Archive for the ‘Examples’ Category

Monkey Mind. Drawing in meetings.

01 Jul

Al Franken sketches Jeff Sessions during Elena Kagan hearings

No matter which side of the political spectrum you may land on, one has to admire our politicians for simply sitting through the seemingly endless, though important, hours of meetings and hearings that keep our country in sync.  A few days ago, a friend sent me an article about one such politician who was seen/caught sketching during a hearing.

Al Franken, Senator from Minnesota and a member of the judiciary committee, was sitting through the confirmation hearing of potential Supreme Court Justice, Elena Kagan.  During the long and arduous process, Franken was seen sketching the likeness of fellow judiciary committee member, Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions. Depending on the political slant of the source, reports of this sketchy behavior ran from mildly amused to downright furious at this apparent show of boredom and lack of respect for our country’s due political process.

In Eastern traditions, there is a term called the Monkey Mind. It reflects our inability to mentally ‘sit still’.  Everyone has experienced this with the mind racing from thought to thought like a monkey jumping from tree to tree (especially during work meetings).  There are many thoughts on how to quiet the monkey mind, from yoga and meditation, to exercise and diet change.  During the research process for Drawing Down the Vision, we came across an article which states that doodling can help you pay attention.  After years of getting in trouble in school for doodling, it was refreshing to see evidence that students who draw during a lecture may actually be retaining more information and paying closer attention.

Which leads me back to Senator Franken.  Perhaps Franken was drawing in order to stay more focused on the content of the hearing.  Perhaps all of our politicians should be provided with some sketching supplies. Next time you are in a work or committee meeting where the content is important but difficult to stay excited about, try picking up a pen and paper and drawing.  You could sketch the furniture in the room, the people around you, or something from your inner landscape. Try to visually represent the information to help you see things differently. In the end, you may find you have quieted the monkey mind and are a more focused and active participant in the meeting.

Popularity: 14% [?]


Learning to draw through other’s practice.

21 Jun

Some of you sketching newbies may be looking for help getting started, some examples…

As we take the old fashioned pen-to-paper approach to thinking and creating, we like to encourage people to get away from their computers as much as possible and spend time learning in the “real world”. But sometimes, the toys and trinkets that come about from our technified world offer an experience not readily available through our analog ways.

The folks at the design/ marketing firm Odopod have created an online playground for sketchers.

At their interactive site, Odosketch, participants can create ‘drawn’ images using various line weights and colors. They have featured sketches which demonstrate what you can do with this tool.

The best part is that you can observe how others go about creating these fantastic images. How they begin with an outline, start tracing and re-tracing the shapes, and gradually complete the shading.

So if you are the techie sort, and are looking for some silent tutoring, check out Odosketch.  Maybe then you’ll have the courage to try the pen and paper approach.  Both will prove to be a lot of fun and a great way to develop your one-of-a-kind creativity.

Popularity: 11% [?]


Looking at the landscape.

17 Jun

Drawing is a complicated thing that many artists will struggle years to master… and even then it takes diligent daily practice.  But drawing skills and tools are on a spectrum which means that at the most basic level, they can be achieved by anyone willing to give it a shot.

Learning to draw is really about learning to see more clearly exactly what is in front of you and relaying that information to the page as clearly as you can to communicate it.  Let’s apply this to a quick lesson on how to make a sketch of a landscape.

Here is a gorgeous photograph of the Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee. First, let’s take a closer look at the image:

Courtesy of Richard Weisser and

Notice how there is a distinct foreground, then a middle ground with a number of mountains and finally the most distant mountains further off in the background (and let’s not forget that pink sky!)  This is all easier to distinguish if you squint a bit at the photograph.  Now notice how each of these three distinct areas have a different value (or lightness vs. darkness) in the image.  For a simple sketch, which we’ll do here with pen and paper, taking note of these facts is all you need.

First, draw the simple shapes that delineate the front, middle and rear of the picture place:

Next use marks, sometimes called cross-hatching, to create darker and lighter areas.  If you have a small paintbrush, you can use water to run the line of your pen which creates a nice gray:

You can stop here or, add a little color for that sky…

This simple sketch only took a few minutes and I could probably work on it longer to add details such as some more of the middle ground mountains.

Looking at a mountain landscape and simplifying it to get a better understanding of how to approach a drawing of it is a wonderful metaphor for our work lives (if not beyond!)  Noticing that there are distinct differences in what lies just ahead, and a bit farther off, and then on into the distance is crucial to keeping your goals and priorities in order.

