Tools of Visual Thinking

“Imagine yourself playing a game of chess while blindfolded. It’s possible to hold the positions of all the pieces in your mind’s eye for a time – and most chess masters can do it for an entire game – but it’s much easier to have the pieces displayed on the board in front of you. The shape and color of each piece and its position relative to the board and to the other pieces contains a rich set of information that can help you make better decisions about the game”  – Dave Gray

As so illustratively captured in the previous quote, visual-thinking tools help facilitate learning by distinctively combining images and text for understanding, creating, explaining, communicating and problem solving. When it comes to the field of information design, there are numerous helpful “tools of the trade” that enable us to efficiently and elegantly depict a system graphically so that the functions and objectives of the system are clear. Visual thinking can help the information designer in four key areas:

  1. Accurate problem definition – ensure that you’ve identified the appropriate problem to solve rather than wasting time solving symptoms
  2. Developing future scenarios – empowers us to share insights with others in memorable and inspiring ways.
  3. Brainstorming and idea evaluation – combining ideas in meaningful ways so they can be evaluated faster and create stronger, more valuable solutions.
  4. Taking productive action – they help us reach clarity faster and make better informed decisions to get things done!

In my current career field, employed as a network engineer, I have had the pleasure to become closely acquainted with one such program, Microsoft Visio.

”Visio is an intelligent diagvisio_grossramming program. Yes, it empowers you to communicate in a visual manner. But Visio also provides many features that make your diagrams more meaningful, flexible, and responsive to your needs. More than something to photocopy, you can capture information in ways that are valuable for you and your business.”

Microsoft Visio has completely transformed the way our organization communicates amongst functional teams. Regardless the teams involved, a sound Visio drawing is the proverbial “glue” that brings everyone together on the same page by showing individual component interaction on a past, current or future capacity. The information age charges forward creating increasingly complex systems that demand a refined attention to detail that simply cannot be obtained through written or spoken word singlehandedly.

Visio-PresentationMS Visio helps answer that call by affording information designers the opportunity to create a variety of unique diagrams including data flow diagrams, logical network diagrams, system demonstrations or simple flow charts that unquestionably help bring clarity to any task at hand – from the absurdly complex to straightforward and simple, Visio can help provide enlightenment in any situation.


Works Cited

Frey, C. (n.d.). How to Unlock Your Creativity with Visual Thinking | Lateral Action. Retrieved from

Gray, D., Brown, S., & Macanufo, J. (2010). Gamestorming: A playbook for innovators, rulebreakers, and changemakers. Sebastopol, CA: O’Reilly.

What Visio can do for you – Get to know Visio. (n.d.). Retrieved from

3 thoughts on “Tools of Visual Thinking

  1. Bev Shaff says:

    Tom, another powerful quote! I am not a chess player and can not imagine that I cold ever play blindfolded. 🙂 I enjoyed this post, I am not familiar with Visio, but did look into it. This could be very helpful. Very thought out and nice how you are able to tie this into your job.


  2. This is a great example of the concept of visual thinking. I’ve never used Visio, but I may start. It looks like a very useful tool. I typically “see” in my head what I want to show and then dive into the software. I usually don’t work from a lot of notes unless I am trying to show something that someone else is asking me to show. This often leads to a lot of changes while I am in the program so I like the idea of following the steps as you have them outlined above to save time in the long run.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Visio is a great tool for idea layout. How I usually use it is that i’ll do a quick and dirty chart on paper, then when I have a rough form, i’ll throw it into Visio. Being able to take a concept and draw it out has really helped me. Your posting is a great endorsement of a powerful, and useful tool that should be in every Information Designers arsenal.

    Liked by 1 person

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