Visual Thinking Strategy
How Graphic Recorders Solve Problems Creatively (part one)
Ink Factory is a team of creative people, and we try to embrace that creativity in everything we do. From goal setting, to project planning, to problem-solving, you’d be hard-pressed to find us without a whiteboard marker in our hands. Looking for some creative solutions to a problem? Try our go-to visual thinking strategy that is sure to help you gain clarity and inspiration.
For the following exercises, we recommend using a whiteboard or sketchbook with bold markers and limited colors. Using physical tools (as opposed to an iPad or other digital tool) means you’ll be less distracted and more focused on creative solutions.
For the best visual thinking strategy, let loose!
Don’t be concerned with how your drawings look. These creative exercises are a means to an end–your solution. As long as you can read them and they make sense to you (or your team), you’re good to go.
Save your work along the way so you can keep track of where you’ve been and stay focused on where you’re going. We like to snap quick pics of our studio whiteboards with our phone and save them to an organized folder on our computers.
Visual Thinking Strategy Step 1
Define your problem
Set yourself up for success when creating a plan. Clarify your problem or goal and be specific. You may already have a clear objective in mind, but take some time to investigate it before proceeding to get to the core of the matter.
Getting to the heart of your problem may be tough, but visual exploration can help. Write your initial problem or goal in the center of a page. In the example above, while a good starting point, the goal is a bit vague. What does living a more sustainable lifestyle actually mean?
Pro tip: Draw with your paper in landscape orientation. For visual note-taking, it gives the illusion of more room to work, even though the paper is the same size whichever way you turn it.
Now, ask yourself “why?” Your answers to “why” be small and trivial, or they can be large and looming. Draw arrows outward from your center problem for each “why” and write them down. You might have a lot of reasons or just a few major ones.
You may find that why is the wrong question to ask, and that’s fine. Investigate your problem with who, what, when, or how if that is more relevant to your objective. However, UX design encourages asking “why” first and foremost, because it helps get to underlying motivations. The who, what, when, and how generally come later in our visual thinking strategy.
Pro tip: Use your extra bold marker to draw the keywords in your why statements.
Finalize your problem statement or goal
Now, contain your most important “why” statements with a thinner marker or a marker in an accent color. Review your drawing, and annotate the questions or words that have the most meaning or importance to you by circling, highlighting, or starring them or adding notes and further questions.
On a new page or area of your whiteboard, re-write your problem or goal statement based on your “why” investigation. You can sketch the statement in with a pencil first to make sure your spacing looks good, and then draw with a marker on top of the pencil sketch.
Pro tip: Doing rough or process drawings on grid paper will help train you to write in straighter lines.
Make a commitment to your goal by drawing it large and bold. Since this visual is meant to be used as a reference for our final strategy, it’s up to you how refined you want to make it. You can add a visual icon to accompany it, or add a container in an accent color.
Notice how the above example is more specific than what we started with, and it’s phrased optimistically with “I will” language.
You’re done with the first step in our visual thinking strategy
Great work! You’ve tackled the first step on the way to solving a problem and achieving your goal. Hang on to your work from this section, because you’ll need it for the next step. Want to be notified when the next part in this series is published?