Visual Interfaces in the Real World

I was looking around my office at what I’ve put on my walls. I use color and alignment and shape and other visual cues to show me information at a glance. I use sticky notes and big visual posters and all kinds of other visual interfaces made from paper that give me a lot more value than a standard list on a sheet of paper. Here’s a video about that:

What’s your take? Do you use visual thinking in the real world?

People often ask me which camera I used to shoot my videos. I use the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3.

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  • http://www.resumesforgeeks.com Mark

    Good ideas. I like the post-it colors as indicators of project status. In that same vein, what’s that color-coded chart posted on the wall behind you?

    • http://chrisbrogan.com Chris Brogan

      That’s the Post-it brand something-or-other calendar. Available at staples.com . : )

  • http://www.resumesforgeeks.com Mark

    Good ideas. I like the post-it colors as indicators of project status. In that same vein, what’s that color-coded chart posted on the wall behind you?

  • http://www.resumesforgeeks.com Mark

    Good ideas. I like the post-it colors as indicators of project status. In that same vein, what’s that color-coded chart posted on the wall behind you?

  • http://www.resumesforgeeks.com Mark

    Good ideas. I like the post-it colors as indicators of project status. In that same vein, what’s that color-coded chart posted on the wall behind you?

  • http://www.resumesforgeeks.com Mark

    Good ideas. I like the post-it colors as indicators of project status. In that same vein, what’s that color-coded chart posted on the wall behind you?

  • http://blog.webconsuls.com/ Judy Helfand

    Chris,
    I think your friend at the Toy Soldier (Amesbury, MA) must be loving you right about now! Like Seinfeld with the bicycle hanging in the hallway. I think he changed brands half-way through the series.
    Visual…love visual.
    Judy

    • http://chrisbrogan.com Chris Brogan

      Oh, I do certainly consider a little product placement. : )

  • http://linkedin.com/in/joesorge Joe Sorge

    Love taking the mind mapping skill that you possess into your daily work space!

  • http://210consulting.com/ Jeremy Blanton

    I hope you don’t do like my father with his sticky notes. He writes down partial things that are great for the next 3 days to remember, but after that, it’s impossible. He will write something like Bob 352-3525… Well in 3 weeks from now who the heck is this Bob and what did he want? LOL

    • http://chrisbrogan.com Chris Brogan

      I’m a bit like that, actually.

      • http://210consulting.com/ Jeremy Blanton

        Oh no! I remember when I was young my dad was working in the kitchen and had decorated every single cabinet both inside and outside with layers of sticky notes with little blurbs on it. We’re talking layers 5-6 deep!

      • http://210consulting.com/ Jeremy Blanton

        Oh no! I remember when I was young my dad was working in the kitchen and had decorated every single cabinet both inside and outside with layers of sticky notes with little blurbs on it. We’re talking layers 5-6 deep!

  • http://reallifemadman.wordpress.com Marjorie Clayman

    Hmm. I have 1 or 2 thought-provoking thoughts to add.

    1. Your desk is way too clean. My biggest visual cue is when I can’t see my desk anymore. Being OCD that drives me nuts, so it also inspires me to get my butt in gear

    2. I am lusting for your many, many colors of post-it notes. Where do you get orange post-it notes?!? Is this another thing Ohio is robbing me of? I mean, y’all got the lime-flavored coke before we did too. Mm. Coke.

    3. My money is Monopoly money. Very colorful.

    4. An interesting idea. I have a photographic memory, so writing things down kind of imprints things on my brain. My brain doesn’t work so well with abstract visual representations of things. I’m a site map kind of girl versus an idea cloud kind of girl.

    5. I thought you were an ok guy, but your shirt got Martika’s Toy Soldiers stuck in my head. This is a travesty.

    6. Take today off. =D

    • http://chrisbrogan.com Chris Brogan

      1.) It’s “messy” by my standards in this pic. I had another laptop and that pen on it.
      2.) Staples makes their own which have more colors.
      3.) Good on ya.
      4.) Write on the notes, then you get both.
      5.) Sorry. That’s @mickgaluski’s store.
      6.) Thanks. I kind of did.

