Saturday, February 20, 2010

Introducing The Visual Enlightenment

What separates great design from merely good design? Why does one presentation bore while another wows? How do you stimulate a mind preparing it for learning and contemplation without bludgeoning it with the hammer of informational noise? Today, commonly available tools and resources make it easy for anyone to quickly create and communicate concepts, ideas, and facts. It can be a powerful tool and ally for some, and a disaster waiting to happen, for others.

Using visual methods to communicate is a quintessential part of the human psyche. Some use visualization knowingly and deliberately while others do it instinctively or unconsciously. Deliberate uses of visual techniques can range from playing Pictionary to designing a bridge. Instinctual visualization can range from unconscious doodling to putting a simple off-the-cuff map on the back of a napkin at a restaurant when asked for directions. This blog will explore topics related to visualization and it's practical application in daily life.

A few years ago I had a epiphany after attending a seminar by the illustrious Edward Tufte. I had read his books and loved his work furthering the cause of visualization for several years before the conference, but never really translated the words into action. The seminar jump started my mind on the power of visualization for use in the business world, particularly in the consulting work I did and still do. With some like minds at our company, Doculabs, we decided to see what would happen if we eliminated the one hundred page paper reports we were used to producing and replaced them with a few succinct infographics that provided our analysis and reasoning in visual form. Within the course of a few months we were done with large text-based reports and haven't looked back since. These visual approaches allow us to focus on the analysis and communication of the analysis and frees the client from slogging through page after page of repetitive prose. This technique has improved the depth and breadth of socialization of our work throughout the organization. Not satisfied to stop there, I started exploring the use of interactive tools and techniques to provide even more high value analysis and this approach has shown great promise in the few cases we've employed it with customers and prospects.

This blog is being designed to communicate some of what I learned during the process of developing these consulting approaches. The blog will cover a variety of topics, some formal, others off-the-cuff based on things I commonly come across during the course of day-to-day life at work and at home. Here are some topics I plan to explore formally:
  • Using PowerPoint: Turning a Crutch into a Powerful Ally
  • Getting Your Point Across: Use of Infographics in Business
  • Interactivity: The Next Generation of Visualization
  • Mashups: Creating Value that is Greater than the Sum of the Parts
It's sure to be an interesting journey and I'd love to hear from others on how they leverage visual techniques to bring on The Visual Enlightenment.

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