At the start of my career as designer I learned all about collecting information of an customer I could lay my hands on so I could design something that fitted the culture of the company. So at the start of an assigment I collected materials about their identity, their goals, the culture of the company etcetera. Then I filtered all the material to bring order in the pile of information. After that I started to make sketches and notes. And as an final step towards a definte design I selected the sketches that where best in line with the assignment.
This is roughly the same workflow I use when I have to shape the information flow within an company, or when building the information architecture for a big website. Although the end result differs enormously with the different kind of assignments the keywords are always collecting, arranging, analyzing, selecting, interpreting, showing. And I always make little thumbnail sketches. Or schemes. Or visual statistics.
And it was Dan Roam who, in his book ‘Drawing on the back of a Napkin’ wrote about what I was already doing intuitively for years… He’s calling them the 4 steps of visual thinking. And he’s using them for solving business problems and selling ideas with pictures. I definitely loved reading the book. And it’s suited for anyone interested in visual thinking. Even if you think you can’t draw!
Related information:
Back of the Napkin. Dan Roam.
Digital Roam, his blog, where he writes about Visual thinking and Information visualization
His company Digital Roam where he puts his ideas into practice.