Fry Your Brain...In a Good Way

If you're looking for a diversion from YouTube favorites like karate-chopping babies and dogs with bulging eyes, and you can simply no longer stomach seeing the "Charlie pinched me" video on YouTube (first time: delightful, second and subsequent: yuck), why not use your staring-at-the-screen time for something that really will expand your mind?

Just go to Ted.com. Nearly every video on that site is truly fascinating and very well put together. Themes include technology, entertainment, business, science, culture, arts and global issues. Many are presented by names you'll recognize. I've burned hours just letting my head fill up with ideas (which, sadly, drain out of my head moments later).



The coolest video ever?

The video "Remind Me" by Royksopp contains some very fascinating infographics, held together with some clever and attractive animation. I could watch it over and over. If you check it out, though, see how well the images make the story clear. This is why I do what I do -- the stories can be just so fascinating.


Mind mapping samples

There's a comprehensive library of mind maps, concept maps, spidergrams, bubble diagrams, logic diagrams and tree diagrams at the Topicscape website. Some are quite interesting; others communicate little. The maps can be found at http://www.topicscape.com/mindmaps/.


Apologies...and optimism

For those of you who visited this site with some regularity in the past, I must apologize for being so remiss in posting messages. Although I have been very busy with Visual Congruence work, I have found little spare time to devote to this blog because of my wife's health challenges (http://pattyoc.blogspot.com.) My plan is to get back into a pattern of frequent posting. So, if you'll accept my apology, and will check back in from time to time, I'll do my best to keep things interesting.



A visual communicator's dream library

Over the past few months, I have been searching everywhere for the best books in the area of visual communication and information design. Some of the books are either out-of-print (sadly) or too expensive (have to draw the line sometimes -- $125 is not easy to swallow for a book). Libraries seem to have few books that are just right. I've seen several good lists along the way, and have been able to pick up some of the books here and there as the meager Visual Congruence budget would allow. If you have other books to suggest, please share them. If you are a publisher and would like to send a copy of a book that I can review in this blog, I'm game. These are in no particular order, and some could probably fit just as well in other categories. Enjoy...

Image & Style References
Running Press Cyclopedia
Meet Mr. Product: The Art of the Advertising Character, Warren Dotz, Masud Husain
Ultimate Visual Dictionary
Color Index, Jim Krause
Design Basics Index, Jim Krause
The Universal Phrase Book, Sterling Publishing
Future Perfect, Jim Heimann (for Taschen Icons)
The Order of Things, Barbara Ann Kipfer
Inspiration = Ideas, Petrula Vrontikas
Understanding Healthcare, Richard Saul Wurman
How To: Absolutely Everything You Need to Know Fully Illustrated, Jennifer McKnight-Trontz
Marshall Brain's How Stuff Works, Marshall Brain
Marshall Brain's More How Stuff Works, Marshall Brain
The Firefly Five Language Visual Dictionary, Corbeil & Archambault

Information Graphics
Information Graphics: A Comprehensive Illustrated Reference, Robert Harris
Digital Diagrams, Trevor Boundford
Wordless Diagrams, Nigel Holmes
Visual Thesaurus, Goveia & Hatmaker
Information Graphics: Innovative Solutions in Contemporary Design, Peter Wildbur & Michael Burke
Lingua Grafica: Major Reference Work for Image Language, Mutabor
Lingua Universalis: Global Wordless Understanding, Mutabor
Signs & Symbols (Pepin Press)

Packaging and Design Formats
How to Fold (Pepin Press)
Structual Package Designs (Pepin Press)
Mail It! (Pepin Press)

Information Design
Information Design Desk Reference, Christine Sevilla
Visual Function: An Introduction to Information Design, Paul Mijksenaar
Visual Literacy, Judith Wilde
Visual Literacy, Marcia Weaver
Information Dashboard Design, Stephen Few
Visual Intelligence: How We Create What We See, Donald Hoffman
Graphic Discovery, Howard Wainer
Universal Principles of Design, Lidwell, Holden, Butler
Geometry of Design, Kimberly Elam
Show Me the Numbers, Stephen Few

