Why you don’t have to be good at drawing

Why you don’t have to be good at drawing

You really don’t have to be good at drawing to be an excellent visual thinker and here are three reasons why:

1. First and foremost ‘good at drawing’ is a very subjective benchmark. It takes us down the slippery path of ‘What is art?’, the kind of question I left behind in Cork along with my MA in Philosophy.

With visual thinking and graphic facilitation our focus is not on ‘art’ or ‘good drawings’, our focus is on helping people to understand something, to share ideas and to enhance communication.

2. I always say visual thinking is 50% skill and 50% mindset. You can be the world’s greatest artist but if you’re plagued with perfectionism or never take yourself out of your comfort zone then you’ll need a real mindset shift in order to be a great visual thinker.

3. Research has shown that your drawings only need to look 30% like what they’re supposed to be. Our brains fill in the gaps. So even if you’re working with a group and your drawings are really sketchy, this sketchiness in fact increases engagement as we examine the meanings of the drawings. The drawings are not ‘done’. They allow for growth, expansion and exploration.

And who wouldn’t benefit from some of that in these changing times?

All the best,

Made the right decision? Quick visual confidence check

Made the right decision? Quick visual confidence check

So you’ve made a decision as a group … everyone has contributed their opinions, you’ve assessed the pros and cons of each proposal, you’ve even held a vote.

But how confident do you feel that the right decision has been made?

Did some people agree to the decision just to get out of the meeting early?

Got that niggling feeling that maybe not everyone is exactly on board?

Time to run a quick confidence check (with thanks to David Sibbet):

  • Draw a line from 0 to 10.
  • Ask each person to rate how confident they are that the decision made was a good one, with 10 being completely confident and 0 as having no confidence.
  • Everyone calls out their number and make x marks at the appropriate place.
  • The result will be a graphic picture of confidence.
  • Ask the people who provided the lower ratings to talk about what would need to happen to make them fully confident.

Try this the next time you need to make a decision and as always let me know how you get on.

How to solve problems using visual thinking

How to solve problems using visual thinking

Ever feel stuck?

Simple drawings are a powerful tool to shift us from a feeling of inertia to one of clarity and control.

If you’re grappling with a problem and haven’t been able to settle on a solution try drawing it out.

By simply drawing out the who, what, when and where of your problem you will soon start to see aspects you hadn’t considered till now. This act of putting pen to paper, of thinking visually allows for new ideas to form and solutions to emerge.

Want to take it further? Here’s your step by step guide (with thanks to David Sibbet):

1.      Focus the issue – who, what, when, where
2.      Start brainstorming solutions – one idea per post-it
3.      Group the notes and label the headings
4.      Discuss each proposal
5.      Vote on the most promising
6.      Discuss top three – pros/cons of each option.
7.      Make decision

This becomes particularly powerful when we start working as a group to solve problems and several ideas emerge.

Solving problems as a group and not sure everyone has bought into the decision? Tune in next week for a quick technique that tests this and ensures everyone is on the same page.

To tap into your creative problem solving skills don’t forget to book onto next week’s Secrets of Simple Graphics course on April 26th 2019 Book now >>

Guest article: United Colours Of Leith

Guest article: United Colours Of Leith

This month’s guest article is from Gerry Farrell of Gerry Farrell Ink who describes his work on using visuals for social change.

‘The day after the Brexit vote, racist, neo-Nazi stickers appeared in Leith, probably the most multi-ethnic and tolerant comunity in Scotland.
We (Leithers Don’t Litter) responded immediately to show that Leithers wouldn’t stand for this.
I wrote an article about it in The Evening News. The next morning about 4am I was threatened by people who claimed to be neo-Nazis and said they knew where I lived.
We called the police who came and installed a direct panic button alarm in our house.
Then we organised a 400-strong anti-Nazi, anti-racist demonstration through Leith, culminating in a rally on Leith Links.
But we didn’t stop there, we also created a very visual toolkit that could be downloaded by any community that suddenly found a racial element causing trouble or making threats in their neighbourhood.
Here is a link to the toolkit:

United Colours Campaign

We pinched Benetton’s line and twisted it so it could be adapted for any part of Britain.

