neal Taparia from GetCourse.

Many ideas came about, but most surfaced from our collaborative conversation.

5.3 8 best reasons why teams who draw are more successful by Deekit team.

Drawing is not just about making beautiful art that you hang on a wall to look at. Oftentimes it is about explaining ideas and communicating complex information.

5.4 What Are the Benefits of Visual Communication Over Verbal? via LiveStrong.

One of the primary benefits of visual communication over verbal is immediacy. Whether you are seeking to communicate complex information, such as with statistical information, or seeking to emphasize the importance of an idea, visual communication can often accomplish these tasks much more quickly than verbal communication.

5.5 A few facts about visual communication in marketing via Sequel Group.

Communicators have seen a shift over the years in how their audiences wish to receive their messages. We have become used to receiving information in quick and easily digestible ways – you just have to look at social media to appreciate this.

5.6 Why Visual Communication Is the Most Important Skill for Journalists in 2015 by Zach Kitschke from Canva.

The way your readers retain their information might come as a surprise to you. Because, well, only 20% of what they read from your text actually sticks. However, if you put that information into an image, suddenly the percentage of information takes a huge leap to 80%.

5.7 5 Psychology Studies That Tell Us How People Perceive Visual Information via Piktochart.

Visual information we see is combined with previously stored information about the world, which we have built up as a result of experience.

5.8 Visual Thinking via Agile Learning.

A few years ago, my center brought in a graphic facilitator to lead a strategic planning session for our staff. Since then, I’ve been interested in the power of visual thinking, particularly in teaching and learning.

5.9 The Ten (and a half) Commandments of Visual Thinking by Dan Roam.

Visual thinking is the future of business problem solving. Using our innate ability to see – both with our eyes and our mind’s eye – gives us entirely new ways to discover hidden ideas, develop those ideas intuitively, and then share those ideas with other people in a way they are simply going to “get”.

How to use visual communication

6. How to draw

6.1 [BOOK] The back of the napkin by Dan Roam.

There is no more powerful way to prove that we know something well than to draw a simple picture of it. And there is no more powerful way to see hidden solutions than to pick up a pen and draw out the pieces of our problem.

6.2 [BOOK] Show & Tell by Dan Roam.

I distilled twenty years of my own presentations into this book, from Google talks to the NSA, from Kraft Foods to Boeing, from IDEO to the White House. I introduce an entirely new set of simple tools that guarantee your presentation will be extraordinary in any setting.

6.3 Anyone can learn how to draw via HowToDrawIt.

You can learn how to draw just like you can learn to play soccer or drive a car. We’ll break it down for you in step by step drawing tutorials.

6.4 Enhance Creativity Through Drawing Games via The Virtual Instructor.

Creativity is the artist’s secret weapon. Without it, skill has little use. Although technical skill must be developed and is incredibly important, it is useless without the ability to communicate ideas and problem solve in a creative way. I believe that creativity is much like a muscle. If you work it it will grow and develop, becoming stronger with each exercise.

6.5 How to draw basic shapes via Creative Bloq.

Learning to accurately draw and combine basic shapes will help you to construct any object, observed or imagined. In walking you through this process we will have to deal with concepts like perspective and foreshortening, so we’ll take a very brief, practical look at them.

6.6 I Want to Draw: Simple Exercises for Complete Beginners by Monika Zagrobelna.

Do you struggle with a simple circle from the first step of every tutorial? Do your straight lines keep bending no matter how hard you try? Do you seem to be unable to draw two points with a given distance between? Do your pictures look wrong even after repeating carefully every single step from a detailed tutorial? This post is exellent start to catch up on the basics.

Photo via Unsplash

7. How to take visual notes

7.1 Sketchnoting 101: How To Create Awesome Visual Notes by Matthew Magain.

Regardless of the circumstance, the skills for creating a sketchnote can be broken down into four basic categories: planning, listening, processing and drawing

7.2 Sketchnotes / Visual Note Taking by Eva-Lotta Lamm.

Sketchbooks are not about being a good artist. They’re about being a good thinker.

7.3 [BOOK] The Sketchnote Handbook: The Illustrated Guide to Visual Notetaking by Mike Rohde.

This gorgeous, fully illustrated handbook tells the story of sketchnotes–why and how you can use them to capture your thinking visually, remember key information more clearly, and share what you’ve captured with others.

7.4 Visual Practice via Gforsythe blog.

As Steven Johnson says, the mind’s primordial soup can lead to serendipitous collisions of creative insight. Doodling has allowed connections to be made between people and ideas, the magical space between.

8. How to communicate visually with your team

8.1 [BOOK] Visual Meetings: How Graphics, Sticky Notes and Idea Mapping Can Transform Group Productivity by David Sibbet.

Just as social networking has reclaimed the Internet for human interactivity and co–creation, the visual meetings movement is reclaiming creativity, productivity, and playful exchange for serious work in groups.

8.2 [BOOK] Visual Teams: Graphic Tools for Commitment, Innovation, and High Performance by David Sibbet.

Visual Teams uses visual tools and methods to help teams both face–to–face and virtual reach high performance in today′s work environment. As teams become more and more global and distributed, visualization provides an important channel of communication one that opens up the group′s mind to improving work systems and processes by understanding relationships, interconnections, and big picture contexts.

8.3 [BOOK] See What I Mean: How To Use Comics to Communicate Ideas by Kevin Cheng.

