Tuesday, 8 September 2009


Way back, (but not too far back mind!) when I was at art college, my old lecturer used to wander the studios and corridors chanting a little phrase that has haunted me ever since. Now just to put this into perspective we were usually chasing him to see what he thought about some concept or other… “What do you think about this Jim?” - “Jim I’ve got this great idea…” - “Jim how would you improve on …” and unless he could see that we were carrying reams of scribbled on layout paper, he would more often than not turn on his heel wave us away chanting, “VISUALISE DON’T VERBALISE!”- “VISUALISE DON’T VERBALISE!”

What he wanted was to SEE our thoughts, not HEAR them. A sketch, an outline, stickmen, marks on paper - some kind of visual commitment to accompany our thoughts. “Don’t just talk about it – get it down on paper and show me” - “Draw it” - “VISUALISE DON’T VERBALISE!”

Following Jim’s lesson, my experience is that creatives that just talk about their ideas and haven’t committed them to paper haven’t formulated anywhere near a strong enough thought - and are usually just practising the rhetoric. The process that happens between brain and hand makes ideas real.

One of my most prolific writing partners always drew as he wrote. Even though he was the guardian of the written word, manic scribbles, cartoons, shapes and stick men, always accompanied his thoughts. Often he would just sit scribbling to illustrate his chat and of how he saw the problem in his head. Random but committed. And his work was better for it. Thoughts were out of his head and down for discussion.

I was reading about Leonardo and how he scribbled ALL of his thoughts down and the article read that “The explosion of creativity in the renaissance was intimately tied to the development of graphic illustration.” That is… THEY SCRIBBLED EVERYTHING DOWN! Check out Leonardos’ sketchbooks sometime – they’re not unlike a common worksheet or sketchbook today (http://www.unmuseum.org/leosketch.htm). His Ideas, scribbles, sketches, thoughts and renaissance coffee stains… they’re all down on paper…
Anyway the point here is that several hundred years later, his ideas are still being discussed and indeed used today - unlike the conversations that he had, which are long, long gone.

SO in the words of Jim Lockley my old lecturer. “VISUALISE DON’T VERBALISE” Make your thoughts visible. Words OR pictures, get them down on paper. Your work will be a lot stronger for it. Cheers Jim.

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