      • http://reallifemadman.wordpress.com Marjorie Clayman

        Oh right. Very disorganized. :)

        Dork…:)

  • http://www.bigbrandsystem.com/ Pamela Wilson

    Chris, I started doing this with iCal on my Mac many years ago. I color-code the tasks I have to do in any given day.

    The beauty of the system is that without drilling down to specifics, you can see the kinds of activities you’ve scheduled at a glance just based on their colors.

    It’s also really easy to see when things are getting out of whack. For example, if I have too many client appointments scheduled out of my office, I know it won’t leave me enough desk time to get design work done.

    I hadn’t thought to extend it to sticky notes. I’m a little obsessed with office supplies, so this is a great excuse to hit the local store and stock up!

  • http://jenfongspeaks.com Jennifer Fong

    Loved the video, and also the point about active vs. passive income. Gave me some things to think about. Appreciate it!

    • http://chrisbrogan.com Chris Brogan

      Thanks, Jennifer. That’s what happened to me. I opened my eyes and just got all excitable. : )

    • Paulmartin42

      Thanks. I often watch stuff with the sound off now I need to replay and hearwhat was said

  • http://twitter.com/getImants Imants Krezins

    I totally agree with you.
    People don’t think in a “list” way that is why the whole mind-mapping concept evolved.
    Some years ago I did mind-mapping on A3 paper, but soon realized it’s limitations when I wanted to rearrange or add things – switched to post-its, but it took too big space – therefore I found mind-mapping software that I constantly use to look at my skill set, manage projects, analyse business ideas and so forth.

  • http://www.thejugglingwriter.com Christopher Gronlund

    I love thinking visually.

    When I write something big, the first draft is always just a full-blown charge through the manuscript to get it done. After that, I write short scene descriptions on note cards, and then I get colored Post-It flags that I use for each character or theme and apply them to the cards.

    Then when I know my wife doesn’t need the living room for awhile, I lay the cards out in order on the floor and, just by colors, I can see if one section of the manuscript is weighed too heavily with a particular character or theme. I can move the cards around, drop new cards in, and tinker with the structure for the second draft.

    After the second draft, when I print the manuscript, I tag chapters with colored flags and lay it all out on the floor again as I do some final shifting.

    There’s no other way I could handle something as large as a novel. Without seeing it laid out on the floor by colors, I’d miss things, or be completely lost.

  • http://mydarabell.com/ Dara Bell

    Feel more inspired to comment. Having spent the week reading PR Week and planning a practise guide for PR practioners I am PR-ered out. This piece is a relief.

    Anyhow I am like this idea of post it notes. Think people could be using them like you in the way that ws not intended. Also Visual Mindmap softeware form Buzan is useful, have a number of the books. The softeware took ages to produce, I prefer the books.

    I find picking up on what Imants said that a A4 sheet with post-it notes works good. I have bunch of felt tip pens to do the underlining, highlighting that aids memory or highlights interconnection. I find that one is important (the why later) is important so if you can have some arrows that join sections that creates great flashes of insight and maintains a big picture feeling. A big picture attitude I feel might allow one to pitch the idea and have great sections of content available in a speech. The process is quite personal though and there is not a right or wrong anywhere in it!

    Dara

  • http://mydarabell.com/ Dara Bell

    Feel more inspired to comment. Having spent the week reading PR Week and planning a practise guide for PR practioners I am PR-ered out. This piece is a relief.

    Anyhow I am like this idea of post it notes. Think people could be using them like you in the way that ws not intended. Also Visual Mindmap softeware form Buzan is useful, have a number of the books. The softeware took ages to produce, I prefer the books.

    I find picking up on what Imants said that a A4 sheet with post-it notes works good. I have bunch of felt tip pens to do the underlining, highlighting that aids memory or highlights interconnection. I find that one is important (the why later) is important so if you can have some arrows that join sections that creates great flashes of insight and maintains a big picture feeling. A big picture attitude I feel might allow one to pitch the idea and have great sections of content available in a speech. The process is quite personal though and there is not a right or wrong anywhere in it!

