When nostalgia looks soooo good

When nostalgia looks soooo good

I know the saying ‘an oldie but a goodie’ is a BIG cliche.

But while I was graphic recording at a couple of events last week, I noticed how this ‘cliche’ applies to icon drawing.

There are some things in this world I think just look GOOD the old fashion style. And so their icons are some I (almost) always draw the old way.

Why? you may ask…

Well, I think there’s a mix of reasons –

  • the audience EASILY RECOGNISES the object, even though designs have been through upgrades and changes
  • the old version can be more interesting / VISUALLY APPEALING and
  • they can be just EASIER to draw ON THE RUN!

So I thought I’d share them with you. Check out my suitcase, alarm clock, phone and light globe.

An old suitcase complete with travel stickers.
alarm clock old 2
The old fashion alarm clock with tapper and bells.


telephone old 2
This was the phone I grew up with – it was orange and had the finger dials that required effort to spin.
light bulb old 2
The old incandescent globe.

Are there any icons where you prefer ‘the old fashioned’ designs? I would love to hear…

If you found this useful, you might like to read:

How to draw a map of Australia and the world

6 Surprisingly Simple Ways to Kick Start Your Visual Thinking

5 Critical Beliefs that boost Creative Thinking

Tips on drawing… ‘But I Can’t Draw!’

Interested in learning more? These courses may be of interest to you…

Essentials of Visual Thinking eCourse


What’s in a Graphic Recorder’s tool bag?

What’s in a Graphic Recorder’s tool bag?

Here' what's in my tool bag...
Here’ what’s in my tool bag…

I love my work! But you already knew that!

Being asked to listen attentively and draw is a WONDERFUL thing.

But in talking to people interested in visual ways of working, it seems some know of Graphic Recorders or may have seen their work, but many are not clear what’s involved. So here’s the first in a series of articles about working as a Graphic Recorder, for those who want to know more.

I’m on a roll with bags and packing this month, so this article covers what I PACK for my GRAPHIC RECORDING gigs…

1. My favourite markers – Big Ones and two Outliners No. 1 by the wonderful folk at Neuland

2. Pencil, pen and rubber – for taking quick notes, sketching out ideas

3. White labels – the GR’s white-out option and post-it notes for holding place ideas as I am recording… (e.g. draw jumbo jet here)

4. Masking tape / artist’s tape for hanging paper – available at hardware / artist supplies respectively

5. Stencils and rulers – just in case I feel the need for uber precision!

6. Cutters – a blade and craft knife for paper, scissors for everything else (I get asked a lot for scissors) – available at hardware / craft stores

(My lunchbox carrier was a gift from the wonderful Brandy Agerbeck for joining her 2013 Lab in Chicago – pretty cool!)

I also take all the documents relevant to the event – e.g. program, speakers’ notes and pictures (if I have them), a big roll of bond paper and my iPad. Never know when you need to do a quick search to get an image as a prompter.

Last week, the image search was ‘Socrates’ because one of the speakers quoted him in his talk and I wanted to get a good likeness. It was singled out by on-lookers, so I had to confess to having a reference. They were still impressed.

I LOVE my work!

Next – What questions do I ask my clients? and What happens on the day I am recording? up next!


6 Massive Myths about Creativity you need to jettison from your belief system, now

6 Massive Myths about Creativity you need to jettison from your belief system, now

*****Ready to skip the small talk?

Yep, me too!

After several years of running visual thinking courses, I’m really certain that the folk I’ve met through these training sessions could now be taken as a ‘sample’. I’m no genius, but I’ve noticed a TREND!

There is a dead-set, fixed belief amongst really competent, inspiring professional types that they aren’t creative.

They often even apologise in advance for ‘not being able draw’ or ‘not having a creative bone’ as they meet me. I thought I understood – they set the expectations low and see what emerges.

But, NO! I have to admit now, people really walk around thinking they haven’t any creative talent.

So, if this is you, please, PLEASE, read on…

Here’s six massive myths about creativity you need to jettison from your belief system, now. The world needs you at your most creative, awesome, inspired and capable!

rocket + anvilsWhy?

Because they just aren’t true…

Not convinced? Ok, see which of these beliefs you would raise your hand to…

1. Being creative means being like Monet or Picasso or one of those other famous artists and I’m not that –

So, do you think, like so many of us, that creativity applies only to artists? That is, people who paint or draw or play a musical instrument? It doesn’t apply to ‘regular’ people like you?

Reality is, we have far too narrow a definition of WHO is creative and what IS creativity. The terms are often used interchangeably with artist and artwork.

