I have been trying to draw out everything I can – even things that don’t seem like that would make sense to draw – just so that I can get a feel for where it might be useful to use more visual tools. One of the things that I have discovered is that visualization can be used in many many different situations and ways. Almost everything that I have tried this with has given me positive results, and I have also discovered that there are a lot of different ways to communicate visually. Words themselves can be turned into helpful visual communications just by playing around with their layout or by adding in connectivity between them etc. The classic model of this is of course the mind map, but I have found it helpful to use other combinations of text and visual elements at well. For example, checklists with lines drawn between some of the bullets on the list can add a layer of meaning that would not otherwise be there. Another thing that I have found really helpful is to make changes to ‘typical’ formats that we are more familiar with. An example of that would be creating a table that has some cells with text and some with images.
In my experience so far it would seem that you can use visual elements to enhance the way you think about, execute and communicate almost any task you do, but I have noticed that some types of visual communication are better suited to certain types of task that others. For example, mind maps are very helpful in thinking about feature interactions when planning some testing, but they don’t work as well when trying to understand and think about the workflows a user might do or the states of the product as we execute that workflow. My current experimentation is geared around figuring out if there are some general principles I can use to help in deciding which types of doodling to include in what am doing.
As I’m writing this I realized I didn’t even try any visual thinking exercises for this post. Hmm, maybe I’ll have to experiment with that next time!