What do the Table of Elements, the first IBM computer, and the novel Lolita have in common? Before they were icons of human achievement, they were card decks.
What gives card decks this unique power to create new meaning in the world? The basis of visual thinking is the analysis (i.e. disaggregation) of a complex idea into “nodes”, followed by the synthesis (i.e. reintegration) of those “nodes” through “links” into a new meaningful whole. At the most basic level, cards are “nodes” in search of “links”. Card decks as a problem-solving tool are powerful because we often know the parts of a problem or solution, but we don’t yet know how they fit together in an insightful way.
Visual Thinking Tip: When looking for a pattern or structure to bring meaning to complex information, break information into movable nodes and seek multiple possible configurations until the relationships within the system comes into focus.
Visual Thinking Tip: “Code” your individual cards in as many ways as possible, using symbols and colors to categorize information. Structure may later emerge from this metadata.
Visual Thinking Tip: Save your thoughts in fragments – a memorable quote, a midnight brainstorm, a crucial statistic, a sketch – to maintain a pool of content that can be assembled or reassembled for multiple possible uses. Communicating your ideas to audiences that vary in their perspectives and needs is much easier when you can rapidly pull the most relevant content or storytelling approach for each audience.