Reprinted from The Doodle Revolution: Unlock the Power to Think Differently by Sunni Brown by arrangement with Portfolio, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, a Penguin Random House Company, Copyright ©2014 by Sunni Brown.
The word “Infodoodler” describes someone who relies on a tight fusion of words, shapes, and images to represent text-based or auditory content. The content can come from a textbook, a white paper, a spreadsheet, a slide deck, a speaker, or a group conversation – anywhere words and numbers are available to be re-formed and better understood by becoming a visual display.
The Infodoodler is a master of transforming data, information, and conversation into a more rich, immersive representation of itself, using whatever means are available at the time (e.g., markers, sticky notes, digital tablets, software, notebook paper, game pieces, you name it). What’s important about the Infodoodling process is that it accommodates a full range of learning preferences and it’s done with the intention of elevating thinking, whether you need to better understand, remember, innovate, align, design, or solve.
The Infodoodle is a power tool that, once mastered, represents a major leap toward visual literacy – a kind of literacy that future generations can’t afford to be without. Let’s break down the three subtypes: Personal, Performance, and Group Infodoodling.
Personal Infodoodling is usually the most accessible entry point for people wanting to infuse their work and life with visual language. The practice takes place on a small scale–often in a notebook or sketch pad–and it’s made with the explicit intention of helping an individual thinker’s process. During Personal Infodoodling, a person depicts information from a book or a speaker in a visual language format. In other words, she enriches the meaning of the words by supplementing them with shapes and images.
This technique is incredibly valuable at work and at school when someone is responsible for understanding and recalling complex information. The picture here shows one style of Personal Infodoodling, which is my visual capture of the content from one of David Allen’s Getting Things Done workshops. In all forms of Infodoodling, the only limit to visual structure is the imagination.
Many future Infodoodlers will walk through this personal-work doorway before they explore the other two forms of Infodoodling, Performance and Group. Working at this size and for only your eyes tends to encourage experimentation with icons and images and minimize the natural fears that arise when using visual language in front of others. It is an excellent place to begin.
A Performance Infodoodler is someone who writes and draws auditory content on a large scale for an audience to see while that content is streaming live from a panel or presenter. Performance Infodoodlers work on large sheets of artist paper, foam board, or whiteboards displayed panoramically around a room, or they work on an iPad or digital drawing tablet and use a projector to share their live content creation with the crowd. These Infodoodlers are part performance artist, because the visual display they create happens spontaneously, in real time, and it unfolds before an audience’s eyes.
Performance Infodoodling is the most sophisticated of the three doodling types in terms of listening and filtering information rapidly. It’s challenging because it aims to capture and represent as visually and accurately as possible what a speaker is saying while the speaker is saying it. Unlike Personal Infodoodling, the Performance Infodoodler cannot put a personal spin on the information she’s hearing. This method requires sharply honed listening skills and a razor-thin margin of error in content capture in order to reach peak performance.
Group Infodoodling is the Doodle’s most interactive incarnation. This work is participatory and immersive and, despite the deep thinking it conjures, can also be a delicious amount of fun. During a Group Infodoodle, people work together to solve a specific challenge using a sequence of activities inside a visualthinking process. These processes can last anywhere from thirty minutes to a week, but the Group Infodoodle has the explicit goal of addressing a challenge or problem using simple visualizations and questioning techniques. This type of work is explosively powerful, and it’s used by many of the most innovative firms in the world.
All of these methods–Personal, Performance, and Group Infodoodling–are explored and experimented with in The Doodle Revolution: Unlock the Power to Think Differently, because the Revolution is afoot to expand the universe of what’s possible using a skill you already have.
Sunni Brown was named one of the 100 Most Creative People in Business and one of the 10 Most Creative People on Twitter by Fast Company. She is a consultant, an international speaker, the coauthor of Gamestorming, and the leader of a global campaign for visual literacy. Her TED Talk on doodling has drawn more than a million views on TED.com.