But is that useful? Err, no, not in my experience.

Because creative ability is in ALL of us. Yes, let me say that again – You ARE creative.

You are equipped with an amazing series of neural centres – that organise all our thoughts, decisions and plans, see patterns, make connections and imagine new possibilities.

Creative thinking is about allowing ourselves to generate ideas – sometimes wildly obtuse and divergent from the original point – make associations and blend information from different sources and contexts.

Human beings are unique in lots of ways, and human beings are especially smart in lots of ways. We are capable of acquiring and retaining immense amounts of information over the life-time of an individual; we are capable of learning and fine-tuning a great many skills and new activities; and we are capable of using and interpreting speech. But one of the most striking species-specific features of Homo sapiens sapiens, surely, is the degree of creativity and innovation which we display in our thought and behavior, both within the lives of individuals and across different human cultures. This manifests itself in story-telling, in art, in the construction of bodily ornaments and decorations, in humor, in religion-building, in theory-construction, in problem-solving, in technological innovation, and in myriad other ways. – Peter Carruthers, The evolution of creativity, 2002

2. Creative people are born that way and I wasn’t –

Many of us think that creativity is part of our family DNA lottery.

You believe you don’t have the creative gene, and so that’s not going to change.

Well, GREAT NEWS, creativity can be learned like other skills.

There are robust techniques that have been shown to improve our creative thinking abilities.

‘Openness to experience’* has been found to be a precursor to creative thinking and is a skill that can be improved if you set an intention to do so.

Habits such as learning a new language, trying different foods, reading a different genre of novel, meeting people, travelling and experiencing new landscapes and cultures can contribute to this ‘openness to experience’ and profoundly affect your neurology.

The key is to shake up your routine, expose yourself to different and new experiences and unfamiliar ways of thinking.

[*This skill is one of the widely recognized “Big Five Personality Traits,” a concept theorized by Paul T. Costa, Jr., and Robert R McCrae in The Revised NEO Personality Inventory.]

3. Creative brilliance happens in a ‘blinding flash of inspiration genius-ness’ and is instantly recognisable –

Do you believe that there is no rhyme or reason to the arrival of a creative breakthrough?

That the process is unpredictable and mysterious?

And, therefore, impossible to orchestrate and reproduce?

We all think everyone else’s great work was 1) great the moment it emerged, sans edits, AND 2) was instantly recognisable by everyone else that it was, in fact, amazing work.

The fact is creative work is often a long process.

Ideas sit inside people’s heads, sometimes for years, often half formed until something else happens (see Steven Johnson’s Where good ideas come from). Another person inspires, a life event comes to pass, a new perspective is glimpsed and the creative endeavour takes on a renewed path.

I point to the experience of acclaimed author, JK Rowling. She submitted her manuscript for the first Harry Potter novel to 12 publishing houses before one agreed to take it on. At that time she was advised by the editor to ‘get a day job, as there just isn’t any money in children’s books’. In hindsight we see how far this statement was from the mark. So genius isn’t always instantly recognisable.

4. I can’t be creative, I don’t have the right qualification / skills / experience –

Whitney Freya, author, speaker, artist and founder of the Creatively Fit Program opened her art studio and began holding art classes with no formal training in fine arts. She maintains that this has been a huge bonus in that people who came to her classes felt they could have a go. A lack of training was not an obstacle and Whitney was proof for them of that fact. Whitney’s lack of training gave those who came to her classes inspiration.

What if you don’t NEED qualifications? What if they got in the way? What if you gave yourself permission to jump in and try it for yourself without judgement or criticism? See how certain practices or material FEEL when you use them!degree

We are so heavily influenced by the need for qualifications – sanctioned bits of paper – that we are frozen and unable to pick up the tools and use them. Sometimes, I think we believe that without the right qualifications we don’t have the ‘authority’ to have an opinion, let alone express it in public.

Hidden behind the long skirt of the ‘not the right qualifications’, is the fear issue of being seen by others to perform badly. In the learning process, we often don’t hit the mark of the standards we hold for ourselves in our other aspects of our personal or professional lives. But we forget that in those areas where we are already competent, we have been building those skills for years, sometimes a decade or more.

The last thing our fragile egos can bear is looking like a complete ‘numpty’. Oh, eh gads, unforgivable.

If you can recognise where your fear of looking foolish is blocking your creative endeavours, you are half way there! Pay attention to what you are saying to yourself!

5. If I try to be creative, I will quickly run out of ideas –

I personally stand up and wave my arms about for this one.

