What is Visual Strategy? A Quick Guide to Why You Need a Visual Strategist

What is a Visual Strategist?

A Visual Strategist is more than just a graphic designer, illustrator, or graphic recorder. Visual Strategy is a strategic approach to working visually to improve communications, increase creativity, and unlock better thinking. ImageThink has developed a proven methodology that incorporates design thinking principles, gestalt theory, and graphic facilitation practices to help teams of all sizes work better and turn big ideas into measurable action. By engaging in visual strategy practices, organizations boost creativity and collaboration, increase engagement, and accelerate planning and execution. The best part is, you don’t need to be an artist to begin strategizing visually today; with a few simple tools and exercises, anyone can be a visual strategist.

What is a Visual Strategist?

Benefits of Practicing Visual Strategy

Science shows that 60% of individuals are visual learners, and that the human brain is wired to understand visuals more quickly than words alone. It’s why we are able to drive cars at 80 MPH, why we can all draw the McDonald’s logo from memory, and why we see faces in inanimate objects.

Drawing and viewing pictures engages more areas of the brain and helps us communicate complex ideas more clearly and quickly. What’s more, strategic visuals help to create visual mnemonics that associate key ideas in more areas of the brain, making things more memorable.

During a brainstorm or strategy session, strategic visuals encourage participants to make otherwise unseen connections between ideas. This promotes creative thinking, collaboration and across-the-board engagement since everyone can see the big picture.

Benefits of Practicing Visual Strategy

Founded as a graphic recording agency, ImageThink has been elevating and expanding the use of visual strategy for our clients for over a decade. From agenda design to facilitation; from concept illustration to explainer animation, we help our clients to think and work visually. The culmination of these years of experience is The ImageThink Method™.

The ImageThink Method™ of Visual Strategy

Uniquely developed to help lead organizational transformations, from culture shifts to strategic plans to launching a new brand, this proprietary framework applies visual theory, graphic facilitation, and design thinking in strategic ways to move major initiatives forward.

The ImageThink Method™ divides every project into six clearly defined phases, each of which can be approached visually. Cyclical by nature, this methodology ensures that ideas are captured and carried forward throughout a project, for maximum impact. The resulting visual record ensures nothing is left behind.

The end result isn’t just a successful project, but a more engaging, collaborative, and creative process.

What Form Do Strategic Visuals Take?

At ImageThink, our entire process is visual, from planning to delivery, and even in closing out a client engagement. During the planning stages of a project, our strategic visuals usually take the form of a whiteboarding session, post-its, and a series of visual exercises, captured live with graphic recording.

ImageThink strategic visuals can be created with clients in-person on site, online, or in hybrid environments. The resulting visuals can be large physical boards, or scalable digital images that can be further manipulated and repurposed. A strong visual strategy will include working visually in real time, as well as longer term, more planned visual communications.

For clients working through later phases of The ImageThink Method™, strategic visuals take a more narrative form. Often these are more refined, more fully illustrated, and in some cases animated. The goal here is communication: either of a fully formed plan, or to aid with the internal or external marketing of an idea or initiative.

What form do strategic visuals take?

Visual Strategist Training and Qualifications

As of now, there’s no school or institution that offers a “Visual Strategist” track. No accredited technical schools or programs. That’s because we’ve sort of invented a new term. As ImageThink developed its services and delivery to go far beyond the standard offerings of graphic recorders or graphic facilitators, we felt the need to adjust our titles accordingly.

The result is something that better communicates and describes what we do, though that comes with the challenge of being unique in our field. Clients have always had little formal guidance hiring a graphic recorder, and the same is true visual strategists. We truly are unique.

Here is what we can tell you. Each Visual Strategist at ImageThink has completed hundreds of hours of immersive training in order to build the skills necessary to assist clients approach their project visually, find the right visual language, and synthesize and visualize their message.

ImageThink Visual Strategists are taught color theory, typographical hierarchy, listening and synthesis skills, visual balance and template design. They practice using real world example sessions and learn hundreds of visual mnemonic devices and icons that you see throughout our boards. And that’s all before going into the field, where our Visual Strategists work with global Fortune 50 companies in the tech, finance, pharma, healthcare, automotive industries, and so many more. When partnering with ImageThink, you can trust there is no one better positioned to help develop your visual strategy.

Visual Strategist Training and Qualifications

6 Visual Strategies for Improving Your Communication, Innovation, and Collaboration

  1. Work interactively. Whether in-person, virtual, or in a hybrid environment, create spaces and provide tools for everyone to show their ideas, rather than just telling them.
  2. Don’t underestimate simple shapes! Boxes, arrows, circles and stick figures can all serve to get you and your team thinking and working more visually.
  3. Look for every opportunity to convey a message or idea visually. From a doodle on the back of a napkin, to a chart dropped into the body of an email, to adding a few evocative images to a memo, not only will the message stand out, it will stand for a long time in readers’ memories.
  4. Remember the fourth rule of brainstorming: encourage everyone to review and combine ideas. By massaging, reshaping, and re-contextualizing existing ideas, something new will often emerge; and patterns are easier to see in pictures.
  5. Consistency is key. Visual strategy builds on itself as people become accustomed to the language of visuals. Certain symbols and images will gain meaning over time, and teams will develop a shorthand for communicating complex ideas.
  6. Know one’s limits. Everyone can work visually, but not everyone is a visual strategist. For the biggest projects, look into hiring a professional. A company like ImageThink can help clients design a proper agenda, facilitate a productive and collaborative session, and create polished, professional visuals that will serve for the duration of the project.

Ready to Implement a Visual Strategy?

Now that you know what we mean when we say visual strategy, do you want to unlock your team’s full potential? Contact ImageThink now to get visual!

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