    Dara

    • http://chrisbrogan.com Chris Brogan

      My Mindmap reference of choice is Chuck Frey (@chuckfrey on Twitter). He’s relentless. : )

  • http://twitter.com/susangiurleo susangiurleo

    How ’bout using that white board? I want a full wall of white board in my next office. I’m mad for post-it notes. I need to avert my eyes when I pass the post-it note section at Staples or I’ll buy more that I don’t need….

    • http://chrisbrogan.com Chris Brogan

      Ask @hubspot people about theirs. They have lots of it.

  • http://www.lifenotion.com Derek Jensen

    Sunni Brown is always the person that comes to my mind for visual thinking and feel its what everyone needs to do for themselves and their brands/businesses.

  • http://talkingmediasales.com Ben Shute

    Good video Chris.

    I’ve always been in the habit of using a notebook to sketch out concepts and ideas in order to get thoughts out, but recently I started working a bit more visual, to the point that at times I’ve been told that the window next to my desk looks like I’ve gone all Beautiful Mind…

    It’s good because it not only keeps things up in my face (rather than in a closed notebook) and top of mind, it actually encourages collaboration and feedback from colleagues and peers, which is invaluable when writing strategy. It also means I can move things easily without clouding the idea.

  • http://www.jjprojects.com jjprojects

    I still like using one big physical page (or board) for brainstorming, and then bringing it into digital form later to help consolidate the ideas. Works for me :)

  • http://www.jjprojects.com jjprojects

    I still like using one big physical page (or board) for brainstorming, and then bringing it into digital form later to help consolidate the ideas. Works for me :)

  • Jim Brochowski

    Oddly enough I just recently bought and blogged about a white board that I bought so I could put all my projects, the whole to-do list as it were.

    Now I’m thinking that I need to get some different color dry-erase markers so I can prioritize even more.

    What I have to be careful about is taking too much time breaking things down and then not actually getting the work done – just adding to the list.

    Sometimes I feel like I’m saying “Hey look how organized I am,” at the same time I could just as well be saying, “yeah, but I’m not getting anything done either.”

    Still, I think the colors are a good idea. Thanks for sharing the idea Chris.

  • http://www.danieldecker.net Daniel Decker

    I’m fairly visual too. Large board above my desk with colored notes, etc. Visual is so much easier to categorize.

  • http://www.sueannereed.com Sue Anne Reed

    I was trying to show something to my boss yesterday via email and running in to the same issue. A bulleted list wasn’t the best way to show something. Unfortunately, Google docs left a lot of to be desired in trying to show it as well.

  • http://ephealy.com/ Ed Healy

    I used to be a Post-it Note guy, mostly to track my TO DO list. In addition to the visual clues, I found the motivational advantage of being able to crumple up the note and toss it away when an item was complete. The tactile nature of a Post-it Note adds a small reward for getting things done. I’m sure the same is true when it comes to planning, but I’ve never used Post-in Notes for this. I’ll have to give it a try.

    I see your white board in the back ground. That’s where I do my daily planning and track my projects now. I have a feeling that I’ll be experimenting with a hybrid approach soon, meshing the white board with color coded Post-in Notes…

  • http://www.kherize5.com Suzanne Vara

    Ok I am crazy color coded. I even have different colors that I use on the white board that mean different thing (ex: a client written in red, outstanding balance). I have been color coded for years now as it is easier to assign a mental note to that color. Love seeing the others who are color coded as well. It is a system for many that not only works, it works incredibly well. Maybe it is the visual thinker that finds this a great system. IDK

    Great to see you in vid as I miss the kitchen table talks.

  • Gr1 61803

    I use colored stickies (w/ posterboards, whiteboards as substrate) as you do, and scribble – doodle the fastest, briefest word(s) or pic(s) that will ping. Tend to generate them in columns, then re-shuffle into David Allen GTD-like batches — and then put those batches into columns in priority order. Goes a lot faster than it sounds. I keep a small and large sketchbook (ditto easels) around for mind maps, though I’m starting to use Smartdraw, too (already had on hand from a few yrs back). Prefer the sketchbooks – I have a *thing* for paper(s). Two of the most successful architects I’ve ever met use stickies on the wall, too.

