Pen & paper techniques for
getting from research to design
March | April 2010
Kate Rutter <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Why visuals work
Visual ideas communicate a
get through more complete
So that the resulting designs
reﬂect the people
and their needs.
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• As you review transcripts, pull out key words
and phrases and jot them down.
• Jot the words that you heard, plus small
sketches and accents to illustrate the ideas and
make them visually recognizable.
• Big ideas deserve more ink on paper. Make the
text bigger, underline it, give it a border, or try
other ways to make the idea stand out.
• Jotting is a visual way to track research data. It
illustrates and accents the data, so it becomes
memorable and rediscoverable.
Jotting breaks down
observations into their most • Important ideas risk being lost in the analysis
process. Using visual cues to call out the
elemental parts and captures important concepts keeps them highly visible.
the weight of each idea.
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• Working with the project team, go through the
jots and begin to pull related ideas together.
• Stick related ideas together on a board, a large
piece of paper, or even a wall.
• Keep moving ideas around until clear themes
• Give each theme a memorable, concise, and
• The goal of theme boards is to look across all
research findings and start to pull together the
Theme boards display the big themes.
results of synthesis. They • Theme boards are a group activity. They
show the patterns and encourage everyone on the team to express
themes that act as a bridge what they see as the big themes, and have
directed conversations on what it all means.
to the design process.
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Presentations And more!
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• Look at the big themes and figure out what story
you want to tell. (If you’re not sure, just start
writing a few notes to yourself on scrap paper. The
story will emerge.)
• Pick a visualization that’s good for communicating
what’s important about the story.
• Do a rough sketch. Iterate and evolve it. You will
probably do a couple revisions.
• Enhance the final version using the all the tools
* The whole point
• Concept sketches help you tell stories about
Concept sketches capture a what you learned, what’s important, and what
story, illustrate the opportunities and actions it points towards.
relationships of elements, or • Concept sketches should be rich but “get-able”
a communicate a set of visuals that others can remember and refer
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Capture Boards Bottom-up Trees
Capture boards consolidate and collect Bottom-up trees help organize related
related info in one visible, analog space. data into bundled concepts. Use them
to identify emergent patterns and
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Graphs show a relationship of data Grids show important categories or
elements. They often tell a story that dimensions as columns and rows.
emphasizes comparison and time. They make us want to fill in the
Variations like pie charts and Venn blanks. They often tell a story of the
diagrams show relationships of parts to a completeness or incompleteness of a
whole. total landscape.
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Mind Maps 2 x 2s
Mind Maps show a free association of 2 x 2s plot similar items along two
concepts and their implications. They axes to illuminate major differences.
tell the story of what we know and They often tell a story about which
where we could go with it, and are options are more desirable, forward-
often used as a starting point for looking, appropriate, etc.
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Mandalas communicate the
implications of a strong, core idea
through several radiating layers or
dimensions. They tell a multi-level
story of an interrelated ecosystem
with a high-level themes and low-
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Presentation content imagery...
• Kate Rutter, Adaptive Path | www.intelleto.com
• Leah Buley, Adaptive Path | www.ugleah.com
• Rachel Hinman, Adaptive Path | rachelhinman.com (jots)
Things to read...
• The Mind Map Book, by Tony Buzan
• Rapid Viz, by Kurt Hanks and Larry Belliston
• The Back of the Napkin, by Dan Roam
• Rapid Problem Solving with Post-it Notes, by David Straker
• Graphic Facilitation, by David Sibbert (Grove Publishing)
• Thinking with a Pencil, by Henning Nelms
Places to go to get inspired...
• Flickr,(www.flickr.com) search for “sketchnotes”, “visual thinking,” “mind maps” and “graphic recording”
• Indexed: indexed.blogspot.com is a daily collection of humorous graphs and charts
Places to learn...
• VizThink is a community of visual practitioners. They have an online community and a wiki with
great resources. www.vizthink.com | wiki.vizthink.com
• www.visual-literacy.org has a periodic chart of visualizations that is quite inspiring.
• International Forum of Visual Practitioners is a professional association of visual folks: http://www.ifvp.org/
• David Gray’s visual thinking school: http://www.squidoo.com/communicationnation
• MIT Sketching tutorials: http://web.mit.edu/2.009/www/resources/sketchingTutorials.html
• The Grove: consulting, training, books and presentations. www.grove.com
• xPlane : consulting, training and presentations. www.xplane.com
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