Making a simple drawing in your sketchbook of a favorite place of yours, or an imagined business landscape perhaps, is a great way to take a few minutes and assess the path ahead and decide how to proceed.

Send us what you come up with.  We’d love to see it… and share it if you don’t mind!

Popularity: 73% [?]


How changing your perspective changes your results.

10 Jun

Drawing is all about relationships, as is business. In order to succeed in either, we need to see the big picture while also seeing the details which comprise it. Unless we spend time working from multiple perspectives, we’ll always see the same picture, and jump to the same conclusions, and deliver the same results.

Practicing drawing allows us to permanently change the way we think in business scenarios. This is our brains’ neuroplasticity reacting to our intellectual needs. “[Drawing] requires that one confronts and deals with paradoxes. For example, we can know that a ceiling is flat and the corner is a right angle. But on the picture plane, the edges of the ceiling are not horizontal and the corner angles are not right angles at all.” – Betty Edwards, Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain

Through drawing, we are forced to practice whole brain thinking… comparing what we know and what we see to deliver a defined result. Let’s get started with an example.

Here is my original sketch. I was doing a mental sketch of a horse and elephant, pretty basic. Analyzing my sketch, you can see that I understand:

  • that a horse is smaller than an elephant,
  • both have four legs, and
  • elephants have a funny little tuft at the end, well suited for swatting flies in Disney movies.

Despite my practice drawing, my results continue to be the same when I don’t truly examine the object I’m drawing, and how all its components relate.

Luckily… I found a horse who was very eager to be my subject matter. (It may be more of a mule or colt, judging the size.)

Once I had a specimen which I could observe to evaluate the relationships of all the components (hooves, tail, mane, body)… my sketches became a bit better. You can see that I included additional details my original sketch didn’t, such as the defined muscles. However, I was still having a hard time breaking from the mental model in my head, an animal with a mane, tail, and four legs which was facing to the right. In order to change my results, I needed to change my perspective and challenge those paradoxes.

Luckily, I found an elephant. I couldn’t fit them both in my sketch easily, a happy accident, so I decided to change up the perspective, and sketch them straight on. A fearsome duo for sure.

Here you can see horses #4 and #5, before I changed my perspective. Notice however, the dramatic difference between the new horse and elephant (below the line) and the earlier sketches. From this new perspective, I had no Disney summary stuck in my head of what a true horse sketch should look like. I had no assumptions to fall back on. I had to really see my subject and analyze the relationships of all the components to create the final drawing.

I was astounded by the changes, so I figured I’d try it again. This time from the backside.

Again, I was very surprised with the turnout. Much better than when I first began sketching a horse 15 minutes earlier. It was my first horse sketching experience, and I’ll try again on a real horse sometime.

In business, we are forced to move fast and race onto the next project. Problem, Solution, Check, Done!

Einstein has a fantastic quote: “It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.”

Spend that extra 20% of time on a project. Think it through, especially once you think you’ve got it figured out. Try to draw and redraw your conclusions. Visualize your business problem, and ask others what they think. You’ll learn that the relationships you initially define of people, places and things in your work may be a bit off, and you’ll be glad you learned sooner rather than later.

Also, try drawing an object from memory, and then from sight. Change the perspective.

Share your thoughts below!

Popularity: 62% [?]


Creator of Twitter: ‘Drawing out your ideas’ is the key to success.

03 Jun

The Creator of Twitter, Jack Dorsey, shared his top 3 keys to success at the 99% Conference. Jack advocates we ‘draw an idea out, recognize the situation around us, and immediately share it with people.’

First, ‘draw out your ideas.’

Drawing is all about ‘getting it out of your head and seeing it from a completely different perspective.‘*

Here is the original sketch by Jack for Twitter, circa 2000. It wasn’t practical at the time so he kept it aside in his nest of ideas.

Twitter Founder, Jack Dorsey, advocates 'drawing out your ideas.' Here is the original sketch for Twitter, circa 2000. He recognized the right situation in 2005. It became perfect in 2009.

Second, ‘recognize the situation is right.’

In 2000, Twitter would have failed.

However, in 2005, text messaging got big in the US. Jack was reminded of an original idea he had back in 2000, what came to be Twitter.

By having a historical record of ideas, an idea nest, you can reapply your ideas when the situation is right.
Third, ‘be open enough to iterate quickly.’

