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The time has come.

Learn these two simple techniques that will dramatically improve your whiteboard skills

Become a pro when working with whiteboards without reading a single book or attending a specialized training

Yuri Malishenko
Jul 17, 2018 · 15 min read

Why would you care

Technique #1 — Fast and legible handwriting

What about the calligraphic font we were taught back in school?

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A joined-up font is a niche solution that cannot be applied to dynamic visualizations in the modern professional environment — it takes too much time and is generally counter-productive.

Let’s start with the problem

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It is not uncommon to see the whiteboard used similarly. Such a mediocre result could be easily fixed by learning about and applying the two simple techniques introduced in this article.

Applying the technique to solve the problem

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The same diagram but in black color. Notice how your perception changes when you observe the same visual but in a much less irritating tone.
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Block letters can look something like this. This type of font is often used for dialogues in comics and is optimized for quick writing and easy recognition. In fact, people are generally trained to recognize this type of font and are comfortable reading texts written in it.
Download these self-explanatory handwriting practice sheets to improve your writing habits.
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The same diagram written in block letters. Notice how much clearer it became, it is easier to read. Still, something is missing.
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Workflow steps are now nicely aligned and evenly distributed within the available space of the whiteboard. It does take practice, however, to get there!
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To the left: the overall diagram is hanging on a line that is 1/3 distance from the top of the board. This is not a random placement, but rather a deliberate choice of composition familiar to seasoned photographers under the name of the rule of thirds. The rule suggests that it is more natural for an observer to see compositions that are not built around even division of the space but rather the ones, that are constructed around thirds that divide this space. Also, notice that the arrows are now nicely aligned to the same 1/3 line. To the right: the hi-level blocks are aligned to the top, this way the overall structure of the diagram looks better and is easier for the observer to follow.
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It is generally a good idea to write text in various sizes depending on the importance of the information. Usually, it is enough to vary within three font sizes. In this particular case, I would recommend choosing two sizes — the larger for the titles of major steps and the smaller for the clarifications for each step. If that is still not enough to reduce visual clutter, you could apply some extra element to distinctly separate hierarchy of information in your diagram — line separator in this case. As far as the font size, I would usually use my fingers as a reference and would never write anything smaller than 1 finger high.

Summary of the technique #1

Technique #2 — Fast and simple drawings from your visual vocabulary for visual anchors

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Three simple rules to ensure the simplicity of your drawn elements.
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My visual vocabulary is more than enough for the majority of whiteboard diagrams I have to create while solving my day-to-day professional tasks. It has common abstract elements, people, and emotions.
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Helen added visual anchors — to highlight the major steps of the process and to mark-up the considerations for each of the step. Also, notice the legend that explains how an observer should interpret the icons for the considerations — a warning sign for important constraints and a sad smiley for major pains.
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The journey ends here. We started with the initial drawing made by Helen with her raw skills and applied the two techniques to demonstrate how the picture changes step by step. The ideas behind the two techniques are so simple that everyone can quickly learn and adapt them to their day-to-day performance. Now, will you?

Summary of the technique #2

Afterword

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Request a training for your team at https://www.vizthink.dk/

About the author

graphicfacilitation

Visual Thinking and Graphic Facilitation

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