The Power of Visual Communication

A workshop presented by VizThinkNYC and BlgBlueGumball

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For VizThink NYC’s third workshop of 2011 BigBlueGumball brought the crowd on a fun and engaging trip into the world of visual communication. Steve and Todd Cherches (also known as Todd and Steve Cherches, or BigBlueGumball) showed us, through three hands-on activities, that visual communication is not all about drawing.
The evening began with a discussion about people’s hesitation to use visual communication, how we overcome that hesitation, and the value of images in expressing ideas. The group shared their thoughts on how to clear the first and biggest hurdle, “I can’t draw.” As we moved into the activities that would follow, we all learned how much more there is to visual communication than drawing..
The first activity of the night was a session of VizProvization where attendees improvised a presentation from the fictional company, smACME. Participants had twenty seconds each to talk about smACME’s new initiative guided only by an image projected on the screen. Beginning with an airplane cockpit, and continuing to display images like a taco, a bespectacled chihuahua, various random statistics and the odd alien here and there, the improvisers passed the microphone around the room and spun a story about smACME’s future plans and had a few laughs along the way. After the exercise, we discussed what had happened and realized the many ways we can use images to tell a story.
.The next activity of the session was VizBizPictionary where the room broke up into teams to play a variation of pictionary. Each team received a cup full of top-tier businesses and had 5 minutes to get as many of the companies as they could. Pictionary is a great way to show that when it comes to visual communication, your drawings don’t have to be pretty. After the game was over we talked about what goes on during a game of pictionary and discussed the various strategies we use. It turns out those strategies work even when you aren’t scrambling to figure out how to draw a picture that represents Walmart (try it.. it’s hard!) Two of the most powerful tools we use in a situation like pictionary, and with visual communication in general, are metaphors and analogies.
We continued our talk by examining how, even when we are only using words, metaphor and analogy conjure images in our minds and help us understand and communicate ideas. This lead us to the final activity of the evening, a brief introduction to sketchnoting..
Following up on our discussion of metaphor and analogy we watched Martin Luther King Jr.’s I have a Dream speech and were asked to follow along with the speech, and draw some of the images described by Dr. King. This exercise showed us how much more we engage with a speech or presentation when we notice the imagery being described or shown and it gave many first-timers a taste of what sketchnoting is like and how doodling while listening engages different parts of our mind. Even though most of the audience were familiar with the speech, I’m sure listening in this way was a new experience of it for the whole group. We wrapped up the evening sharing our thoughts and sketchnotes and discovered how many different ways there are to hear, see, and communicate the imagery in that amazing speech.
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BigBlueGumball and VizThink NYC gave a great overview of visual communication without focusing on drawing techniques but instead showing us how much our minds play a part in the process, not just our hands. By engaging the crowd in fun activities we have probably all done before, and then looking back and analyzing how visuals play a part in those activities, we all left with a better understanding of the power of visual communication.
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Thanks again to Todd and Steve from BigBlueGumball and to Liquidnet for a great evening.

View event photos on Flickr (courtesy of VizThinker MJ Broadbent)

Special thanks to attendee Amanda Lyons for her fantastic blog post, in which she created visual notes of of the whole evening. Nice work!

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  1. December 18th, 2012
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