Tufte (he gets his own category)
Visual Explanations, Edward Tufte
Envisioning Information, Edward Tufte
The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, Edward Tufte

Very Cool Miscellany
Reinventing the Wheel, Jessica Helfand
Graphic Storytelling & Visual Narrative, Will Eisner
Drawing from Life: The Journal as Art, Jennifer New
You are Here: Personal Geographies & Other Maps of the Imagination, Katharine Harmon
How to Lie with Maps, Mark Monmonier
Art/Design: Communicating Visually, Gilbert Clark and Enid Zimmerman
The Leader's Guide to Storytelling, Stephen Denning
Paper Prototyping, Carolyn Snyder
DeBono's Thinking Course, Edward deBono
Signs: Lettering in the Environment, Baines & Dixon

Visualization / Mapping
Mapping Inner Space: Learning and Teaching Visual Mapping, Nancy Margulies
Rapid Problem Solving with PostIt Notes, David Straker
The Mind Map Book, Tony Buzan
MindManager for Dummies, Hugh Cameron, Roger Voight
Mind Mpas at Work, Tony Buzan
Draw! A Visual Approach to Thinking, Learning & Communicating, Hanks & Belliston
Rapid Viz, Hanks & Belliston
The Big Book of Flip Charts, Robert William Lucas
Strategy Mapping, Kaplan & Norton
Thinking Visually, Malcolm Craig

Thinking with Type: A Critical Guide, Ellen Lupton
Grid Systems: Principles of Organizing Type, Kimberly Elam


Explore your inner artist

Recently, a new friend of mine, Tom Aitken, shared with me an online art tool that I find completely compelling. It's called Mr. Picassohead, and it is both rewarding and a lot of fun. After playing with this interactive tool for a while, Patty and I decided to look around to see what other dynamic art tools might be within reach of our mouse. Here are a few -- why not try a few to see if they inspire creative ideas? If you have any suggestions of your own, let us know and we'll expand the list.


Walking your way out of a creative rut

Each of us has our times and situations where we do our best creative thinking. Some come up with epiphanies while sleeping (and usually forget them before the ideas can be put to use.) Some think best while meditating, or while taking a bath. Some even enjoy moments of insight while engaged in activities that are, um, biological (see our earlier entry on bathroom doodles). For me, an escape from my traditional work environment starts my mind working. Often, I will take a digital camera with me while I walk, and take pictures of anything and everything that catches my eye. At the time I take the shots, I try not to think too much about why that image appeals -- I just snap away. Over the course of a one-hour walk, I may take as many as 100 pictures. I call this exercise a "pattern walk", so named because I spend the whole time looking for interesting patterns, textures, colors and such. The images shown here are from a recent stroll.

When I return from my walk, I settle at a computer, load and crop the photos, and arrange them in a way that is pleasing to me. I make my environment free of distractions, and try to open my mind. Then I look closely at each image and consider what it could represent, in a metaphorical, iconic or symbolic sense. Road signs can be equated with directions to follow. I ask myself, "What other roles could this item play?" Even if I cannot come up with a complete concept at that time, I'll throw notes down and come back to them later.

With the pictures above, here are just a few of the very unstructured thoughts that emerged:

Cross traffic sign -- We may be heading in one direction and stalled for a period of time. This does not mean, though, that all action stops. Could we harness the potential and/or energy from other activities and other directions? Are we ready for a change of direction?

Garbage bin -- A garbage can with holes throughout could suggest that an idea we had abandoned could later be reexamined and perhaps "picked" so that we can use it again, perhaps at a better time. Are there ideas that didn't work before that might be more applicable today?

Siren -- Are there logical ways to "broadcast" key messages so that a broader audience can hear the messages more clearly? Are our messages "loud" enough?

Interlocking bricks -- Interlocking elements lend strength to the whole, particularly if an effort is made to make sure the right pieces are positioned together. Are we looking at our strategy in a holistic sense? Are we using one element to strengthen others?

Some of these items may ultimately find their way into one of my maps. Some may never become anything at all. The exercise, though, keeps the eyes exploring and the mind working. Take a look at the pictures. What thoughts come to mind for you?

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