In 2005, I returned as a ‘mature age’ student to study fine art at university (for the sheer, unadulterated pleasure of it). I secretly feared I would find this was true for me. I might have one good idea, but no possibility of more… Really.

But to my unending surprise and delight, my experience was in fact the COMPLETE OPPOSITE.tmp3C14-large

Being at art college seemed to release a flood of creative ideas. In my second year, I attended an illuminating talk by Tracey Moffat, an acclaimed Australian artist who works in photography and video. She talked about her life and experiences as an artist. She said that she suffered – not from too few – but being ‘plagued’ by TOO MANY ideas. Constantly inundated by creative concepts and project ideas, there were too many to ever work on them all. Her approach was to wait until a creative idea to dogged her for years before she would give it any attention.


Make the creative concept sing for its supper!

6. I’m too old to learn anything new –

One of my favourite artists, Rosalie Gascoigne, a New Zealand-Australian sculptor, who is famed for her assemblages and collages had her first serious exhbition in Paddington, Sydney, in 1974, aged 57. Instant success followed and a mere four years later she had become a major figure in the Australian art world, with a survey at the National Gallery of Victoria.

Many people find they have so much more life experience to draw on and so being ‘too old’ is not relevant.

I would argue it gives you so much more material to work with!

Recent studies in neural plasticity have shown that we do in fact have the capacity to learn all sorts of new skills and abilities into our more ‘mature’ years! Our brains are amazing. We should take them out for an adventure more often!

So, how to expose yourself to new and different experiences?

I have EXCITING news to share about a *side project* I’ve been working on! (have always wanted to have the rockstar claim to a ‘side project’)

The Life is Your Canvas on-line workshop is open for registration. If you haven’t already jumped on and reserved your spot, click here

I am hosting and leading training sessions, along with five fabulous people – Whitney Freya, Cheryl Cruttenden, Tania Bosak, Christian Herron and Tim Hamons – who I GUARANTEE will stimulate different parts of your brain, expose you to new experiences and ways of thinking.

Life Is Your Canvas bannerSo here is that link again.

If you liked this article, these may also be of interest…

6 Surprisingly Simple Ways to Kick-start Your Visual Thinking

5 Critical Beliefs to boost your Creative Thinking

I LOVE Venn diagrams

4 Killer Titles for Your Visual Resources Library




Leaping off the eLearning technology cliff without a parachute

Leaping off the eLearning technology cliff without a parachute

I don’t know about you, but I lopace of learningve learning new stuff.

Especially when I can see an immediate application to my world.

This past six months, I’ve been on a HUGE learning curve, coming to terms with eLearning management systems and authoring tools. About six months before that, I decided I needed to reduce my travel – it was a family / health / sustainability / care-of-the-planet issue. Most of my business for clients is providing graphic facilitation or recording services – which means getting on the road with my tools and paper and going to where their event is. Or I hold training sessions to help others build their visual thinking and facilitation skills. That also means getting on the road.

So, I thought, ‘take it to the web’.

I do a lot of my own professional learning through platforms such as Udemy and the like. There is so much on offer. And I had started out my formal learning in this field of visual thinking (after doing and not knowing that others worked this way AND there was a name for it!) by doing Christina Merkley’s ‘Fundamentals of Interactive Graphics’ course and then Alphachimp University’s ‘That Creative Space’ course. All available to me here in Australia from some of the industry’s leaders via the web. What a great portal to knowledge!

Essentials of Visual Thinking eCourse now available

I have been delivering my one-day course Essentials of Visual Thinking & Graphics Practice for a couple of years. I had the content and knew what kinds of questions emerge regularly, so I can capture and pre-empt that in the on-line course. Converting the content to on-line modules was pretty easy. Just required a bit of sorting, unpacking and repacking.

One of my early dilemmas was – What elearning platform do I use? I spent literally days, glued to my screen searching and reading reviews and product websites and where I could, testing platforms. I devised a (long) list of must-haves and nice-to-haves.

They went something like this:

  • must be fairly intuitive to set up (not going to spend $$$ on IT coding)
  • must have a visually appealing layout
  • must be easy to navigate for the participants
  • must be able to load video, PDF documents, presentations and other file formats
  • can’t be outrageously expensive (one platform quoted me $10K set up and another $4K per year licence – nice, but if sell each course at around $300 that would be a lotta moolah)
  • would be great if it was scaleable
  • needs to be able to link with e-commerce sites such as PayPal
  • would be great if I could customise the website to include my business name

But the problems start, trying to glean from the marketing spiel how any given product relates to these criteria. And sorting through the reviews from folk who might have completely different needs and criteria to mine.

behind the scenes_ed
Filming the eCourse demonstrations with Guy Stewart of Wholistic behind the camera.

