I’ve never won a lot of things in life, but my very first win was for an drawing competition I took part in. I won 2nd place for a picture I drew of a building — it was the building of the music school I attended where the competition was held. I think that the judges, having looked at what I’d put down as my age, wondered how on earth a kid could’ve possibly done that.
I was five.
As I grew older, my love for visuals never went away. I drew a lot of things that caught my interest — automobile brand emblems, animals, Autobots, Star Wars and X-men characters, buildings, bicycles, hands, people, portraits… I even drew my own comic books.
I also loved handwriting. In high school, my friends and I used to exchange handwritten notes with stuff written backwards, upside down, round and round in circles, and in all kinds of shapes and sizes.
My parents didn’t really push me to pursue art or design, although I was once interested in a graphic design degree. My dad advised me to do engineering instead, so I gradually stopped drawing when I went to engineering school. I probably allowed myself to believe that my visual habits were just “a phase”.
The visual thing never really came back when I started joining the workforce. Everything was on computers. I expressed myself with code, rather than drawings. It was only when I started to switch careers back towards design that I started applying visual work again. First with notes, then with sketches, then with paper prototypes, then with more sketches and wireframes, and so on.
Around 2010, I attended a workshop on visual note-taking by Eva-Lotta Lamm. The sketchnoting revolution took hold. Suddenly, making visual notes gave me a strong reason to consistently maintain a visual habit. It grew from the dozens to sketchnotes I produced at almost every conference and event I’ve attended, to designing novel interfaces for digital services and products, to creating visual stimuli for service design projects.
This is my origin story.
Visual thinking is a core part of what we do as digital product designers. It doesn’t matter what level you’re at — if you’ve tried to solve complex problems involving systems, interfaces and human behaviour, you would have used visual thinking to solve problems. You just might not have called it that.
In my commitment to help others develop this habit, I am putting together a workshop on visual thinking which will debut at Interaction South America 2015 in Cordoba, Argentina.
I invite you along on this journey, so bring your hearts, thoughts, markers and sketchpads. Erasers are optional.