Visual thinking is a strategic tool that can make a major contribution to the personal branding success of anyone who has to plan ahead, make decisions, or convince others.

Visual thinking involves more than simply choosing colors and typefaces that project the right image; visual thinking is also a collaboration tool that helps individuals and teams build their brands by working more efficiently together.

Visual thinking can make a positive contribution to every task involved in building and promoting a strong personal brand.

Background and forms of visual thinking

Three streams come together, creating today’s river of interest in visual thinking:

  • Information graphics. The most common forms of visual thinking include lists, charts, and graphs, although–as the USAToday Snapshots that appear every weekday prove, just about any statistic can be converted into an arresting graphic. Information graphics go far beyond charts and graphs, of course, as a glance at this gallery of information graphics gallery of information graphics shows.
  • Presentation software. Programs like Microsoft PowerPoint and Apple Keynote have been informing (and, unfortunately, often boring) audiences for decades. Presentation software includes built-in tools for creating information graphics and placing them on individual slides for projection or online viewing.
  • Mind mapping. Mind mapping, invented and popularized by Tony Buzan over the past 40 years, and turned into software by firms like Mindjet and Personal Brain, allow users to brainstorm new ideas using both sides of the brain. The resources and steps needed to solve a problem or achieve an objective are arranged around a central idea, goal, or objective. Users can “drill down” to view the details and links associated with the topics arranged around the map center.

Visual thinking & personal branding

The biggest advantage visual thinking offers those interested in building and promoting their visual brand is the ability to simplify.

Often, details get the way of an individual’s, or a group’s, ability to understand the “big picture.” Visual thinking allows you to create a framework that illustrates basic ideas and principles, reducing clutter and making details available only when necessary.

Daniel Roam’s best-selling book, The Back of the Napkin: Solving Problems and Selling Ideas with Pictures, and it’s follow-up, Unfolding the Napkin: The Hands-on Method for Solving Complex Problems with Simple Pictures, expanded the concept of visual thinking by popularizing legitimized informal, hastily-drawn graphics that simplified sharing and solving complex ideas.

Today, it’s easier than ever for even the most design-challenged individual to use visual thinking and hastily-drawn graphics to plan and implement their personal branding programs. Here are just a few of the ways visual thinking can help you:

  1. Find a position. Visual thinking can help you take a fresh look at your abilities and resources, locating a unique position relative to others competing for attention in your field.
  2. Analyze your competition. Writing and publishing are core tools used to build personal brands. Visual thinking makes it easy to identify and analyze existing articles, blogs, permitting you to compare their strengths and weaknesses at a glance.
  3. Solve problems. Visual thinking makes it easy to display problems and solutions in the form of journeys. Books, products, or services can be displayed as journeys beginning with the current situation, moving through the steps needed to solve a problem or achieve a goal, and ending with a summary of benefits (or call to action).
  4. Prepare a marketing plan and website. Visual thinking tools can contribute to better websites by helping you look at the big picture, and identifying the goals and objectives desired for each page.
  5. Create a marketing plan or editorial calendar. An editorial calendar can take the work out of creating a consistent blogging, newsletter, or Twitter marketing plan. By taking the time to identify what you want to write about, when you want your prospects to encounter your message, and when you need to start working on each project, visual thinking can keep your content creation on target.
  6. Share information online. New, relatively inexpensive online tools, like Prezi, make it easy for individuals to create interactive visuals that not only can be accessed online, but can also be quickly and easily embedded into blogs and websites.
  7. Collaborate online. Tools like Prezi allow viewers to add comments and, actually edit the graphics.

Tips for getting started

One of the best ways you can explore how you can put visual thinking to work building your brand is to read Stephanie Diamond’s recently-published Prezi for Dummies. Stephanie has done an outstanding job of relating Prezi—the newest visual thinking tool to appear—with the essentials of effective communications and visual thinking.

Prezi for Dummies does does more than simply describe how to use Prezi, creating zoomable planning and presentation graphics  that you can add to your blog or website. You can get started with Prezi for free, and instantly embed your visuals in your website or add them to your blog posts or e-mails. Are you using visual thinking to build your brand? What do you think? Is it for you?


Roger C. Parker blogs weekdays and helps business professionals write books that build personal brands. His latest book is #BOOK TITLE Tweet: 140 Bite-Sized Ideas for Compelling Article, Book, & Event Titles.