Visual Practice Basics

 – Start Sketchnoting with the WIS-Technique – 

“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once she grows up.”
Pablo Picasso


Do you struggle with boring meetings, information overload and lack of creativity? Then Visual Practice might be just for you. It’s not only a power-full tool for facilitation, but a strong technique for personal development too. Visual Practice is an essential Meta-Skill that I am deeply passionate about. It helps you to:

  • Learn faster and better
  • Present and express Ideas effectively
  • Be more creative and become a systemic thinker

This article is dedicated to share my passion and insight of visual practice. This skill changed my life and I’m sure it will influence yours too. Have a look on the video for the essential insights and the WIS-Technique that I have designed. The blog post will give further details on my passion and story of visual practice. There is also a visual resource that you can download for your own practice at the end of the blog post!


Becoming a Visual Practitioner

I discovered visual practice just about 4 years ago. I was actually living together with a guy who just started his graphic facilitation business. He empowered me to try it out myself and told me that he just picked it up a few years ago as well. The fact that he just learned it motivated me to give it a shot. School killed my creativity quite effectively and I was really never big in arts or drawing. But as I started to learn visual practice I was hooked and it became one of my signature skills.

Which already brings me to the first essential insight I want to convey to you: Everybody can learn visual practice!There is no such thing as creative talent, it is just a matter of practice! Follow this blog post until the end, download the visual resource and start practicing! I promise you it will change the way you think, work and live dramatically!

So what is visual practice? There are a lot of terminologies describing the skill: Sketchnoting, Graphic Recording and Visual Facilitation are just a few of the different descriptions that I have discovered. I have chosen Visual Practice as a main category including all of the above. You can use this technique for your own learning and note-taking (Sketchnoting), to document conversations and presentations (Graphic Recording) and empower others to use visuals in a collective process (Visual Facilitation). After I discovered the skill I got sucked into the world of visual practice. It started on a personal level but ended up becoming my work and purpose. Here is what I got out of it:


Learn faster and better

The first domain I applied the skill was my personal learning and note-taking. Still in university, sketchnoting not only helped me to make sense of the information overload, it made listening to boring lectures finally fun again. Not only could I keep information more effectively, but I could literally start seeing the interrelations of concepts and topics that were hidden before. Because the beauty of images is, that they can capture ideas holistically. As you note down all of the separate concepts and ideas you also create a bigger picture expressing the overall interconnections of all the elements within the visualisation.

There is lots of science around visualisation and learning. Dual Coding Theory is one of the most common frameworks that you will stumble upon. It basically states that learning with your two brain-halves, the left-logical and the right-creative, will lead to better results. I can tell form my own experience that the images I created in class were deeply imprinted into my brain. If I want to recall a subject I just have to go into the image in my head and use it like a map to navigate me to the resource that I’m looking for. Studies on memory and especially Mnomics use similar approaches. These are also the techniques being used by memory champions that can recall crazy things like 100,000 digits of the number Pi.


Present and express Ideas effectively

Later when I started working, the boring lectures transformed into boring meetings and presentations. By then sketchnoting in information heavy situations became a habit already. Drawing in meetings allowed me to stay present and engaged in the conversation. Soon people started admiring my ability to visualise their ideas and I got invited to do it on flipcharts more and more often. That trend eventually led to my first graphic recording on a small conference organzied by a colleague and kept growing ever since. These days I’m working full-time as a graphic facilitator and still love to capture ideas visually like on the first day!

So after applying the the skill for my personal learning processes I started integrating Visual Practice into my work. My presentations and papers became increasingly visual and included little self-drawn sketches here and there. That was not only way more fun that working with text only, it also made my work more popular on social media! Likes and shares started to pure down on me for every Image I shared online. Also my presentations became impressive and opened me many doors. Eventually that habit led me to start doing the animated presentations and talks that you can see in my videos.


Become more Creative

Lastly drawing was a huge booster for my creativity and self-expression. It became a habit to draw out ideas while I was contemplating them. My shelves were filling with sketchbooks and papers that served my visual explorations. The minute you start drawing about a subject your mind switches to the creative process. Even vague ideas can be marked down in abstract images and connect to other ideas you couldn’t think of so far. Visual practice is really a superpower for your own creativity and makes you unstoppable in manifesting the things you desire.

