Category Archives: VizThink

The fox and the hummingbird: new thinking from Dan Roam

There’s no VizThink conference this year, but a lot of the visual thinking crowd is at SxSW in Austin, Texas, right now, and I’ve been “virtually there” by following their tweets (status updates) on Twitter. Dan Roam spoke there today, and some of the comments about his talk, “Blah Blah Blah: Why Words Won’t Work” were:

  • One of the smartest guys I’ve heard speak.
  • This is probably the best presentation I’ve ever seen. Ever.
  • Hands down best preso I’ve attended so far.
  • He could be the smartest guy on the planet.
Interesting that a great speaker and presenter used a lot of visuals and was perceived to be very smart! Could it be that he’s onto something?
A lot of tweets repeated concepts that were familiar to me from his two excellent books, The Back of the Napkin and Unfolding the Napkin, but I was intrigued by some new ideas.
More and more people are familiar with the concept of left brain and right brain, and their different strengths. He’s got an updated version of that concept for distinguishing between our verbal mind and our visual mind. He likens the verbal mind to a fox – clever, linear, analyzing – and the visual mind to a hummingbird – spatial, spontaneous, and synthesizing.
I don’t know much about foxes or hummingbirds, but it will be interesting to see how he uses and develops this idea. Here’s a short YouTube video of each:

Another new mnemonic he introduced was “ViVID” thinking: Visual-Verbal Inter-Dependent thinking. Despite the title of his talk, Why Words Won’t Work, he’s not against words; he thinks we need to use both words and pictures in order to thoroughly explore and share ideas. “ViVID” encapsulates that idea brilliantly. There was even a suggestion that he’s working on a new book, to be titled Vivid Thinking.
Check out the original tweets by searching Twitter for the hashtag #whywordswontwork .
Dan is a great voice for visual thinking, and, thanks in large part to him, the business world and wider public are starting to wake up to its value. I’ll be watching Dan’s blog, and any other public appearances, for more.

More on VizThink ’09

There are a few things I forgot to include in my earlier post about VizThink ’09.

Dave Gray has a great post, detailing why he thinks you need to go. He says VizThink is different than other conferences, because VizThink is about:

  • Differences
  • Innovation
  • Design
  • New Voices

Read his post for the details.
If you’re planning to go, look for the registration discount code at the end of his post to save money on your registration!

You might want more information before you decide. Just look at the session descriptions, and facilitator bios, and you’re sure to be intrigued.

VizThink ’09

My husband and I collaborated on a T-shirt design this week, inspired by our plans to attend the VizThink conference later this month. We wanted to show an aspect of why visual thinking is valuable, and exciting to us. We’ll be wearing our long-sleeve Ts at VizThink, and they’re available on CafePress at

The VizThink conference starts in just two weeks, on Feb. 22. It’s two-and-a-half days with some of the world’s leading practitioners of visual thinking and visual communication. Last year’s facilitators included two people – Nancy Duarte and Cliff Atkinson – who, through their work and recently published books, are changing the experience of millions of people who spend much of their time in meetings, by teaching new ways to conceive and design presentations. Dan Roam, another facilitator, shared concepts from his (at the time) soon-to-be-published book, The Back of the Napkin. This book was named one of the top 5 business books of 2008 by Amazon and several business publications. Many of last year’s greats will be returning, and there will be new people with new ideas. It’s sure to be very stimulating for anyone interested in effective visual communication, an increasingly important business skill. (Click on the VizThink08 label to see my posts on last year’s event.)

Exciting conference!

I am really excited about the VizThink conference coming up in January in San Francisco. Several of my visual thinking heroes will be there as invited “facilitators” (they’re not “presenting”!), and I suspect I’ll find some new heroes among the other facilitators.

Here are just a few of the facilitators:
Robert Horn, author of Visual Language: Global Communication for the 21st Century
Dave Gray, founder of Xplane
David Sibbet, founder of Grove Consultants
Nigel Holmes, former graphics director of Time magazine
Scott McCloud, author of Understanding Comics

This conference is sure to be visually and intellectually stimulating! Early registration discounts end October 24. For more detail, see the VizThink conference website.