The answer I arrived at was TalentLMS.com. I say that, but in truth it was the FIRST answer I arrived at. I spent January and February this year recording all the presentations and demonstrations for the course. The set up in TalentLMS followed. Small hiccough – I had to immediately upgrade my subscription because I couldn’t load the size of video I had produced in my demos. That was fine. The real problems emerged when I tried to integrate it into my website. In short, it was clunky | ugly.

So, skip forward, it’s Easter (mid-April) and I’m days from the Launch date and guess what?


I start again.

Yep, I start from scratch and rebuild the eLearning site.

My IT guru recommends looking at moodle. I did look at moodle as an option early on, but it seemed very geared to schools and universities. I don’t have a need for marking, assessment and progress reports. I just want to open a portal to the world with my content and manage access and after that, there’s not a lot else.

I realise in hindsight that my issue wasn’t getting the wrong eLearning platform…

My problem was that I was asking the wrong question to start with – not ‘what eLearning platform do I need?’ but ‘what customer management software do I need?’. Ultimately, that’s what I’m doing, more so than opening up an on-line university. I know that now.

At the end of six months buggy riding round the-eLearning-software-and-eCourse-design curve, I know that moodle is good enough for what I need now, but I may need a different beast if this trend in my business to develop and offer eCourses in the areas of visual thinking and facilitation are going to continue.

So, be careful what question you ask.

Makes me think of Scott Adams’ Dilbert cartoon when, at the end of a meeting, the boss asks ‘Are there any questions? Feel free to ask anything at all’ and Dilbert asks ‘If someone gives you a wedgie at the moment you die, will you have it for eternity?’ 🙂

They say asking the right question is everything to critical thinking. Sometimes, you don’t know that til you get the first answer!

Interested in learning more about visual thinking???

Want to explore an on-line course that will get you using ALL of your brain?

Jump over to here and get started now!



Visual note-taking with Inkflow

If, like me, you are interested in the bit of the world where visual thinking meets digital technology, then read on!

I’m an avid fan of Rachel Smith’s Digital Visual Facilitation blog, where Rachel shares her knowledge and experience about the world of all things digital + visual so generously. Last week, I enjoyed Rachel’s article on Inkflow where she reviewed a new drawing app for iPad and iPhone by Qrayon (the guys that brought us air sketch).

I was excited by her positive review and its applications for visual note-taking and graphic recording. Features that excite fine artists are not always useful to me when I’m taking notes. But Rachel is a leader in the visual practitioner world, so I knew her assessments would be spot on for my use. If you use your digital device to take visual notes, then read on…

After reading Rachel’s article, I hopped on and downloaded it. I had a play with it and here’s what I found…

Here's what I learnt from an hour of playing with Inkflow drawing app

I agree with Rachel’s review – the  ability to ‘lasso’ parts of my notes and move and resize them is fantastic (Rachel files it under A for awesome). It took me a bit of playing with the selection tool though to get the movement smooth and accurate each time. The fact it is a vector-based drawing tool means you don’t lose quality when you scale up and down.

Also the ability to add text and import images are really important to how I take visual notes. Plus, I would also love to be able to add layers – this is crucial to my ability to arrange and add colour to my notes.

But, being a greedy girl, I would like to add one or two more features.

Before I give my Christmas list aimed at drawing app designers, I need to confess. I get it. We are all different in the way we take visual notes on the iPad, and the style and features we have each learnt to rely on using other drawing apps (my favourite is the original Brushes – no longer available) are therefore different. What I want may not be what others will want. So these additions may just be a result of HOW I do visual notes.

Having said that, I would add:

  • the ability to have a specific size selector for my eraser – the current function is a little crude. I like to do text in big, bold strokes and then put a definition line through the letters with the eraser. See my example below… I wasn’t able to do this style of hand-drawn lettering in Inkflow.
  • the ability to select with the ‘lasso’ tool and then COPY – for example, to get the two erasers under ‘an eraser size selector’ point on my chart above, I had to do a screen capture on my iPad, edit the image in pics, then import it twice and save the image as two different sizes once I was happy with its position. It would be SO much easier if you could hit COPY on the selection once it’s made and move the copy to the desired location without having to jump in and out of the app.
  • finally, I would love to be able to have a one tap zoom in and zoom out function. It’s faster to move around which is so important when taking visual notes (and saves me having to keep undo-ing the plethora of small coloured dots I create when I forget that’s not a function of this drawing app! Yeah, I know, I just need to get used to it!).
I used the eraser to get the white line in the black headings
I used the eraser to get the white line in the black headings

Overall, I am very excited about this new visual note-taking option for my iPad. It has a number of features which are superb.

