Visual Thinking

for Everyday Strategic Co-Creation

Visual Thinking (or sensemaking) is the activity of understanding complex situations through images, diagrams, charts, graphs, drawings, and words.

Strategic planning sessions can have so much data and information flowing that it requires visualizing it all and then sequencing, reordering, and restructuring thoughts to capture the big picture.


Some basic visual sensemaking activities include sketching on post-its, brainstorming, brainwriting, sketching out frameworks, or externalizing design processes. More advanced ones include the business model canvas or value proposition canvas, or combining multiple tools within a greater creative process.

Immediate benefits:

  • Visuals help people better describe concepts.
  • Communication and dialogue is enhanced.
  • Ideas are better understood.
  • Complex issues are simplified.

Not to be confused with graphic facilitation.

Reflective graphics or graphic recording

It's tough to capture the nuances between visual sensemkaing and graphic facilitation since both aim to simplify complex information through images and visuals. The best way to distinguish the nuances between the two is to view it through context. Visual thinking is a series of problem-solving activities while graphic recording can be a means to simply mirror all the flow of information coming from a group.

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