Drawing is Thinking

Drawing is Thinking

When you were in school, did you get caught doodling?

Have you ever got the evil eye from a co-worker for doodling during a meeting?

You were on right page!

A study, sighted by the Journal of Cognitive Psychology, found that doodlers could easily recall ‘dull’ information 30 percent more than non-doodlers. Break out your pen or pencils and notepad…doodling is greatly encouraged.

Like writing, there are benefits of doodling and sketching:

  1. Cognitive development and increased memory
  2. Improved concentration
  3. Creative confidence

Drawing is essential for the brain development in children; as a learning process and technique for making observations or problem solving. While at the same time improving their memory skills. This combination leads to achievement in other subjects, particularly math and science.

It is our own translation, the imagery from our mind, which we create the visual references (aka details) that we’ll draw upon in the future.

Have you been to a conference or meeting with a live sketch artist? One of the pioneers in this industry, Sunni Brown, believes that she and her team develop concepts through pictures that words alone cannot describe. The pictures are not about aesthetic quality, but rather the quality of the learned and learning experience; developing a visual language.

Milton Glaser’s iconic logo

Drawing (sketching or doodling), like meditation, is a self-exploration that connects us with our ‘self’ on an intimate level. The adroit action stimulates us to a comfort level–enough to keep us awake, focused and engaged. Researcher believe that we reach deeper levels of concentration and this is where we develop richer concepts.

“When you draw an object, the mind become deeply, intensively attentive. Drawing is thinking.” Milton Glaser, acclaimed graphic designer continues, “It is that act of attention that allows you to really grasp something to become fully conscious of it.”

Here’s John Hendrix, author (Drawing is Magic) and illustrator, “As adults we often stop having fun. Drawing when we were kids was fun. Finding enjoyment is the essential first step to finding good ideas.”

When we ‘draw out’ our ideas, we’re releasing our imagination.

John Hendrix’ book “Drawing is Magic”

Every heard the phrase, “conceived on a napkin”? What tools do you need to facilitate thinking? PENCIL AND PAPER. No need for a computer, tablet or special app for you smartphone.

When we externalize our ideas on paper it makes it easier to re-constuct them, transforming the “spark” into a good idea, great idea… a gift to mankind idea.

Drawing is more than thinking: it’s MAGIC.

 

References:

The Atlantic, Cognitive Benefits of Doodling

Sunni Brown, TED Talk, “Doodlers, Unite”

Write It Down!

UPDATE 1/14/16:

I’ll be delivering this speech at Ignite Chicago on January 31, 2017, held at the Catalyst Ranch.

5 Minutes / 20 Slides / 1 Passion


I’ve attended this several times and it is always a fun night.

Your cheers and claps would be greatly appreciated, register via EventBrite using the promo code SPEAKERFRIEND

See you then!

 


This is the speech I needed to complete my Toastmasters’ Advanced Communicator Bronze level in my quest to improve my communication skills.

What if…

  • There was a process that could improve your ability to learn and recall information?
  • That same process, and its simple tool, could help increase your concentration?
  • And, spark your creativity?

Benefit #1: Learning and Memory

Writing by hand, has been proven to stimulate parts of our brain, called the reticular activating system (RAS), which filters all the ‘stuff’ our brain needs to process everyday.

When we write it down, we give importance to that which we’re focusing on at the moment. I’ll repeat that in case you’d like to write it down, we give importance to that item at that moment.

A name. A date. An address. The morning to-do list. Weekly shopping list. Your bucket list.

The physical process of writing, placing pen (or pencil) to paper, brings that item to the forefront.

There are several research studies available that examined {college} students who took handwritten notes versus students who used a device (notebook or tablet). Which group do you believe performed better overall? The students who took handwritten notes.

It is the physical process of writing–placing pen to paper–that brings that item to the forefront. Writing it down improves our ability to learn and recall information.

Interesting observation about the students who used a devices; the researchers concluded that they were essentially scribing the professor’s lecture; an important skill when we need to transcribe something verbatim.

Writing, either cursive or print, (my own–an awkward combination) is very important to brain development. Do you have kids in school? Ask them about their method of notetaking during class.

Benefit #2: Focus

We are confronted with barrage of information from ALL directions EVERYDAY! Let’s face it… most if it is a distraction.

Did you know the adult brain processes 60,000-70,000 thoughts per day. (There’s a joke in there, I’ll set that aside for another speech.)

The deliberate ACTION to process a thought slows down our brain; thus requiring more mental energy. We are engaging our motor skills when while writing.

Research is suggesting that writing (reading and drawing) are droplets in the ‘Fountain of Youth’ to ward off the detrimental effects of Alzheimer’s disease and/or dementia. Not protect, but lessen the effects while keeping our brains active as we age. 

Write the letters. Break out the journal. Send the postcards.

During an interview, acclaimed author, Truman Capote, said that he wrote the outline and first draft of “In Cold Blood” before he sat in front of the typewriter. Joyce Carol Oates uses hand-written notes and drafts beforehand, too.

Benefit #3: Spark Your Creativity

A pathway for our thoughts, ideas and emotions, writing, as well as sketching, is a channel from your head outward. I personally believe that the heightened creativity is really the result of benefits #1 and #2. Bringing an item to the forefront and concentration.

One of the simplest and beneficial gifts you can give, in my opinion, is a sketchbook (or journal) and pencils to anyone. Enable an individual to cultivate his/her own creativity through the expression of ideas, thoughts and emotions.

Now, some of you might be thinking, pen and paper… that’s sooo old school! You’re not the only one.

While doing the research for this speech, I ran across an article on the Harvard Business Review entitled “Dear Colleague, Put the Notebook Down.” The author states, if you are invited to a meeting with her that you ‘should leave your hipster journal and pens at home’ insisting that taking notes by hand is a waste of time. She wants to be able to ping you digital references, assets and links for your immediate consumption. She went further, after you get back to your cubicle and transcribe your handwritten notes into a project management application, approximately 10-25 minutes, that is a WASTE OF TIME. This time adds up over the course of a fiscal year at a cost to the company.

Coincidentally, the same day I read this article, I received an email from my favorite hipster journal company announcing its latest product the “Smart Writing Set.” The three-part system consists of a newly designed Moleskine paper tablet, a stylus and smartphone app. The notes and drawings made in the paper tablet are digitized via the mobile app, available for iOS and Android. Moleskine is not the only company with similar technologies.

Recap, the benefits of writing:

  • Stimulates our brain for learning and memory.
  • Helps us concentrate by filtering distractions.
  • Heightens our creativity by providing a channel from our head to paper.

Writing is a mental workout. Keeping our brains SHARP!

History of Pencil (sidebar)

In the 16th century, a dark grey almost black substance was discovered in England, it became the first marking element when the herders where marking their sheep.

Woodworkers in the 17th century were producing graphite as marking tool. It wasn’t until the 18th century that the graphite was encased in wood.

Cross the pond to New England, during the mid-19th century, in Joseph Dixon’s woodworking plant, he mechanized the production and patented the machine that planed the wood for pencils. His machine could produce 132 pencils per minute. Dixon marketed his pencil as “American Made.” The Dixon Ticonderoga is a staple and one of our most enduring products, ~ 1/2 billion Ticonderoga pencils are manufactured yearly.

References:

Wall Street Journal, “Can Handwriting Make You Smarter?” (April 2016)

Mashable, “7 Ways Writing by Hand Can Save Your Brain” (January 2015)

New York Times, “The Story Behind a Nonfiction Novel” (1966) George Plimpton

BuzzFeed, “Joyce Carol Oates Has The Most Inspiring Writing Advice For Authors” (July 2015)