Another side effect is that you become a Systemic Thinker. Lots of leadership trainings are trying to teach this way of thinking and being. But in my view visualising ideas and systems is one of the most effective ways of stepping into the systemic perspective. You become used to seeing things interconnected and as wholes. That’s actually another topic I am deeply passionate about. I even wrote my Master thesis about the subject and am eager to share my findings in another Blog post! But let us start with the basics of practice for now!


The WIS-Technique

Here is a short description of a really simple technique that I have designed to start skechnoting. Getting started with visualisation might be overwhelming in the beginning. Like with every other practice the first step is to learn and master the most essential building blocks of the technique. For me the fundamental parts of a good visualisation is Writing, Images and Structure – Or WIS as as short acronym to remember. Those three elements not only represent different techniques that you can learn to get started, but they also provide a step-by-step guide on the essential steps of a visualisation: You start by writing keywords down, pairing them with simple images and end by adding colour and structure to your sketchnote.. Et voilá, your done!

1. Writing: Every visual you create should start with text. That enables you to capture the most important information and to get started with something familiar. Having a clear and beautiful way of writing down the most essential words will already bring your note-taking to a whole new level. The sad truth is that most of us have forgotten how to write with pen and paper in aesthetic way. Luckily it’s not hard to regain that ability and it’s actually a lot of fun too. I recommend looking for a font that you like and just start practicing to write words with that. My Favorite has been the “Architect” Font so fat! Just writing down the single letters A, A, A, B, B, B and so on can get you started and is a really meditative practice as well!

2. Images: Secondly you should add images to your sketchnote. Viusals bring the text you have written so far to life and start creating a visual landscape that makes it really easy for you to remember the information. These Images and symbols can be quite simple. I recomment creating a litte visual library with symbols that you can quickly usw for your viusalisations. A light bulb for ideas, or maybe a lighning for problems? start googling icons for different subjects and create that library. Also the german company Bikablo has great books on simple images and icons that you can use as an inspirations. It’s really like learning new vocabulary. After you have practiced drawing them for a while those images will come out naturally!

3. Structure: Finally you can usw colours and shaped to structure your visual. It might be a bit messy only seeing words and images on your paper. luckily our brains can be easily guided by the right use of structures to navigate the image. It’s advisable to only usw 2 colors. One brighter primary colour that serves highlighting the most important information, as well as another less dominant secondary colour that cou can use to draw boxes and shade your images. Of course colours also make your image more aesthetic. Especially adding a little shadow to images and text provide a nice 3D-effect that makes them enjoyable for the eye to look at.


So whenever your lost at the beginning of a visualization think of the WIS method. Start by writing the most essential keywords in a beautiful font, add some lively images and lastly structure everything with colours. I have used this technique ever since I started visualisation and still apply it to complex live graphic recordings nowadays! Of course the technique has to be accompanied with regular practice and commitment to really master Visual Practice.


Personal Practice

As with every skill just reading about a method will not teach you anything. So start practicing and applying visuals wherever you can. Here are some next step you could take to get you started. Get material, creative you vocabulary and find occasions to practice!

1. Get Material: Get some nice pens, colors and sketchboos that really motivate you to start drawing. Any pens you like are great. II can highly recomment Neuland as they are specifially focused on visual practice and graphic recording!

2. Create your Vocabulary: Choose a font and 10 essential icons that you would like to start with. Stay simple for the beginning. Draw them down on a sheet of paper and carry them with you as a little cheatsheet!

3. Find occasions to practide: The good news about Visual Practice is, you don’t need to carve out time to practice. Just bring yout materials and cheat-sheet to work, sclass or whatever you can think of. I even scetchnoted a telephone call with my mom once! It will always help you to stary focused and allow you to enjoy even the most boring conversations while you let your hand wander over the paper!

To get you started I have attached a little practice sheet that you can download and print out for your self. It provides an essential overview of my video and some space to practice the 3 steps of the WIS Technique for yourself! So get on it and visualize your Life!

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