There are people who freely come up with great, captivating stories about anything. They can translate their thoughts into nice and juicy words, the structure of their story or a talk is engaging and smooth. I am not that kind of person. Any kind of writing is really challenging for me. I need to pull myself together, isolate myself from any sort of distractions and have very-very tight deadlines to avoid temptation to postpone the work until tomorrow.

Very often I am stuck when writing because I either have no idea what to write about or I have a lot of thoughts and ideas that are mixed up in my mind and it is almost impossible to sort through them.

I want to share with you a simple technique that helps me to overcome procrastination in writing or creating a presentation on any topic. This approach is inspired by infodoodlers’ methods as described by Sunni Brown in her book “Doodle Revolution”.

Here is my visual plan for a writing process. In this case the final goal was to give a talk but you can use the same approach to write an article. Feel free to use it and I hope it will help you with your storytelling challenges (pdf in printing quality).

Visual story design process

Timing: from 2 hours. Participants: just you. Things you will need: sticky notes; fine markers, a wall.

If you are a visual thinker like me you may like my Hand Drawn Design Tips — weekly 1 min read newsletter on product design.

To begin this process you need to have your “Big idea” — the big point, the reason why you want to give this talk or write an article. Do your research, investigate the problem from different angles and feed your mind with some information around your topic.

Once you have your ”Big idea”, you are ready to start. Grab your sticky notes, marker and a wall or a piece of paper (a big one).

1. Generate

1. Generate. First step is to generate as many ideas as possible related to that Big idea. Use sticky notes (one idea per note) and just write or doodle anything that comes to your mind. At this stage it is important to avoid judging or any evaluation.

Be mad and be furious with your thoughts and go for quantity rather than for quality.

Another good approach is to split this activity onto several 10 min rounds with 5 min to relax in between. Knowing that after 10 min of hard work you will get a reward really helps me keep focus.

2. Filter

Now start to asses your flurry of ideas and select which are compelling enough to remain in your story.

Be critical and picky.

3. Find categories

Now try to cluster similar ideas and find categories or topics that represent each group.

If you wish you could also add a short statement to each category to better shape your thoughts and make sure that you have right messages that build up your “Big idea”.

4. Take your statement and sequence them into a story

A good approach here is to put yourself into shoes of your audience.

Try to think what order of your messages will feel logical and interesting and will help you to make the biggest impact.

5. Build up a story

Now it is time to give juicy details to each of your statement and determine how you will convince your audience. Try to appeal to their logic, emotions, refer to credible experts or reliable cases or researches. Put all those supporting points on the sticky notes in front of each statement and check the whole story critically.

Such visual approach for story creation is a very effective way to bring your thoughts in order, to understand your content, balance it and to make sure that everything you are going to say will matter to the people who will listen to you or read your article.

My visual map for presentation on visual thinking

If you are a visual thinker like me you may like my Hand Drawn Design Tips — weekly 1 min read newsletter on product design.


Don’t write, sketch! Tips and techniques for visual thinkers

Anna Iurchenko

Written by

UX Designer at Google. I’m curious to understand people and I’m driven to build great products for them. Love sketching!



Don’t write, sketch! Tips and techniques for visual thinkers

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