What is strategic visualization?

What is a strategic visual?

A strategic visual is any visual product made iteratively in a studio. Like graphic recording, strategic visualization depicts key information or messages through use of words, imagery, and metaphor. They differ, however, in their development. Visual strategists create strategic visuals offsite through a process of distillation, consultation, and multiple rounds of feedback and iteration.

Strategic visuals turn complex messages into text and imagery.

Strategic visuals can encompass anything from an infographic to a timelapse, or animated explainer video. These items can contain complex messages, strategic plans or initiatives, valuable data or metrics, company histories, or promotional messaging for products, services, or individuals.

The benefits of strategic visualization

Visualizing any idea, project, or journey can produce enormous benefits for both the client and their audience. Those benefits include:

1. Control

Compared with ImageThink’s graphic recording, strategic visualization offers greater control over the final output. Clients dictate the project’s direction, content, and changes throughout the Creative Process. What you envision is what we create!

2. Clarity

Visualization turns even the most complex ideas, plans, or research into immediately clear, digestible messaging. Strategic visualization synthesizes content into key ideas and translates them into imagery and words. This form of communication allows end users to understand content and messaging in greater depth.

3. Engagement

Strategic visuals structure information in a way that is engaging and captivating. Reading a text-only form of content can cause an audience’s attention to drift. On the other hand, unique metaphors and text can draw the viewer in and keep them engaged.

Unlike text-only forms of content, strategic visuals use imagery to engage viewers.

4. Alignment

Visualization sets expectations, builds belief in a larger cause, and creates team alignment. With an asset to define roles and processes, it’s simple for individuals to see the path and end goal. A strategic visual can serve as a reminder, reinforcer, and guide for individuals, teams, and organizations.


Visualizing an organization, individual, event, or product or service offering can add an extra boost necessary for successful promotion. In a fun and unique format, there’s no mistaking who you are, what you do, or what you offer. As an added bonus, strategic visuals integrate seamlessly on social channels and websites, maximizing visibility and reach.

How is a strategic visual made?

Strategic visualization is dependent on collaborative efforts between you and ImageThink. The images typically take between four to six weeks to develop.

Following an initial Scanning Call with an ImageThink Sales Rep, the process begins with a Planning Call. On this call with ImageThink and Client stakeholders, we uncover storyline and context, key ideas, and objectives.

ImageThink's strategic visualization process journey map.

From there, the Creative Process continues, and ImageThink visual strategists start developing a Concept Sketch. The Concept Sketch appears as a black-and-white outline of ideas, created to align on format. Once completed, the Concept Sketch is shared with the client who reviews and provides feedback. This bi-directional collaboration between us and the client occurs throughout the Creative Process, at every iteration produced.

Following client feedback of the Concept Sketch, the strategic visual advances through two more rounds of iteration. Within these rounds, we implement additional client feedback, add color, and refine details.

Common depictions

To put it shortly, a strategic visual can depict anything. Throughout our years of delivering this service for clients, they’ve approached us to:

  • Outline strategic plans or initiatives to share internally, with other stakeholders, or to share to a global audience
  • Amplify a mission, vision, or goal
  • Make sense of complex data sets or research
  • Document a process, team structure, or role
  • Map the history of an organization, team, or individual
  • Illustrate product or service features
  • Promote a speaker or panel of speakers

When it comes to visualization, the possibilities are nearly endless.

When and why you need a strategic visual

Strategic visuals can capture a number of different items. As such, they can be incredibly helpful in a number of different circumstances.

1. Sharing a mission or vision

Businesses thrive when everyone is united, working toward a common goal, vision, or mission. ImageThink articulates these elements with empathy and narrative to create understanding. As a result, they are understood, embraced, and championed by all.

2. Rolling out a new strategy or initiative

Leaders of teams big and small understand that central to strategic success is alignment and execution. Representation of plans and initiatives make them distinct, and easier to act on. More importantly, when it’s down on communally available paper, it won’t move to the back burner.

3. Changing a process

Adaptability is key in the ever-evolving business environment. Changes to processes can be daunting. Our strategic visuals simplify these complex transitions, enabling teams to grasp new processes quickly. This visual clarity results in less resistance, quicker adaptation, and efficient execution.

4. Establishing empathy

In the life science space, empathy toward patients is essential. Technical work and research can often cause organizations to lose sight of the patient. ImageThink helps reinsert patient narrative while framing processes and research by impact.

Strategic visuals reinsert the patient narrative, which helps establish empathy.

5. Explaining or selling a product or service

When marketing a new treatment, or selling a complex software solution, a strong asset can communicate its value. Strategic visuals anchor the right balance of information and compelling imagery to shape a story. These materials enable Sales and Marketing teams to speak their offerings in a customer-centric way.

It’s worth noting, this list is not exhaustive. Our clients have trusted us to visualize career journeys, resumes, research methodologies, and even depict personal stories.

Case in point: American Red Cross

The Disaster Cycle Services team at American Red Cross hosted a meeting to align on the team’s 5-year vision. At the meeting, several ideas arose, in addition to a challenge. How would the team articulate their vision to their global team and audience? Here’s where ImageThink’s strategic visualization came into play.

Following ImageThink’s Planning Call with American Red Cross, ImageThink developed and shared a Concept Sketch. Receiving ImageThink’s Concept Sketch led to a halt – the team realized that their vision wasn’t immediately clear. Working visually can be revealing, as it was for American Red Cross. With additional time, the Disaster Cycle Services team recognized where their message lacked clarity. They returned with five concrete items they wanted ImageThink to depict in the visual.

ImageThink strategic visual created for American Red Cross.

In a collaborative effort, ImageThink refined the details of their vision. Color and empathetic depictions of their work brought their impact to life. American Red Cross was so impressed with the final visual, they were eager to adopt their vision at a global scale. To maximize impact and guide implementation, the image was translated in about a dozen different languages.

Take insight to action

Have a project you’d like to visualize? Get in touch with us today to have ImageThink bring what you envision to life.

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