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4 Ways to Make your Brain More Vibrant with Visuals

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4 Ways to Make your Brain More Vibrant with Visuals

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4 ways to maximize your brain power with simple visual exercises. Get the highlights of ImageThink Co-founder and principal, Nora Herting talk at this year's SXSW Interactive festival.

4 ways to maximize your brain power with simple visual exercises. Get the highlights of ImageThink Co-founder and principal, Nora Herting talk at this year's SXSW Interactive festival.

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Editor's Notes


  • I know this works, I have been translating conversations and meetings into visuals for years, but why is it so effective? When information, perception, creativity and communication are involved, you can guess the answer lies in the brain. I am a visual information expert, so I turned to Dr Megan Herting , a neuroscientist that also happens to be my sister.

    With her help, I identified four ways being visual can increase your brain power.
  • Who has trouble remembering things? If you find yourself doodling in meetings, be proud you are in good company.
  • You might have noticed that we have passed out notebooks, do you have them? I am hoping you are all scribbling along in them right now, because if you are, you will remember more of what I say.

    experiment with those who doodle while talking on the phone vs did not… 29 % better memory! Just think, 1/3rd more.


    It doesn’t have to be pretty to work! Its about activating the brain.
  • We know that visual aides and sketching helps promote creative thinking and get to ideas faster, but why?

  • It depends on a complex system of higher level cognitive functions. When someone draws, or even thinks about a drawing, a number of brain regions are activated including the pre-frontal cortex. which is important for integrating information for problem solving and making decisions. This suggests a strong potential for cross-cognitive transfer in learning and creativity.
  • It depends on a complex system of higher level cognitive functions. When someone draws, or even thinks about a drawing, a number of brain regions are activated including the pre-frontal cortex. which is important for integrating information for problem solving and making decisions. This suggests a strong potential for cross-cognitive transfer in learning and creativity.
  • It depends on a complex system of higher level cognitive functions. When someone draws, or even thinks about a drawing, a number of brain regions are activated including the pre-frontal cortex. which is important for integrating information for problem solving and making decisions. This suggests a strong potential for cross-cognitive transfer in learning and creativity.
  • One simple way to use visuals in idea generation is the mindmap. This allows for free association, creating connections between various concepts, and a way to organize them, and ultimately better, more complex ideas.
  • So now you can remember more and have better ideas, but what about organizing and prioritizing them? Mapping out complex structures like a project timeline or organizational process can quickly convey synergies, overlap and gaps in a system.
  • It isn’t complicated.

    This is the most basic. The X shows us some sort of quantity and the Y implies time. Every business wants to see this, the definition of progress.
  • This is an example of a progress tracker inspired by Scott Belsky and his book Making Ideas Happen

    One axis represents priority or interest in the project, the other represents duration, or meatiness of executing. The colored post its are color? coded by employee. To be fair this example shows Imagethink teams feelings about bucket list items.

    Being able to collectively see all the tasks with in the organization helps people see the big picture. Not only an individuals work load, but other streams across the project, as well. Because it is large, it is easier to work as a team.
  • Why is this effective? Because 90% of information that comes to the brain is visual.

  • Once visual information is detected by the eyes, it travels through the ‘sensory input’ center of the brain known as the thalamus, and then onto the visual cortices (occipital lobes, in the back of the brain.
  • and then onto the visual cortices (occipital lobes, in the back of the brain.
  • However, utilization and integration of visual information does not stop there. From the visual cortex, it can be processing by a ‘ventral stream’ or the “what” pathway which allows for object recognition and long term memory storage in the temporal lobes (behind your ears).
  • It also is processed by the ‘dorsal stream’ or the “where/how” pathway, which ultimately ends up in the parietal lobes to take into account the location of objects, and motion.
  • Lastly, the prefrontal cortex receives this processed visual information and may integrate it into making decisions and solving problems. Again, cross cognative transfer is happening.

    Now that we used our brains to understand our brains, do we all feel smarter????
  • We talked about memory, complex ideas and being organize, now let’s talk about emotions.

  • When ImageThink gives workshops participants are most hesitant to try and draw people. Because of perdolia, it is the best place to start.

    A lack of skill for detail and accuracy is to your advantage.
  • What is the simplest way to softened a message to a coworker to divert disaster at work , or spare yourself a fight with your honey?

    Why does this work? Maybe this woman can tell us…
  • This is so common there is a name for it. It is called Pedolia-
    Which is a very impressive word for the prolaclivity of the human brain to see faces in, well, anything.
  • So in summary, pick up a pen, draw a smiley face, doodle, or map out your projects visually. You will remember more, see information more clearly, have more brilliant ideas, and be able to depict them with more impact.

    If you are interested in what we do, we will be graphic recording all the featured speakers in Exhibit Hall 5, ballroom D & C, just as heather has done here. Or come say hi to us and check out the gallery of talks by ballroom x.
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