Visual Thinking

What is Visual Thinking?


Visual thinking is a way to organize your thoughts and improve your ability to think and communicate. It’s a great way to convey complex or potentially confusing information.

It’s also about using tools — like pen and paper, index cards and software tools — to externalize your internal thinking processes, making them more clear, explicit and actionable.

Why is Visual Thinking important?

There’s more information at your fingertips than ever before, and yet people are overwhelmed by it. When faced with too much information we shut down. If your ideas can’t be drawn, they can’t be done. Visual thinking is a vital skill for developing new ideas and designs, communicating those ideas effectively, and collaborating with others to make them real.

But can I do this?

Drawing is a natural process for thinking, exploring ideas and learning. Every child enjoys drawing — but at some point in our lives we learn that drawing is the province of artists. We begin to say things like:

“I’m no artist”
“I can’t draw a straight line”
“I can’t draw a stick figure”

This is a fallacy. You can draw, and when you were a kid you knew it. You just forgot.

Don’t believe me? If you have got a pen or pencil, a piece of paper and five minutes, I will prove to you that you CAN draw. What do you have to lose? Click the video below. 

Squiggle birds exercise: 5 min 14 sec.

Visual Thinking basics

In this 20-minute video I share some basics of visual thinking that will get you up and running in about 20 minutes.

Visual thinking basics: 17 min 35 sec.

In case there is any doubt, the visual alphabet is freely available under a Creative Commons Attribution license. This means you can use it in any way that you like and share it broadly, so long as you credit the source @davegray or

How to know what to draw

Once you have gained some comfort with drawing, the next question is, “Now that I know how to draw, how do I decide what to draw in order to best convey my ideas? In this video I share a simple three-by-three matrix that will help you determine the best way to approach drawing an idea.

How to know what to draw: 16min 52 sec.

How to know when to draw

Not every situation is improved by drawing. Sometimes writing is enough to do the trick. Someone once said, “ writing is thinking.” That’s true, and drawing is thinking too. But when to do which? Here’s a conversation with my friend and learning expert Marcia Conner about exactly this question.

How to know when to draw: 12 min 43 sec.

If you’re interested in learning more about visual thinking, please contact me about visual thinking coaching for individuals and teams. You can also arrange a Visual Thinking workshop where you and your team can develop these important thinking and communication skills.

If you want to know more, contact me.

You can also say thanks and you will be supporting my work if you buy a t-shirt with the visual alphabet on it. It’s a great conversation starter!

Visual alphabet t-shirt

Visual thinking reading list.