Your idea has to be more than idea, it has to be a solution to someone’s problem. Try to come up with a basic solution, and keep changing it until it’s just right. Learn fast and cheap on paper with sketches, in discussion with others, and in use with prototypes.
Finally, ‘act as an editor.’

Know when to stop, and start doing. To succeed, we must go from ‘idea, to drawing, to prototype, to commitment.’

Jack Dorsey, Founder of Twitter, Original Sketches of Square

Here is Jack's original sketch for his new company, Square, a tool to help everyone accept credit card transactions everywhere.

Thanks to @sido for his post and tweet.

* We call this different perspective the Diversity of Thought.

Popularity: 54% [?]


Making the most of your sketchpads.

02 Jun

I don’t use digital notetaking tools. Call me old-fashioned, but I’ve noticed that some of the most innovative techies in Silicon Valley do the same, whether with day-planner calendars, memo pads, or just simple notecards with a binder clip.“  – Tim Ferriss, How to take notes like an alpha geek (author of 4 Hour Work Week)

Examples of Adam's Sketchpad covers for 'Pay attention to what you pay attention to'

As readers here know… I’m an advocate of pocket sketching, a source of success for many. I use my pocket sketchpad for sporadic notes, collecting random thoughts & experiences, thinking through a problem, life-reviews, and more.

Today, I have a variety of sketchpads. They’re filled to the brim, sometimes wrapping around the back cover with content when I didn’t have a blank one handy. I can revisit them whenever I’d like, however, I often have difficulty finding certain notes from months back…

Tim Ferriss’ quote above inspired me to create the following simple organization system to help maximize the value of thoughts that arise in a sketchpad, to find what you need, when you need it.

Track the date and context for entries.

When did I draw this? Tracking the date allows you to play anthropologist when you’re going back through your journal. To see how thoughts overlapped, and how they related to emails, events on your calendar, or loose notes you’ve taken outside your sketchpad. (Old habits die hard.)

Where did I draw this? By summarizing the location or experience that created the entry… you’ll be better able to take yourself back to the moment you created the entry. Just the act of drawing aids memory by 29%.

Create a graphic summary on the cover. (See image above.)

I have so many notebooks… which one was it? The graphic takes me back to the times when I was carrying that specific sketchpad. I can remember creating the cover or seeing it each time I was drawing an entry. This allows me to more quickly flip through a pile of sketchpads and find the right entry.

You can create this summary with a new sketchpad, or once it is complete. Whatever suits you or the work you’re doing. Creating it early serves as a focus, a guide for what content you’ll strive to include. Creating it later allows you to summarize your work. In a recent post after creating a late summary, I wrote about how I realized I was very unfocused.

Create a list of recurring topics, not a table of contents.

A table of contents works for something you’ve edited… something you had the opportunity to organize into neat categories. Pocket sketching doesn’t work that way. Track a list of recurring topics instead of a table of contents. (This was inspired by Basecamp, a fantastic project collaboration tool Amy and I use to work on Drawing Down the Vision.)

As a topic comes up, add it to the inside front cover of your sketchpad. (It’s more difficult to lose than the inside first page.) As it comes up again in the future, just note the date which it was entered. (If you backfill old pages with newer notes, use the date on which you started the page to maintain chronology.) Slowly, you’ll build a list of topics and dates on which you wrote about them, to track the evolution of a thread over time.

Cream rises to the top.

Even if you create the best system… and you still can’t find what you’re looking for… don’t fret. Maybe you don’t need it.The cream always rises to the top. You’ll repeat a thought that is valuable to you.Throughout my time sketching, I’ve learned to respect every entry as a potential new starting point or tangent in my career. By reviewing enough sketchpads, you see that important ideas come to you before you even know they were important. (See a previous entry on how Dan Wallace generated valuable business ideas.)

Go try it out… let us know how it works for you!

Popularity: 13% [?]


Pay attention to what you pay attention to.

27 May

My journal offered me a phenomenal breakthrough today. I’d like to share how it all precipitated.

I went through my sketchpad the other day and tried to pull a theme out of what’s been going through my head and my life lately. The answer wasn’t immediately obvious. I realized there was no theme because… there was no theme. I was doing too much.

We call this retrospective process ‘paying attention to what you pay attention to.’

