Visual Thinker - head opt2
Self Deconstruction


I fired my sales guy years ago.

He was beyond useless. Every time he got up to speak - to sell - it was all ummms and errrrs - uncomfortable in his own skin. Hardly believable. Luckily, a storyteller I knew stepped into the breach. It sorta worked, but not every time - but at least the guy was believable. Sometimes an engineer tags along just to provide a bit of well this is the process and this is how it all works… Process. Yes, process. That guy LOVES process...


Let me explain. You see, I felt annoyed at a project I was in the middle of. I was tumbling it over in the back of my head, trying not to read into it what wasn’t actually there, and then I had a sudden moment of clarity.

What part of me felt annoyed? The Engineer part! The stop-start process had taken a lot longer than usual, and so the project had struggled for momentum. Engineering is my background. A lifetime ago, I even got a degree in it. It’s the puzzle-loving problem-solver in me. The Engineer also wants to get things done. Get the whiteboard. Make a list. It’s a crazy plan, but it just might work…
Gaffer Tape and Toilet Roll


And as soon as I recognised the engineer in me, other personas started to appear out of the fog. Who do we have here? - the Artist! He couldn’t care less about such nerdy things. He just wants to experiment, tickled by inspiration and curiosity, he wants to go in as many different directions as possible, until suddenly the energy is all used up and the creative endeavour is abandoned. Highs, lows and some grumpiness in between. Why must they torture me?
A picture paints a thousand words


Next to step forward and warmly say hello was the Therapist. This might seem like a strange one - but every Visual Thinkery project relies on a conversational session where I get to play the curious idiot. I try to facilitate an open conversation so that we can explore non-obvious ideas. Quite often my clients leave the session uplifted, having told their stories and thoughts out loud - all to an interested third party. It’s become a key part of my creative process. The therapist is hoping to open things up and discover insight and wonder at it. It’s personal. It’s emotional. It has to mean something.
The Therapist
Like most people, stories have always brought me alive, and I love telling them. Cartoons are of course just graphic stories, and like in many a tale, humour is usually the weapon of choice.

And as I explored (with the therapist’s and artist’s help of course), other smaller personas came into view. The Mentor and the Leader are roles I’ve leaned heavily on in previous lives - but I don’t get to see them that often these days. Before the summer, however, I had a would-be-illustrator student spend a week’s work experience at Visual Thinkery. We worked on a real client brief together, as the engineer was keen for her to experience the process. As each day passed, she collected more bits and pieces for the Zine she was making - a little creative challenge the artist set her at the start of the week. But more than anything else I marvelled at the different energy that appeared just in having someone around to encourage and mentor for a week. As our time came to an end, the student told me she got a whole lot from the week. But I think I benefitted far more. I will have to do more of that, I say to myself. Five minutes later another project lands at my feet and the Engineer is getting the whiteboard pens out again…

I start to think about another ongoing issue my business has had. Social Media. I fell out of love with Social Media a long time ago, even though I have some sort of a profile on a few different platforms. I’ve tried to rope in my kids to help me post some stuff on a more regular basis - as I feel that if I don’t toss the odd morsel in there every now and again, the world will forget I exist. Or something. It always seems to pull - but rarely gives…

But maybe these are the feelings of the artist. If I threw this task to the storyteller, would a different energy emerge? I resolve to give this a try, not really knowing what that would mean.

I wonder if I’ve been guilty of pigeon-holing myself. Now don’t get me wrong - I don’t have anything against pigeons or their holes, but as I’ve just realised - I myself am a multi-headed beast. Which could shed light on why I have such trouble describing myself and what I do to other people.
Solved, beautiful, meaningful
So I’ll just tell a story instead.

I salute you visual thinkers!




I created a whole barrel-load of thinkery for ALT's 30 year celebration, including the undead VLE:
Here lies the VLE - ALT
I worked with Open University's Access Team to reflect on 10 years of existence. This is from a conversation about different barriers to access.
Barriers to Learning - OU
I made some new artwork for Reclaim Hosting. They have an exiting new product coming soon perfect for people with Wordpress sites (like me!)
Reclaim Press - Warhol discs
I had two days of live documentary cartooning in Gloucestershire - absorbing the thoughts of 30 folk. Here is the output from a session gathering aligned values and behaviours of the group. I wrote a blog post about live visual capture and the different forms it can take.
Aligned Values and Behaviours
Is everyone having an anniversary? Here is a celebratory 10th year illustration for the GO-GN network.
GOGN 10 year meetup
Oh, and I wrote a post about T-shirts, Stickers, Ulster History and a very old logo:
This here thing
I've even been experimenting with using cartooning to improve my Gaeilge learning. To be honest - I need all the help I can get...
two sides to the story
bryan in the canon


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