Early in my career I was fortunate to be exposed to the work of David Sibbet of The Grove Consultants International, a pioneer in visual thinking and using graphic language, templates, and “panoramic visualization” to create systemic change for organizations. A phrase that has stuck with me from my experiences working with the Grove is the powerful “I see what you mean!” All of a sudden, from a wall chart full of imagery generated by a group – icons, selected words, squiggly arrows, and colors – the complex rationale for a redirection in strategy or the seeds of a new vision would emerge. I see what you mean!
As we enter a time in which we create abundant data streams (zillionics according to Kevin Kelly) and leave data trails about ourselves and our world with every Tweet, blog post, camera phone, mobile sensors, wiki, etc., the need for visualization to understand this data layer of our lives is critical. We need to be able to see the meaning in the multitude of data and information. New approaches to sense making and pattern recognition, and the development of visual literacy, will be increasingly important for navigating the data abundant world and for designing useful tools, services, and institutions. Our children will need to be able to interact, create, and discover meaning in this quantified and data prolific world.
Larry Myatt describes the opportunities,and implications, for visual thinking and visual literacy in his article Connecting the Dots: The Unexplored Promise of Visual Literacy in American Classrooms from the The Forum for Education and Democracy. I particularly like this part, but read the whole article.
Among those making sense of these issues is Kristina Lamour-Sansone, founder of The Design Education Consultancy, whose commitment to bringing highly-challenging and disciplined graphic design values and applications into classrooms in a number of cities has shown exceptional promise. … Her visual-literacy approach captures the energy and vitality needed to liberate learning for those youngsters least likely to succeed in passing through the ever-shrinking “eye of the needle” of text-driven instruction. Lamour-Sansone works with teachers eager to plan lessons that turn students loose on their machines and in their mind’s eyes, to design complicated, eye-catching visual arrays that reveal sophisticated reasoning and high levels of intellectual engagement. These organic “maps” that interweave concepts, skills, connections, and comparisons are then deconstructed and converted back into thoughtful, highly organized outlines and drafts for use in chapter summaries, research papers, essays and portfolio artifacts.