NB: The features I am describing come with the paid version which was A$9.99 two days ago.

I look forward to taking it out on the town the next time I’m jotting my visual notes.

If you are interested in reading more about this app from Qrayon, check out their website here.

Thanks, Rachel Smith (@ninmah) for your review!

If this really interests you – you have an iPad and want to learn how to use it as a powerful tool for your thinking and learning – have a look at the Visual Power Notes on your iPad seminar on 14 June 2014 (Australian EST 10am-1pm).


4 Killer Titles for your Visual Resources Library

4 Killer Titles for your Visual Resources Library

I’m always on the hunt for great resources – for my visual practice and to share with those who join my visual thinking programs.

The past six months, I’ve been amazed at the surge of super titles that really are worth exploring. I’m going to give you the low-down on four books I think you should have in your library.

Here they are – in no particular order:

  1. The Doodle Revolution by Sunni Brown
  2. Visual Mojo by Lynne Cazaly
  3. The Sketchnote Handbook by Mike Rohde
  4. Discovery Doodles by Alicia Diane Durand.

They all have something to offer anyone interested in visual thinking, graphic facilitation and visual note-taking. Here’s my take on the short story…

My notes of the 4 Killer Titles – done on my iPad

Still interested in more? Ok, here’s the longer story (I’ve linked the titles to where you can access these great books)…

#1 The Doodle Revolution by Sunni BrownReference_Doodle Rev

Co-author of ‘Gamestorming’, Sunni Brown has released a new book this year ‘The Doodle Revolution: unlock the power to think differently’.

I love that! The promise of thinking differently. I believe we need to harness this power if we are going to make a difference in our communities, our businesses and on this planet.

In her book, Sunni challenges our current disregard for The Doodle, calling up the ghosts of intellectual giants – Albert Einstein and Marie Curie and figures of history – JFK and Henry Ford. They all shared a use of drawing as part of their thinking processes (aka ‘Class A Doodlers’).

The Miseducation of the Doodle - page xii from the book
The Miseducation of the Doodle – page xii from the book

She encourages us to look at our false beliefs about doodling, discover our “doodler DNA” and begin to develop our visual literacy. Sunni sets out a clear path for anyone interested in gaining visual literacy. With a playful style and game-based ideas – born from her work with Dave Gray, James Macunufo and their book ‘Gamestorming’ – Sunni sets out doodle games designed to help us learn the skills and concepts to be a proficient doodler.

Passion and humour are key hallmarks of Sunni’s writing style and you’ll find plenty in the book.

You’ll also find it packed with well-researched information and oodles of ideas for activities where you can engage your drawing and abilities to think differently. Try these – Stickify ThisThe Face Matrix and Doodle Bomb – a personal favourite where we are encouraged to draw on magazine ads… e.g. drawing power tools in the hands of supermodels and re-editing the copy for our own entertainment.

In short, encouraging us to take doodles seriously and at the same time, play around with our doodling abilities.

Fast facts: price $26.96; no. of pages – 241; published 2014; hardcover (my copy)

The book presents researched information to support the power of the visual at work and school as well as a depth of ideas on ways you can develop your visual literacy and tap the power of thinking differently. The visuals used throughout the book are also good case studies in communicating ideas using visuals. My overall comment – good resource for information, example visuals and activity ideas.

#2 Visual Mojo by Lynne CazalyReference_Visual_Mojo

Businesswoman and author, Lynne Cazaly has distilled her knowledge of how to help people get over their ‘I can’t draw’ syndrome into a workbook. It has oodles of icon ideas and space to put those into practice.

For Lynne, getting our visual mojo working will assist us in capturing ideas, conveying information and collaborating with others.

But, I love this: Lynne advises –

Don’t go cold turkey on words

…and reminds us that words are still an important part of the message.

The book steps through the basics of getting started – practising lines and shapes that make up our visual language. The focus of the remainder of the book is on the 60 quick pics. Practising these will build your visual literacy.

Fast facts: price $24.65, no. of pages – 168; published 2013; softcover

Great workbook… Simple to follow, no fancy, schmancy language. My overall comment – good resource for those starting out to be able to pull off the shelf.