We are proud to show our true colours. The United Colours of Leith.’

Gerry Farrell Ink is creative and coaching consultancy for brands and organisations that want to communicate a social purpose. For more information see http://www.gerryfarrellink.com/

I hope you enjoyed this insightful piece from Gerry.

As I’m sure you’re aware by now visuals are an incredibly powerful tool for creating change.

The role of doodling in conflict resolution

The role of doodling in conflict resolution

Welcome to the first of our monthly contributors, Fyfe Blair, who today is sharing a fascination insight into the connection between conflict resolution and doodling…

‘John Paul Lederach is a peacebuilder whose insights have informed me in the work of conflict transformation.

In his book The Moral imagination he makes his case that it is neither the rote application of strategies nor techniques alone that enable people to generate constructive responses to the complex issues of a conflict.

Rather, he advocates a place for the (moral) imagination defined as the capacity to imagine something rooted in the challenges of the real world yet capable of giving birth to that which does not yet exist.[1]

In the book he provides a sequence of doodles which he says are drawings he would present in ‘off-the-record  meetings with people involved in conflicts’.

I have always enjoyed drawing and doodling/scribbling. I think in images/metaphors most of the time and seek to portray these to help my own understanding.

However, it was on one occasion in peacebuilding work that I truly began to see what Lederach was on about.

In the midst of a session I started to put down some images and words on the flipchart as the person spoke about the complexity of things.

It was not the brilliance of my scribbling, so much as when the person took their chair and placed it in front of the page and began to point and talk it through that I sensed they were beginning to gain some clarity and insight for themselves.

I believe that the visuals touched their imagination, offering a way of seeing what was being spoken. These together enabled them to gain perspective from another vantage point.

This instance provided me with a new perspective upon the work of conflict transformation and the way in which graphics can facilitate beyond the verbiage and that such visuals touch the imagination, bring this into the fray, providing fresh and new capacity to respond differently to the issue(s).

It has encouraged me to begin to learn and explore further how such seeming playfulness can be set alongside other tools, and used appropriately to enable people in conflicted situations to shift their observational position to offer a new line of sight that in turn may help enable them not only to generate constructive responses but indeed by touching their (moral) imagination enable them to change in their conduct.’

Fyfe Blair
Minister/works with Place for Hope

[1] The Moral Imagination: The art and soul of building peace. John Paul Lederach. 2005 p29

Hand drawn versus, well, not hand drawn

I’m a great believer in the power of pen and paper. Give me a slightly wonky hand drawn picture over clip art any day of the week.

As Dan Roam says in The Back of The Napkin, ‘The hand is mightier than the mouse’.

But just what is it about hand drawn images that make them so great?

Firstly, the more human our communication is the more effective it is. Hand drawn images are an outward sign of that humanity.

What an insight we receive when we see how someone draws.

How refreshing, how disarming almost, to see something that like us, is not perfect.

Secondly, when we create images on a computer we often find ourselves wrestling with a piece of software* whose functionality never quite matches up to the power of our imagination.

And it’s so small, that screen, so…confined. It can make our thinking confined too.

Thirdly (and crucially), it is the physical act of putting pen to paper that is so powerful. It engages the right hand side – the creative side – of our brain. It is that creativity that stimulates and feeds idea generation.

I don’t know how many times I’ve seen delegates on my courses start with a blank sheet of paper and then think, ‘Oh hang on. Maybe we can do this. Or if we scratch that out we can do that…’ and so forth.

How powerful is it in an age where idea generation is so key to human flourishing to have a tool so cheap, so quick, so accessible.

The power is in your hands!


Do come and join me on April 26th 2019 for some in person practice. I can’t wait.

*There are software programmes which allow you to draw directly on the screen (Adobe Illustrator and SketchbookPro to name a few) which is great. Start with pen and paper though. Otherwise you’re learning how to draw and learning how to use a software programme at the same time. And despite many protests to the contrary research shows that the brain just isn’t good at multitasking!