The Dood Abides


Posted on 14. Mar, 2012 by in Blog, Blog

I find it ironic that some of the most technical things I have done in my career, like designing an open-graph site or an ecommerce mobile app, have all started on one of the least technical formats: a pen and paper or a dry-erase marker and a whiteboard. It is far easier to squeak something complex out on a whiteboard than it is to write a long dissertation in Microsoft Word. This is a simple testament to the fact that very complex thoughts and ideas can be simplified into primitive, hand-drawn images.

During SXSW, I caught a great panel on, of all things, doodling. I was moved by Dan Roam′s example of Arthur Laffer’s famous napkin doodle. As the story goes, it was 1974 and Laffer met the advisor to President Gerald Ford over some beers to discuss the economy, taxes, and what to do about the recession at the time. Laffer scribbled his thoughts on taxes on a cocktail napkin. That cocktail napkin doodle — which showed how increased taxation would result in decreased revenue for the government — is now known as the Laffer Curve. And that little doodle on a napkin over a beer became the basis for President Reagan’s “trickle-down” economics.

If the government can work off a simple napkin doodle, so can the rest of us.

Now there’s an entire movement focused on doodling and visual literacy spearheaded by its doodle pixie, Sunni Brown, called The Doodle Revolution. And this is not all artsy-fartsy, hippie talk, either. Statistics show that doodling promotes concentration and increases information retention by up to 29%. Also, we are neurologically wired with an overwhelmingly visual sensory ability. We see pictures more than words.

You don’t have to have an art degree to be an experienced doodler. Perfection is not the goal; improved thinking is. Stick figures work just fine for explaining a concept. The result is that you, as the doodler, will retain more and likely be more creative. Doodling also allows you to experience from an exploratory perspective which can be very valuable when ideating. Dan Roam has a formula to help you organize your thoughts into visuals called Vivid Grammar (see inset picture.) Simply doodle out the answers to the following questions: What? How much? Where? When? Why? and How? to tell your story. Give it a try during your next brainstorm and watch what happens.

As you begin to put doodling into action, you will no doubt amass some great ideas. I strongly suggest joining all the other geek-artists out there by using a Moleskine. These notebooks are made with quality archiving paper and are a great way to catalog your ideas.

If you are intrigued by the thought of being more visual when ideating or explaining a concept, I recommend the following books: Blah Blah Blah: What To Do When Words Don’t Work by Dan Roam.

The Back of the Napkin (Expanded Edition): Solving Problems and Selling Ideas with Pictures by Dan Roam.

Gamestorming: A Playbook for Innovators, Rulebreakers, and Changemakers by Sunni Brown, Dave Gray and James Macanufo.

If the cavemen could do it, you can, too. So grab your Sharpies and your Moleskines, and start creating.

Contributed by Scott Lindsey, group creative director at imc².

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