The main objective of any business is to find solutions to people’s needs, and sometimes these are a product of uncommon associations of things that on a first sight don’t relate to each other.
The desired level of associative congruity suggested, this in an of itself is a difficult quest, but to complicate things further, we are now also overwhelmed by information, as Stephen Few recognizes:
“Information lies stagnant in rapidly expanding pools as our ability to collect and warehouse it increases, but our ability to make sense of and communicate it remains inert, largely without notice. Computers speed the process of information handling, but they don’t tell us what the information means or how to communicate its meaning to decision makers. These skills are not intuitive; they rely largely on analysis and presentation skills that must be learned.”
Well in that sense designers and art directors have a huge advantage in terms of visual thinking, because it is a key aspect of their work. We have the need to translate in images what usually is either a text, a concept, or an idea.
But even so, designers are usually called at the latest stage of a company’s consolidation, or even when all the decisions have been already made. So I wonder, why these skills are not used outside their “common” ground?
You might think “well what does art have to do with my business?”.
Well art, among many other things, is about conveying a message thru uncommon associations.
I noticed many times how clients could clarify on-the-fly certain aspects (sometimes core aspects) of their business that probably were there but not that clearly before bringing them into a draft, or a mock-up, or just one of the rough sketches I make to understand what their company is about. Sometimes even a doodle is useful for comprehension.
This isn’t something unexpected, since according to studies almost 50% of your brain is involved in visual processing , and we can get the sense of a visual 1 scene in less than 1/10 of a second².
Besides that, images are perceived simultaneously, while words are perceived sequentially.
In that sense the visual concepting could literally become a road-map to your company, a reference to pick up very quickly where are you and where do you want to go.
There are many examples of how some companies and NGOs are already using this advantage of visual aid to convey concepts. One of the most famous is RSA and their sketches.
But this example is more of a classic approach to communication, and what I’m saying is that visuals can not only help you send your message once you have it, but also to THINK the message itself, and therefore your product or idea as well.
One very interesting example of this is John Varney’s method LVT or LogoVisual Thinking.
This is a method that with a very simple and dynamic system of schematics, engages participants in making sense of their collective thinking.
The system is very similar to a designer’s briefing in a way. The power of visuals usually relies in a simultaneous visualization of a problem instead of a sequenced visualization.
In the case of LVT the approach is to place ideas into clusters, with a relationship criteria, and in that way making meaning. Once we have that done then the idea is to abstract meaning, reaching to an epitome of each cluster.
Interdisciplinary approaches benefit exponentially with the inclusion of a visual thinker, or a facilitator. In that sense it’s always useful that the art director or the designer has a business background of some sorts, or at least some important experience with companies, which is not always the case.
Of course overusing visuals is also counterproductive because it might tend to banalize issues, but even in that way can still be compelling and immediate, like we can see in this infographic:
Innovation and creative thinking could benefit with the approach and workflow of different disciplines, and in a commoditized world in which speed and innovation are a constant demand to keep up, an “artistic” approach to tackle problems might be just what it’s needed.