  • Anonymous

    I’ve recently found myself attaching stick notes on the inside of my iPad case. Mostly dial in numbers for meetings. When I’m designing web sites, even with all of the software and iPad apps I have, I still start with a black pen and (when I can get it: yellow) notebook for wireframes.
    Beyond just visual interfaces, consider other forms of user interface. My favorite is the sandwich: no tools required, custom built, template based, no professional skills required but professional models can be better, available everywhere and culture-independent.

  • http://thoughtwrestling.com/blog Mark Dykeman

    This reminds me of our recent conversation about mind mapping, Chris. You can use colored sticky notes to create a structure similar to a mind map.

  • http://thoughtwrestling.com/blog Mark Dykeman

    This reminds me of our recent conversation about mind mapping, Chris. You can use colored sticky notes to create a structure similar to a mind map.

  • http://www.facebook.com/maryeulrich Mary E. Ulrich

    Love the post-it idea. BTW: just found some BLACK post-its–I know just what to write on those suckers:)

  • http://www.facebook.com/maryeulrich Mary E. Ulrich

    Love the post-it idea. BTW: just found some BLACK post-its–I know just what to write on those suckers:)

  • http://www.rjjohnston.me RJ Johnston

    Sticky notes, to-do lists, toodledo, note pads, and white boards. For a while I was under the impression visual interfaces not of the digital kind were a crutch.. a few years later neither do I care, nor believe they are..

  • http://www.rjjohnston.me RJ Johnston

    Sticky notes, to-do lists, toodledo, note pads, and white boards. For a while I was under the impression visual interfaces not of the digital kind were a crutch.. a few years later neither do I care, nor believe they are..

  • http://www.LesleyRiley.com Lesley

    Chris – I so agree. As an artist I am wired to be visual. Things written in a notebook or on the computer are “hidden” and require extra effort and steps to access, and for me it often turns out to be ‘out of sight, out of mind.’

    So I work with colored post-its too. Unfortunately they can’t all be posted front and center and many times they become what I call, “part of the landscape” – in other words, they are there but no longer noticed. I haven’t yet got a system down to organize them into actionable steps or sequence, so thank you for sharing your tips on using Post-Its.

  • http://www.facebook.com/aprille.byam Aprille Roelle Byam

    I’ve a very visual thinker but the visuals tend to be less transitory and more ongoing themes. To do’s and lists I write on random papers stacked on my desk and yes I need a new system for that. And yes, I too love the color post it idea and may stockpile some of my own. (Wonder what your post will do to Post-It sales?)
    My whiteboard is an ideation space – currently devoted to big ideas on Storytelling. I had to mind map some stuff and didn’t want to erase it, so I’ve covered a cabinet in a sticky version of that map. When I have to shift whiteboard content, I take a pic of the old and post it nearby – tends to be really good thinking.
    My other big visual thinking space is my quote wall. I’ve covered a wall of my cube w/ stickies/ index cards of quotes from insightful blogs & books related to innovative thinking/ storytelling/ gaming/ etc. When I’m stuck I read through them for a bit – it’s my “squint & tilt your head to see what’s missing” approach.

  • Robin

    getting it out on paper, gets it out of my head! Sort of making space for other ideas. Having all my notes on big poster papers attached to my walls has helped tremendously! Great video!

  • http://mikewhite.co.uk Michael White

    When I was younger I had to learn a load of information for my A levels. For my English language revision I got an A1 piece of paper and drew a massive mindmap. I found in the exam I remember lots of the information from just having the mindmap on my wall.

  • http://twitter.com/kyleplacy Kyle Lacy

    I like write things out so I can see them forming and reference it later. I use a whiteboard and put all my lists and ideas on it. Writing is a good way to help you comprehend and remember.

  • http://illwatchanything.com Jared Parmenter

    Good thoughts Chris. Genius product idea you inspired: a USB powered (low-quality) mini projector that displays your computer-bound To-Dos (calendars, widgets, dashboards, and for me, especially the Mac “Stickies”) in a nice display along a bare wall, arranged as you like. Kind of an electronic whiteboard, for displaying visually all the stuff I keep locked in a corner of my desktop.

  • http://ajleon.me ajleon

    Love the “sticky note” idea :)

  • http://www.blackfridayplanet.com/ William Hushburn

    Haha! sticky notes are cool.