#3 The Sketchnote Handbook by Mike RohdeReference_The_Sketchnote_Handbook

We’ll skip merrily over the saga about how I finally got my copy of this book (three orders with Amazon and three long periods of waiting, checking my PO box and finally accepting them as no-shows later) and focus on the absolute delight when it finally arrived late last year and I got to immerse myself deeply in its contents and wisdom.

I will tell you what I love about this particular title.

And there’s lots to love.

It’s packed with fantastic examples, the entire book is a study in how to take and present visual notes in an engaging way.

Importantly, there is no jump-cut between the “text” ideas and Mike’s examples. They are all one.

As a result, I found every page opening really appealing. I just wanted to explore and soak up the information and then sit back and reflect on how he did it. Notice what techniques Mike employed on each page. What type font he used… Little natty things like the way he tucks his ‘the‘ into the capital of the first letter and the big things like the detail he shares about the sketch noting process and types and hierarchies of sketchnotes.

One of my favourite quotes from Mike’s book is:

It’s about IDEAS, not ART!”

That’s a critical point and one I share as part of the courses I teach in visual thinking, especially for those starting out, but also a great reminder for those who have been practising for a while.

Showcasing Eva-Lotta Lamm's work in Mike's book, page 82
Showcasing Eva-Lotta Lamm’s work in Mike’s book, page 82

As well as tonnes of information, Mike shares work from other sketchnoters, so as the reader, you get the chance to see some different styles and approaches. I love that some of the examples are ‘as is’, not prettied up for the book.

Fast facts: price $34.99; no. of pages – 205; published 2013; softcover (but with funky rounded corners… oooh, yeah! and a gorgeous smooth matte finish cover that you just want to hold)

If you are into sketchnoting, this is THE book for you… It covers the process of note-taking, different types and style options, approaches, skills and techniques. My overall comment – yes, one to have on the shelf. Whether you are a beginner or a seasoned professional, you will pull it out and seek inspiration from it. (NB: there is a video edition. You could get the book and take in some of Mike’s videos on the web instead.)

#4 Discovery Doodles: The Complete Series by Alicia Diane DurandReference_Discovery_Doodles

If you “draw like a five year old”, it may be because that’s when you stopped drawing!

Like the other three titles, Diane’s book takes us on a gentle learning curve of how to start with basic shapes and combine to create more complex and useful images.

What I adore about Diane’s book is the strength of her drawing style. It is inspiring.

I love the use of colour and the simply delightful images she creates.

Diane takes us through drawings’ application from early childhood through to the adult world of work. The book covers so many everyday topics and themes, it is a great resource.

Excerpt from the book – Ideas for Titles, p209
Fast facts: price $38.69 for hard copy; no. of pages – 227; published 2013; ebook (my version, though available in softcover)

(NB: Sketchbook Basics is very generously available for FREE from Discovery Doodles’s website)


Great ideas for drawing everything from your grocery list to icons for business and technology. My overall comment – A great resource for inspiration. Bring your process knowledge to the table and you have a super combination.


If you found this useful, you might like to read:

Gear Freak – chart markers and great titles for your library







How to draw – a simple map of Australia + globe

How to draw – a simple map of Australia + globe

I know drawing stuff can be daunting!

Here’s a quick ‘how to’ video to get you started drawing a simple map of Australia and a globe with a southern hemisphere focus.


If you found this useful, you might like to read:

6 Surprisingly Simple Ways to Kick Start Your Visual Thinking

5 Critical Beliefs that boost Creative Thinking

Tips on drawing… ‘But I Can’t Draw!’

Interested in learning more? These courses may be of interest to you…

Essentials of Visual Thinking eCourse

Essentials of Visual Thinking & Graphics Practice

Visual Power Notes on your iPad

Advanced Class #1 in Visual Thinking




A Snazzy Worksheet for Your Goal Setting (no, it’s not too late)

A Snazzy Worksheet for Your Goal Setting (no, it’s not too late)

A worksheet to help you get clear about your goals and steps to get there.
A worksheet to help you get clear about your goals and steps to get there.

It’s not too late to set your goals!

I love to start a new year doing a reflection session on the year that’s passed and then deciding the focus of my coming year.

But if life was too hectic and you didn’t get to it this year, do not despair!

My worksheet is here to help!  Download, print out and share this with your friends and family.

Kick off May 2014 with a shazzam.