Knowing I was spreading myself too thin, like too little butter on too much bread, I decided I should make some serious choices in my life, and focus my energies. Here is how I represented my thinking on what I needed to do:

I was thinking about focus all wrong.

I thought I had figured it out. I would slowly cut out the diffusion in my life. In the end, I would be laser focused on what I really needed to accomplish in my life. Wrong.

After creating the original representation of focus… everyone around me was suddenly talking about focus! I was paying attention to how people focus, and pulling lessons out of this.*

In hearing so much more about focus, and pulling a few life stories from friends, I realized there was a hidden crutch buried in my original sketch: a need for comfort, security, and a fear of making tough life choices.

While reviewing my original drawing, I realized making a choice to focus your life is more like what I represented below. You need to make the tough choices you’ve been putting off, and commit to follow through on those choices.

The most successful people I know made difficult decisions and focused their effort on their top priority.

For example, John Traynor, made a commitment to follow classical painting when he was growing up in New Jersey, against the advice of many educators. He could have gotten a business and art degree at Skidmore College, with something to fall back on if art didn’t work out. He realized that lack of focus was setting himself up for failure. Instead he committed and persisted at the Paier College of Art. Today he is phenomenally successful.

The process of creative journaling offers me an opportunity to dissect my own thinking, and how focused it is.** The journal serves as a nest of ideas. It proves to be a very valuable tool as we all search for ways to live our life to the fullest and make our business a success. I’d love to hear how journaling and creative work fits into your life!

* We call this ‘The New Car Phenomenon.’ When you buy a new car, magically, you notice hundreds more on the rode than you ever noticed before!
We call this Diversity of Thought… words, text, and graphics all help you analyze your life and business from multiple angles, multiple forms of logic. You become your own critic, your personal sounding board.

Popularity: 18% [?]


The value of ‘mistakes’

14 May

When we all start drawing, the lines don’t seem to come together as neatly as we often hope. In Drawing Down the Vision, that’s a great thing. Artists have a term for those moments where something gone awry turns into a silent tug in the right direction: The Happy Accident.

In Creativity Studies, the terms convergent and divergent thinking represent the alternative manners by which we come up with novel, new and exciting ideas… by combining or separating existing ones. Drawing can help us look at the world in this recombinatory manner. As we try to create a representation of what we’re thinking or seeing, the lines and patterns slowly come together. Mismarking can trigger a new connection between objects on the page, new ways to look at something we thought we understood completely, and couldn’t be done any other way.

Here is an example of experimentation done by Brad Norr of Brad Norr Design: Lines, leading to more lines, more thoughts, and ultimately, an answer.

So get out there and start putting pen to paper, thinking through that stubborn problem or just enjoying the landscape surrounding you. A ‘mistake’ may just trigger a whole new way of looking at things. A happy accident.

Thanks to Brad Norr of Brad Norr Design for contributing his work in this example!

Popularity: 19% [?]


The blank canvas.

12 May

Ok, not to get all 12-step on you, but… the first step to solving a problem is admitting it exists.

In business, we often have more problems to solve than time on our hands. Ironically, challenges often begin with choosing which problem to tackle. Here are a few practical Drawing Down the Vision techniques which can help you prioritize and solve problems.

1. Create a blank page in your journal, notepad, sketchbook… and begin to sketch out all the problems you see yourself potentially devoting time to.

By attempting to create a visual representation of the problem you’ll be forced to think of it differently than you would with words. It may be difficult to start, but over time you’ll find your own voice.

Spend a minute or two on this, don’t dwell. Even better… come back with fresh eyes in a few days. Spend micro moments revisiting the problem in different places with different people with different ideas in your head.

At some point… it should seem obvious which problem is best to tackle. If not, keep mulling, or take a leap and move forward on any, you’ll learn through the process.

Blank Canvas, evaluating problems

Bill Gates asked, 'How do we put the best minds on the biggest problems?' I chose to explore what problems I could contribute to.

2. Once you’ve chosen which problem to tackle, find another blank page. Tag it with the problem… mark the header, sketch the problem right in the middle, whatever you think best outlines the solution you need.

This is your blank canvas, your home for exploring solutions to the problem. You may have nothing to include immediately, you may have so much that you need a few pages, but either way…. let this be the place you think out loud about the problem.

As you go through your day, ideas will be triggered by the different people, places, discussions… all sources of inspiration. Fantastic! Rather than losing those potential solutions, grab your sketchpad and put them in, immediately. Drawing Down the Vision is about collecting those fleeting ideas. The more random and unpractical, the better they can support new thinking, ways to re-evaluate a problem and come up with a practical, elegant solution.

