Science for Artists

Inspiration and Truth

Visual Thinking

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Drawing by Katarina Countiss

Excerpt from Change by Design: How Design Thinking Transforms Organizations and Inspires Innovation by Brown, Tim (Book – 2009) page 80-81

Visual thinking takes many forms. We should not suppose that is restricted to objective illustration. In fact, it is not even necessary to possess drawing skills. In November 1972, relaxing in a late-night deli in Honolulu at the end of a long day of conference proceedings, a couple of biochemists took out a cocktail napkin and shared some crude drawings of bacteria having sex. A few years later Stanley Cohen was on a plane to Stockholm to collect his Nobel Prize and Herbert Boyer was pulling his red Ferrari into the parking lot of Genentech.

All children draw. Somewhere in the course of becoming logical, verbally oriented adults, they unlearn this elemental skill. Experts in creative problem solving such as Bob McKim, founder of Stanford’s product design program, or the United Kingdom’s prolific Edward de Bono, devoted much of their creative energy to mind maps, two-by-two matrices, and other visual frameworks that help explore and describe ideas in valuable ways.

When I use drawing to express an idea, I get different results than if I try to express it with words, and I usually get to them more quickly. I have to have a whiteboard or a sketch pad nearby whenever I am discussing ideas with colleagues. I get stuck unless I can work it out visually. Leonardo da Vinci’s sketchbooks are justly famous (no less a collector than Bill Gates snatched up the Hammer Codex when it came up for auction in 1994), but Leonardo didn’t just use them to work out his own ideas. Often he simply stopped in the street to capture something he needed to figure out: a tangle of weeds, the curl of a cat sleeping in the sun: an eddy of water swirling in a gutter. Moreover, scholars poring over his mechanical drawings have punctured the myth that every sketch depicts his own inventions. Like any accomplished design thinker, Leonardo da Vinci used his drawing skills to build on the ideas of others.

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Author: KC

I am Katarina Countiss, a multimedia designer. I like blogs, games, art and technology. I am curious about how things are made.

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