If you’re an executive, designer, product manager, marketer, or engineer, communication is part of your work. Using images and text in unique ways, comics can engage readers in ways traditional methods can’t. In See What I Mean, you’ll learn how to create comics about your products and processes without an illustrator—just like Google, eBay, and Adobe do.

8.4 [BOOK] Unfolding the Napkin: The Hands-On Method for Solving Complex Problems with Simple Pictures by Dan Roam.

Hands-on book with examples and exercises to solve complex problems with easy visuals.

9. How to brainstorm using visuals

9.1 [BOOK] Gamestorming: A Playbook for Innovators, Rulebreakers, and Changemakers by Dave Gray and Sunni Brown.

This book includes more than 80 games to help you break down barriers, communicate better, and generate new ideas, insights, and strategies.

9.2 How to Conduct a Visual Brainstorming Session by Jeffrey Baumgartner.

Visual brainstorming is about collaboratively generating ideas without using the spoken or written word. You might use objects which teams put together to solve problems. You might use arts and crafts materials such as colored construction paper, tape, string, card, pens and the like. You might use people to create improvisational role plays.

9.3 Visual Brainstorming via Mycoted.

When traditional thinking has become stale or dried up, visual brainstorming using graphic ideation may be a useful alternative.

9.4 10 Tips for Effective Creative Brainstorming via Designshack.

Though creative brainstorming is in many ways a different beast due to its visual nature, many of the same concepts apply.

9.5 How to Brainstorm Content Ideas in a Fast, Easy, Visual Way via HubSpot.

To help you brainstorm more ideas in a fast, easy, visual way, I’ll share my favorite little hack: the content brainstorming key.

9.6 Cubing via Deekit app.

Cubing is a brainstorming method based on the book Writing, by Gregory Cowan and Elizabeth Cowan (New York: Wiley, 1980). We’ve created template and guidelines how to use cubing in your brainstorming sessions.

9.7 Heuristic ideation technique via Deekit app.

In this ideation technique, participants use a matrix to generate new ideas and approaches to a solution. The technique gets its name from three heuristics – or rules of thumb – of idea generation. We’ve created template and guidelines how to use heuristic ideation in your brainstorming sessions.

9.8 Six thinking hats via Deekit app.

The aim of this brainstorming technique is to separate thinking into six clear functions and roles. Each thinking role is identified with a coloured symbolic “thinking hat.” By mentally wearing and switching “hats”, you can easily focus or redirect thoughts and conversation. We’ve created template and guidelines how to use the method in your brainstorming sessions.

10. How to plan your business visually

10.1 [VIDEO] Tools for Business Model Generation [Entire Talk] by Alexander Osterwalder with Steve Blank.

Entrepreneur and business model innovator Alexander Osterwalder discusses dynamic, yet simple-to-use tools for visualizing, challenging and re-inventing business models. Osterwalder articulates how to use the visual language of his business model canvas framework, and shares stories of how this approach helps organizations of all sizes to better create, deliver and capture value.

10.2 Tell your business story – Business Model Canvas or Lean Canvas? by Barbara Peric.

So, what comes to your mind when we talk about elaborating your business? Fancy writing a 30+ page business plan that no one is probably ever going to read? Business plans are too long, too complicated to start, and your business is something you want to visualize.

10.3 Business model canvas via Deekit app.

The Business Model Canvas is a visual strategic management template for lean teams to develop new or document existing business models. We’ve created template and guidelines how to plan your business using business model canvas.

10.4 Why Lean Canvas vs Business Model Canvas? by Ash Maurya.

I often get asked why I created a different adaptation from the original Business Model Canvas by Alex Osterwalder. Lately, this question has bubbled up in frequency which is why I decided to take the time to outline the thought process that went into creating Lean Canvas.

10.5 Lean canvas via Deekit app.

Lean Canvas makes business planning actionable while staying entrepreneur-focused. It provides grounds-up tactical plan or a blueprint that guides entrepreneur as they navigate their way from ideation to building a successful startup. We’ve created template and guidelines how to plan your business using business model canvas.

10.6 Swot analysis via Deekit app.

SWOT Analysis is a useful technique for understanding your Strengths and Weaknesses, and for identifying both the Opportunities open to you and the Threats you face. We’ve created template and guidelines for making the SWOT simple and fast.

10.7 Demand matrix via Deekit app.

There are various ways to research and evaluate your business or product ideas. Demand Matrix is one of the most common ways the quickly evaluate your product or startup idea.

10.9 Why You Need to Create Buyer Personas (and How to Do It) via Engage Magazine.

If you’re a marketer who’s set their personas on the back burner, you should need to turn up the heat: Marketers with documented personas are twice as likely to exceed their goals.

11. How to use simple visuals in design

11.1 Basic Guidelines to Product Sketching via Hongkiat.

Within the field of product design, ability to represent your ideas by using effective visual method such as sketching opens doors for better communication between designers and clients. Designers find that using sketching is an efficient way to speed up the process of developing ideas in the real life.

11.2 Why You Should Be Sketching (Even if You Can’t Draw) via Designshack.

Sketching is brainstorming tool that can help you develop ideas individually or as part of a team.

11.3 16 pro tips for creating and using mood boards via Deekit.

Mood boards are a great way to convey your design idea, explain your product and feature vision and get early feedback. Mood boards are often used by designers to brainstorm designs, but also when researching, doing market analysis or simply planning your product.

How about trying some of our templates?

Team Canvas Template

Business Plan Template

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