Updated: Apr 11, 2022
March 29, 2022
While drawing is primarily conceived of as an active, deliberate process useful in visual communication, there is also a more passive and reflective type of drawing that is particularly valuable in the business and educational environments and that is “doodling”. As a society, we have put the act of doodling into the bucket of a “waste of time” or a relaxing activity at best. Teachers tend to discourage students from randomly doodling in the classroom, and it’s rare to see someone doodling in a business meeting.
But doodling is actually a valuable form of visual processing. Some very notable people in our history—including, but not limited to, Einstein, Thomas Edison, Winston Churchill, Ernest Hemingway and Queen Victoria—were all doodlers. Sunni Brown, the self-proclaimed leader of the “Doodle Revolution,” argued that doodling is deep thinking in disguise. Along similar lines, Brown (2014) defined doodling as the process of making “spontaneous marks to help yourself think” (p.11). Doodling transfers an individual into a state of flow, heightened focus, and awareness—all of which are factors that contribute to creativity. By freeing the mind, allowing it to wander, play, imagine, and daydream, doodling resembles stream-of-consciousness writing.
Sunni Brown (2014) prefers to use the word doodle rather than draw with business people. She argues that the word draw is loaded with the idea of having to create a perfect work of art. By contrast, infodoodle, a term popularized by Brown, refers to a visual language technique that uses doodles to communicate information. It has been recognized as a simple, accessible and effective tool for learning, innovating, and solving even the “stickiest” problems. As argued by Brown (2014), there is value in teaching adults to sketch and draw for the same reason that people learn to write in another language. Being fluent in visual language, like any other language, gives us the ability to communicate in ways we would not normally be able to.
The Visual Toolkit for Teaching and Learning Business (available as a free download on this website), includes doodling exercises that can be strategically applied during business meetings and classroom activities to unleash creativity and encourage visual communication.
Unlike intentional drawing, doodling is more suited to accompany a mindful practice and has the ability to bring you into present moment awareness.. Doodling can be useful in learning as it frees the mind from intrusive thoughts so it can absorb new information more easily.
The main purpose of drawing exercises in the Visual Toolkit is to harness drawing across the full spectrum of learning experiences, ranging from reflection, note-taking and insight generation to group brainstorming. Each exercise develops skills and abilities that support optimal creativity: fluency (increases idea production), flexibility (develops new ways of seeing), originality (allows for unexpected sources of inspiration), elaboration (offers opportunity to embellish, refine, and improve on original doodle).
Download the Doodle Workshop