Shut Up & Draw: A Non-Artist Way to Think Visually (SXSW)

Hello there! I was at SXSW (South By Southwest) 2012 last week, going to the interactive conference. Anyway, I tend to take copious notes when I go to talks. I thought they might be useful to a wider audience, so here you go. You can see other SXSW 2012 posts that I’ve made as well.

Sunni Brown

Why Whiteboard Culture Isn’t Pervasive

Many companies don’t have access to whiteboard culture. There are 3 reasons we’re lacking whiteboard culture:

#1 We have nationwide lunacy around visual language

Part of the doodle revolution is overturning it.
Misperception: visual language = art
Visual language is not art. Visual language isn’t typically emotive or emotinal. It’s not really an act of self-expression, it’s more an act of understanding something. It’s not about being beautiful or exemplary. Level of beauty not important. It’s not about ambiguity for the audience. Art is aobut allowing audience to interpet what’s going on – for visual language it’s about eliminating ambiguity.
We have crazy lunatic beliefs about art:

  • Art is a luxury good (first thing to go when times are tight)
  • Art is elite, you have to be trained, have to be art school
  • God-given, genetically incapable, not in their lineage, cannot be developed
  • Superfluous… in school and at work. Think art in work or school has no place. Think it’s extraneous
    • Results in starvation / drug addiction / mentally ill (yes! while a luxury!)
    • Frivolous and silly


#2 We have a strong tendency to judge our drawing abilities

  • When you judge yourself, you stop trying. accomodating your own incapacitation.
  • Perfection is not the point
  • Honey badger don’t give a shit, neither should you.

Perfection is not the point. Improved thinking is the point… journal of science.

#3 We don’t know how to take it to work or to school

How does this or that translate to visual language? We are visually illiterate… what does literacy mean?

  • identify
  • understand
  • interpret
  • create
  • communicate

Allows you to participate fully in society. 3 reasons visual literacy matters

  • information density is redonkulously high- imagery has a density that lets you articulate complex objects… clay shirky, filter failure, drawing and sketching is a form of filtering
  • market competition is antagonasty. intellectual ventrues – invent and patent technologies. nathan nirval… contentious character… patent troll… over 500 patents, hundred pending. invention session – in one hour, invent up to 60 patentable ideas. they infuse visual language throughout the process. their literacy is very high and it accommodates their cognitive performance
  • cognitive neuroscience is explosivo

Needs to be accessible to the rest of us.
Awaken visual cortex by drawing nonsensical situations.
For more:

Jessica Hagy

Just images do a lot of things. When verbal articulation is complicated, “show me where he touched you on the doll” – can easily identify direction and area when it’s hard to do that in words.
Images help work around linguistic, cultural, or personal misunderstandings. Draw a picture to find a common ground. I cannot sail around the world in a broken teacup. Now that i’ve drawn it and i see it, I’ll remember it for a long time.

  • seven of eight tasks complete…. octopus with one tentacle left… humor
  • when tensions are high… dog and cat with feed… can help
  • because you can

Visuals mean so much.

Dan Roam

A tale of two charts

In the real world where pictures become powerful for us… a tale of two charts. Austin Goulsby, was head of presdient’s board of economic advisors. Used to like to draw a lot of charts. Describing complex ideas, would use a lot of charts. Many of austin’s charts were poster children for the occupy movement. Started to appear on posters by people at occupy.
Glenn beck likes to draw charts. undermine or take exact the opposite pov of austin’s charts. poster children for the tea party.
Both of them have been made fun of Jon Stewart, so they define whats going on today.
Who’s right? they’re both right. not what they’re saying, but the way that they are saying it – they are using pictures to convince.

Power of Pictures study… Graphical corrections are also found to successfully reduce incorrect beliefs among potentially resistent subjects and to perform better than an equivalent textual correction.
If you want to convince someone, draw them the picture. It works much better than the words. Not just if you want to convince someone. If you are sitting opposite someone who fundamentally disagrees with you, the more you try to convince with words, the less likely to happen. If you draw a picture that represents graphically, the likelihood of them agreeing with you, goes through the roof.
Arthur Laffer… 1970’s DC… USC economist, friend of Ford admin in 1974. Went to a bar with senior presidential aides… He drew on a napkin became part of public record / Laffer curve. Simple x/y plot. % tax rate gov’t charges us on our income tax. 0% – 100%. If the gov’t charges us 100% income tax brings in 0 money because no one will work.
There’s a curve. They took napkin to president ford. He passed it to the republican national committee… passed to economics team of ronald regan… that became the first time anybody had ever heard of supply side economics. Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney were the ones sitting in the bar with Laffer.
Who says a sketch on a napkin doesn’t have power? When we see it, we believe in it, in a way we can’t in words alone.

Pictures aren’t just on one side of the brain

We’re of two minds…
Half of our brain has evolved to be good at looking at little bits of things. Break into pixels, break into pixels. Other half of brain, is about gluing things together. Reading doesnt take place in one half of brain… one half of brain interprets letters, other interprets meaning. We are walking talking visual porcessing machines and we neglect it.
Let’s draw vivid grammar together. Put together the grammar we’ve learned in being literate and verbal into the beginnings of a visual grammar.
For more, check out Dan’s books:

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