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Visual Thinking

Rich Miller LexisNexis Research Scientist Alliances & New Technology

What is Visual Thinking?

An approach to understanding, creating, and communicating A collection of visually-based concepts and methods

Information Visualization guidelines Mindmaps Sequential visual representations

What we can learn from Film and Comics

Vizability cd/book on visual skills

Visual Thinking and Aboutness

General connection

Understanding what things are about Communicating what things are about Visualizations of index term collections

Specific connection

Result of visual thinking

Prime you to more visually process todays information


visual thinking Vizability non-linear thinking lateral thinking spatial reasoning right brain thinking

The Visual Thinking Process

better perceive the world

better represent information to the target audience

Who is it for?

Everyone who needs to imagine, resolve, invent, analyze, and communicate UI designers, product managers, mathematicians, geneticists, writers, engineering students, etc. Anyone who needs to formulate a problem and/or represent its solution to colleagues or users

Why is it useful?

To enhance performance in

Thinking Representing Communicating

To create more compelling, usable products  Incorporating visualization into daily work can translate to superior products

A Basic, Real World Example

Applications of visual thinking concepts


 InfoViz guidelines - how to best communicate through spatial representations (Tufte, Kosslyn, others)  Sequential Art Concepts application of temporally based visual representations (e.g. Film, Comics) co-workers  Mindmaps - specific method for representing information  Vizability - methods for understanding and communicating

self informal formal

InfoViz Guidelines


Espouses graphical excellence using his principles Hates chart junk Anti-PowerPoint Three landmark books Offers excellent seminar Presentation guidelines Psychology-based principles Focus on limitations of human perceptual system Many companies creating product solutions Ray Daley monitoring infoviz for LEXIS-NEXIS



Visualization Examples

Inxight hyperbolic tree Criminal Intelligence link analysis Thinkmap spider, bubble, chronology Demo of answer set visualization

Sequential Art Concepts



Borrow filmmaking techniques for UI design and visual representation. Use pictures, time, and space to communicate Example course Similar techniques to film, but more discontinuous Scott McCloud books


Understanding Comics must read for web designers; recommended by Tufte Reinventing Comics

Mind Maps

Spatial/hierarchical representation of a given information space A.k.a concept maps Examples


Univ. of Zurich professor Steve Gould from UK Mindmapping The Mind Map Book



Textbook + CD + sketchpad Outgrowth of McKim book/course

Used at Stanford to teach ME students how to draw

Drawing can be taughtnot as innate as one might think

To enhance performance in

Thinking and Perceiving Representing Communicating

Vizability Goals

Familiarize you w/the visual culture Make you aware of your own visual abilities Exercise and improve your skills in visualization Incorporate these skills into your daily life and professional activities

Vizability Benefits

Provides a methodology and awareness

y y 

About problem finding and problem solving About maintaining momentum on a task About knowing how to sustain flow experiences -productivity state between boredom and anxiety.

Get more out of your mind

By building fluid representational skills Idea logs Whiteboard content Pictures used for communication and reference

More useful outputs


The ARC Cycle




The cube metaphor

Six sides - 6 elements of visual culture


Environments Culture Seeing Drawing Diagramming Imagining

Like a cube, the product is non-linear

Samples from the Vizability CD


Cast Culture

Prototyping Sketching Idea logs


Environment Seeing Imagining Drawing Diagramming

Putting in into practice


Look more closely, and analyze what you see When in doubt, draw a picture

Or ask someone to draw theirs


Borrow concepts from other forms of communication (e.g. film, comics) Maximize rate of info transfer, minimize noise (e.g. PPT 3D feature) Start your idea log Feel free to contact me at

Memex Link Analysis