SXSW2012: Shut Up and Draw

SXSW2012: Shut Up and Draw Picture

There’s been a near-explosion in the desire for visual language to be incorporated into sales, presenting, innovating and prototyping. But how do you use visual language if you’re not an artist? We’ll show you how to take any statement or concept and rapidly transform it into a visual display that gets people thinking rather snoozing. Kill the noise. Send the signal. All systems go.

White Board Culture

  • Visual language is equivalent to art
  • Art is about ambiguity, visual language is about eliminating ambiguity
  • We have a strong tendency to judge our drawing abilities (this causes us to stop trying)
  • Perfection is not the point!
  • Improved thinking is the point!
  • We don’t know how to take it to work

Literacy - we are visually illiterate - defined: ability to identify, understand, interpret, create and communicate

You need to make it yourself for it to have impact.

Art is

  • Luxury item
  • Elite, need to be trained
  • God-Given talent
  • Superfluous, no place in work and school
  • results in starvation
  • frivolous and silly
  • is not intellectually rigorous

3 Reasons Why Visual Literacy Matters

  • Information density is redonkulously high. Imagery allows you to condense information.
  • Market competition is Antagonasty
  • Cognitive Neuroscience is explosivo!

Just add images!

How you can use images

  • Use it to work around linguistic issues “I cannot sail around the world in a broken teacup”
  • Can help you memorize things
  • In the clutch situations
  • When tensions are high
  • Because you can
  • Visuals add so much

Tale of two charts

  • If you want to convince someone, draw them the picture!
  • The more you try to convince with words the less it will happen. When you draw a picture, your ability to convince people increases.

Arthur Laffer

  • Napkin Sketch
  • Laffer Curve
  • Lead to Reaganomics
  • Who says a sketch doesn’t have power?

We’re of two minds

  • Right Brain / Left Brain idea is overly simplistic
  • 65% of every neuron is focused on visual processing

Vi Hart - Mathematical Doodling

Books - Back of the napkin, Blah Blah Blah (Roam), Indexed (Hagy)


  • Powerpoint - Pick the pen!
  • Who? What? Where?
  • Graphic Recording. Improvisational.

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About The Author

G. Brad Hopkins's avatar
  • G. Brad Hopkins
  • About Me: I bought my first computer - an Apple Performa 6320 - when I was in college and have been building websites ever since. These days I spend most of my time writing code and helping to bring interesting projects to life.
  • @gbradhopkins