Here’s the thing – we all want to be better at what we do. If you didn’t you wouldn’t be reading this.
So we tend to read a lot. We listen to what other people have to say about stuff. We think about things. Sometimes we actually get around to trying some of the things we’ve read, heard, though and talked about. Sometimes.
It mostly comes down to communication. You can be brilliant at designing things, at understanding things, at creating things, but if you can’t get other people on board with what you’re doing, then it’s always going to be a struggle and you’re going to have to do it all yourself. Unless of course you’re surrounded by magical colleagues and telepathic executive fairies who implicitly understand what it is that you want to do.
We’re all capable of speech. We’re all literate. Well most of us are to varying degrees. However when we’re trying to communicate about idea, words often suck. We can’t explain adequately or people just get the wrong idea. Or they simply don’t understand.
The funny thing is there’s one simple thing you can do to improve the situation. Communicate visually.
The funny thing is there’s one simple thing you can do to improve the situation. Communicate visually
Whilst it’s not a silver bullet to vanquish all evil miscommunication, using visual explanations can dramatically help. Sight is our primary sense for interacting with the world around us, so it makes sense to use that as a primary form of communication. More often than not, if we do, we get a unified understanding of what’s being thought about much more quickly than we would without.
The tricky part is most of us aren’t very good at communicating visually. So start practicing.
The beauty of it is there’s a simple way to practice while you read, listen and think. It’s called sketchnotes. All you need is a pen and some paper. If you’re a stationary whore like myself you can interpret that as a Fineliner, a Sharpie and 3 or 4 Letraset markers, but a pen or pencil and any old piece of paper will do.
The idea is to draw, illustrate, sketch or doodle the concepts, ideas, words and meanings in a way that resonates with you. You do it whilst you’re doing something else, so it won’t take up any more of your time.
By practising interpreting concepts in a visual manner, you’ll then be far more equipped to express concepts in a visual manner, unleashing your own inner awesomeness.
If you want an introductory guide, the slideshow below by Eva-Lotta Lamm is a great place to start. I won’t try to reproduce what she’s already done as I’m not sure it can be improved but after you’ve had a look at that I will give some tips that helped me get started.
If you’ve just looked through all that and are chomping at the bit to get started, here are some things tips that may help you start:
If you think you’re a rubbish sketcher/drawer, you may well be – it doesn’t matter. Just start anyway.
- If you think you’re a rubbish sketcher/drawer, you may well be – it doesn’t matter. Just start anyway. No one else need see what you do. Even if you don’t like what you produce the process of doing it will help you start thinking visually. If it makes you feel better I studied design for 4 years at uni and consistently came bottom of my class for drawing skills. I still draw stick men. I suck, but that’s not the point. On several occasions I’ve now been better able to explain ideas at work and at home because I could draw a stick man doing something and it made more sense that way.
- Get inspired by the sketchnote army. Look through Mike Rohde’s presentation.
- Buy an Ed Emberley book or two. Make a World is a great place to start. It’ll give you the confidence to draw almost anything, and if you ever need to entertain children, it’ll keep them occupied for hours too.
- Over time you get quicker by building up a set of symbols that you can recall quickly and easily. For me I have a standard way of drawing people. If I want a person to be a designer I put dark glasses on them. If I want them to represent a business person I give them a tie. A coder, gets clear glasses. That sort of thing.
- Having a grey marker to add some shadows or highlight here and there does help. If you don’t know what works, just have a play.
- More than anything, just start.
- Share them. You don’t have to obviously, but it’s a great way to meet people. You’ll be amazed by how people respond to them. Post them on flickr and twitter. Use the hashtags #sketchnotes
So go on, become a more awesome you. Start sketchnoting.