Blank Canvas, collecting inspiration

My blank canvas for a project at work. No ripe ideas at the time of the photo. Now we wait.

To solve a problem, you need to be in a different state of mind than when you discovered it… in the words of Albert Einstein: ‘No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.’ Revisiting your idea nest in the future is a great way to rekindle the thoughts, and see if there’s anything worth reapplying. Maybe you’ve discovered a solution you didn’t even know!

Again, these are not rules, just examples! So have fun, and share what you learn with us below.

Popularity: 17% [?]


Trajectory of the creative mind

24 Mar
The Seed of a New Business: These sketches evolved into Dan's current product, artwork for offices. Every successful business starts small.

The Seed of a New Business: These sketches evolved into Dan's current product, artwork for offices. Every successful business starts small.

Notes that don't fall away: Dan shifted from legal pads and post-its to have a central journal where he could track, develop, and revisit his ideas.

Notes that don't fall away: Dan shifted from legal pads and post-its to have a central journal where he could track, develop, and revisit his ideas.

In our working culture, creative people are perceived to be ‘born.’ They’re creative just because they are! Unless we’re studying art history… seldom do we hear about how someone’s creative abilities changed over time. At Drawing Down the Vision, we believe that everyone has tremendous innate creative capacity, and would like share stories of how others have strengthened, and continue to strengthen their creative thinking. To begin, Denver Faulk and I had some fun talking with Dan Wallace of Ideafood. Here’s what we learned…

Dan is a creative journaler. He’s been successfully self-employed in the marketing industry for the last 23 years; using his unique  perspective, skills and network to deliver the results his clients needed. Those experiences, and a desire to succeed, have put his creativity on trajectory starting as a legal pad note-taker, and growing into the creative journaler he is today.

Dan originally used journaling as a bucket for his thoughts when he started his career at Fallon in 1984 (then Advertising Age’s Ad Agency of the Year). He had been burdened by the note-taker sickness of too many pieces of paper, always in a jumbled mess which would one day ‘just fall away.’ He shifted to one central place to collect those notes, his journal. This way, Dan could continue capturing his thoughts, but also have a record to return and explore his growth. He could make connections between the different states of mind he had working with different people in different environments.

The journal was a form of knowledge gathering. It helped him to practice active learning, applying his thoughts immediately in creative ways… always trying to come up with a concise visual way to document his thoughts. This process supported him as he moved on to build his digital marketing business in the late 90s and early 00s. The journal enabled Dan to seize more understanding of the world around him… to be able to critically analyze it, with open eyes, and to share his thoughts on client projects and the digital marketing industry.

Then, the dot-com-bomb blasted. Dan’s digital marketing suffered a significant decline in 2000, and he was put in a position where he had to reinvent himself and his business. With newfound time on his hands, and a passion to come up with new fresh ideas, he dove deeper into his journal, trying to build his creativity. What had once been his tool for active learning, on the side from his day-to-day business, but a core component of success… now became his full-time job! Discovering the next venture would consume Dan, and his search for ways to serve his customers drove a shift to journaling new product concepts, rather than just marketing ideas.

With a large collection of developed ideas and hand-rendered prototypes, Dan needed to find a way to make them real. He connected with Robyn Waters, who was VP of Trend at Target. Being astounded by the content of the journal, and his creative methodology, she offered to co-present his original idea, artwork for offices, at the national Innovation Convergence. Today, this initial concept of artwork for offices has morphed into a product that helps companies hire, educate, and motivate employees.

The focus on product development versus active learning in Dan’s journal was inversely related to the amount of time he devoted to his work. When his business was booming, he learned in the journal… when his business was struggling, his journal was booming… helping him to find his way. Today, Dan is actively developing the product line that sprung from his exploratory product development journals, with five sales to Fortune 500 companies under his belt.

Now that product development is occupying much of his time, he uses his journal to flex his creative muscles, keeping them active for the next time he needs them. Being in a more entreprenurial mode… he’s looking to continue that creative momentum. The journal, one of 30 over his career, serves to keep him fresh.

To close, we asked Dan a question… what would you say to those who have never journaled before? His response:

‘Do anything… ugly or poorly written, set the bar low. Get started. You can only go up from there.’

Popularity: 18% [?]


Powered by Olark