Art + Design

The Case for Visual Thinking and Modeling

Nora Herting and Heather Willems are the founders of ImageThink, a graphic facilitation firm that has helped an elite roster of clients—from Google to Pepsi to NASA—visualize their ideas and transform their creative processes using simple drawing techniques that anyone can master. Their book, Draw Your Big Idea, presents more than 150 drawing exercises tailored to brainstorming, refining, and executing ideas in the home, design studio, and office. Here, they lay out why you should and can draw.

For a free Draw Your Big Idea limited edition sticker set, preorder the book here!

What neurologists, artists, and designers know can work for you, too. Why do creatives turn to sketching during the ideation phase of a project? It is a quick way to articulate a concept and it stimulates cross-cognitive brain function. In other words, drawing out your ideas leads to a deeper understanding of a problem and faster decision-making.

Draw Your Big Idea. Interior 1

Contrary to the popular notion that creativity originates in the right side of the brain, visual thinking activates the entire brain. By stimulating the whole mind, you are processing information both analytically and aesthetically in unison. When you draw, or even imagine a drawing in your mind, your prefrontal cortex is activated. This is important because the prefrontal cortex is considered the “CEO” of the brain.

Because we are wired to perceive the world visually, mapping ideas spatially allows multiple concepts to exist simultaneously. It uses our spatial minds to create associations, hierarchies, and relationships between thoughts in a way that linear language cannot. In the end, you are not just documenting information but creating a map that reveals the interconnection between concepts for more holistic thinking.

Draw Your Big Idea Interior 2

Drawing provides you with a symbolic visual of your goal and can motivate you in a way that simple text cannot. Once you commit that visual to paper, you are invested in a small but powerful way, because you have put your idea out into the world. Henry David Thoreau said, “The secret of achievement is to hold a picture of a successful outcome in the mind.” Athletes and sports psychologists agree that visualization is a key component in realizing success.

Here’s why you should and can draw:

Drawing actually comes naturally to all of us. Remember, when you were a child you drew with joy.
Drawing is a basic communication tool older than civilization itself. Our ancestors drew before they mastered language. The first form of written communication was cave paintings created 30,000 years ago in the Paleolithic era.
Drawing introduces a sense of playfulness. Approaching challenges with humor and levity will not only help you keep your sanity, it will also aid your creative thinking.
It’s the ideal time to try something new. Undertaking a new endeavor requires courage and a sense of adventure.
You’ll see things differently. Surely this is not the first time you will reflect on yourself, your passion, and your future. But this may be the first time you have mapped, drawn, or diagrammed them. Our process may uncover a new perspective and enable you to remember and better envision your goal.
Pictures tell a story. Once you have defined your purpose, you will need to communicate it to a variety of people, including your network, future customers, and employees. Having pictures of what you want, the value you bring, and your goal will make this infinitely easier.

Inspired? Draw Your Big Idea is on sale June 21st. Preorder your copy now and you’ll also get a free, limited edition sticker set. Details here.

Draw Your Big Idea Preorder

Nora Herting and Heather Willems

Nora Herting and Heather Willems

Nora Herting and Heather Willems are the cofounders of ImageThink. Heather is a business strategy consultant with a background in art and education, and Nora is an award-winning artist with a history in education and facilitation. Both live in Brooklyn, New York.
Nora Herting and Heather Willems

Latest posts by Nora Herting and Heather Willems (see all)


Leave a Comment