6 Surprisingly Simple Ways to Kick Start Your Visual Thinking (or how to talk to strangers on a plane)

6 Surprisingly Simple Ways to Kick Start Your Visual Thinking (or how to talk to strangers on a plane)

On a flight last week, I was doing a graphic note for a presentation I am giving soon. The person sitting next to me took a side-ways glance (ok, a couple), over my shoulder at what I was doing.

After a minute or so, he asked – Excuse me, how are you drawing on that?

Well, a conversation followed that went something like…

[me] I use drawing apps – this one is “Brushes 3”- so I can create pictures and images that support the messages in this case, for a talk I’ve got on next month.

[my neighbour] So what do you do for a living?

[me] I run a consultancy called Curious Minds Co. and I teach professional people how to reconnect with their creative talents and draw out their ideas… (ok, it was my 30 second biz spiel, but I was testing his level of interest before putting my nose back into my screen).

[him] I bet you’d have no luck with ME!

I think that was supposed to be a big full-stop. BAM! No argument could follow that!

[me] ….Really? How much?

A startled pause.

He knew that even though I was smiling, I was serious. I don’t think my flying buddy in 11b had considered anyone would be up for that challenge. He obviously thought it was flat-out un-doable.

I gotta tell ya, I LOVE that response to the work I do (which is kinda lucky cos I get it A LOT in my business. See my ambit claim for a vintage Carmen Ghia -did I mention I’d like it in eggshell blue- in exchange for exclamations of disbelief in “…But I Can’t Draw“).

So here’s what I said in reply to his surprised expression…

[me] I’ll teach you how to take visual notes at your next meeting in 5 minutes but you have to promise me something. Deal?

Wary nod of the head. (Funny – I don’t think he asked what the promise was).

6 Simple Ways to Kick Start Your Visual Thinking Skills

[me] Next time you are in a business meeting, take your note book, and turn it sideways (#1). Here’s my hot tip: get one with blank pages from the stationery shop next time. But if you have one with lines, that’s ok. Just ignore them.

Write a couple of keys words in the middle of the page that summarises the topic up for discussion or the name of the meeting (#2). Then put a big ol’ circle ’round it.

As you hear important things being said, write these in the space around this central heading (#3). Give each one its own bit of the paper. If you have an important point, make it stand out by WRITING IT IN CAPITALS… the more detailed points can be in a smaller font. Put a circle or cloud bubble around each separate point to frame it and link it via a line to the central one and any other sub-points it relates to.

Try adding some simple drawings (#4) – they are all just made up of a couple of basics shapes – which if you can hold a pen and write your name, you can do! For example, if you want to draw a face, start with a circle for the head, then add two dots for eyes and two lines – one for the nose and one for the mouth.

Have a look over the notes when you’re finished and add any words that you may have missed on the run that helps you remember the detail of what was said (#5). When that’s done, put a line border around the page (#6).

Taaadaaa!   You’ve done your first visual notes! You are no longer a visual note-taking virgin!

– At this point, I still had my neighbour’s full attention –

Do you want a quick lesson in drawing for understanding and recall?

[glutton for more] Yeah, that would be great!

[me] Ok, all you need to know is everything you want to draw is made up of a few basic shapes. The five I use are: line, circle, square, triangle and blob. How easy is that!

Nods in response.

[one who loves an audience for drawing lessons] To draw a standard face, just do what I did before – draw a rough circle, add two smaller circles for eyes, a straight line for the nose and a curved one for the mouth. By playing with those basic elements you can draw any number of faces… If I want to make the face look more female, I draw a smaller nose and give the eyes some lashes and curvier lips… I draw a man’s nose larger. If you want to draw a child, make the forehead larger, so draw the eyes, nose and mouth at the bottom of the head…

Now to draw a figure… Here’s a really simple one – draw small circle for the head, a larger oval for the body and then some lines for arms and legs. You can add circles for hands and feet. Give your person some character – hair, tie, briefcase, clipboard – whatever you like.

Adding drawings to your repertoire is a process. My advice is always start with a couple of basic things – let’s say you pick three. Don’t try to get too fancy right at the beginning. Focus on those so that you can do them without thinking. Then add a couple more and repeat.

My new-found friend commented that I made it look easy. I acknowledged that I’d been doing it for a wee while but that making it look easy comes with practice. I also warned that people in my courses make huge improvements in just a couple of short hours. It’s very do-able!

I find that many people get stopped from drawing because
we don’t want to look like a ‘numpty’ (aka novice).

We are all serious professional people, I get that.

It can be very hard to look at your own work and not judge it harshly. But I let my friend in on a little secret – other people think what you’ve done is fantastic and so cool (even when you’ve rated it at a C- in your own head).

Why? Because it’s different, interesting and novel.

And there are other BIG BONUSES.

Taking notes this way helps you concentrate on what’s being said


it helps you retain the information.

Up to six times more info retained a couple days later compared to writing text info alone!

 "Building Your Visual Language Library: 12 Great Icons" ebook - a gift when you join the Curious Minds community

If, like my flying buddy in 11b, you would like an easy way to get started, join the Curious Minds community by clicking on the red banner at the top of the page and you’ll also get a copy of my ebook, “Building Your Visual Language Library: 12 Great Icons” as a gift.

If you are interested in delving deeper, you can jump in on my public training courses where I show you how the pros do it!

Click here to find out more info on what’s happening and when. The “Essential of Visual Thinking & Graphics Practice” course is my premium program and a great introduction to the skills and techniques for you to apply immediately.


What would help you get started?

Measure your success: The New York Report

Measure your success: The New York Report

IFVP_big_appleNew York in July and the International Forum of Visual Practitioners (IFVP) Conference was a fantastic experience.

I ran a workshop called ‘did we hit our target?‘. The topic was aimed at those who design and facilitate workshops and group events – many members of the IFVP have this role.

I believe this is an important topic. The need to measure our impact as facilitators and recorders grows increasingly critical in an environment where project dollars remain tight. We must be able to quantify and qualify our worth. And some of the best data we have can come from our own experiences and those reported by our clients.

So, in my post back in July – Measure Your Success: so learning can begin #2 – I promised to follow up after the event with more ‘Measure Your Success’ gems. And I’d like to share what came from the group’s discussions.

We explored two areas of interest – 1) how we measure the success of our efforts + 2)  how we visualise that evaluation information for harvesting and communicating. The pivotal question for our session was:

How do we know if our meeting or workshop
has been a success?

I had the opportunity to discuss what evaluation methods, if any, were used by other professionals in the visualisation business.

At the start I did a quick poll on what kind of evaluations visual practitioners do after an event. Scenario A: Exit stage left with materials under your arm, waving to the client. Scenario B: Informal Harvest: how do you think that went? C: Formal, structured harvest: against pre-agreed outcomes.


The general consensus in the conference group was about 10%:80%:10%. In summary, an informal question of ‘How did you think that went?’ with the client was most common.

The group agreed that thinking more about the options in Scenario C: Formal Structured Harvest would be useful for their practice.

I presented my take on the logic model which I’ve dubbed ‘logic model lite’. At its simplest form, it covers the INPUTS (ie. what resources we invest in the meeting), our ACTIVITIES (ie. what we do in the meeting) and the OUTCOMES – short, medium and long-term (ie what results we see).

The elements of the Logic Model ‘Lite’: Inputs, Activities and Outcomes

Using the workshop we were in, we ran an example of what a logic model ‘lite’ would look like. That way, participants got a feel for what information was needed and what level it was aimed at. We built it systematically from identifying the inputs, the activities involved, and then the short-, medium- and long-term outcomes. Finally we identified the matters we could evaluate the results of the workshop.


We discussed how common practice was to check if the activities and short-term outcomes were achieved. However, back to our ‘workshop as an intervention’ paradigm, further investigations could be done into the results and longer term outcomes that flow.

I shared some of the visual methods I employ for checking end-of-workshop outcomes with my participants.

target board single
Target board feedback chart

These include my tried-n-true target board. I like the idea of linking people’s responses to the concept of ‘hitting the mark’.

Brian Tarallo of Lizard Brain Solutions offered his use of faces and emotions to do a visual Likert scale for feedback.

At the finale of the workshop, we checked the short-term outcomes for a measure of success. Participants reported having more structure and concepts to approach evaluation of their own workshops for the future.

Tracey Ezards chartDuring this great discussion, Tracey Ezard of Jessup Ezard Consulting recorded our thoughts. Thank you, Tracey for capturing our points and to all the participants – Lynn K., Nora H., Brian T., MJ and Lisa.


cmc michelle icon1Do you want to:
Expand your professional toolkit with visual thinking skills?
Boost your effectiveness in meetings?
Add impact to your presentations?
Gain confidence in drawing and applying graphics to your work?
Be seen as a creative thinker?

If you are yes to any of these, find out more about my premium program: Essentials of Visual Thinking & Graphics Practice here.

Contact me on: michelle@curiousmindsco.com.au.
See more at: www.curiousmindsco.com.au   



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