Thinking in Images


Most people think in words. When asked to imagine a traffic accident they come up with not very detailed descriptions, in comparison with people who are thinking in pictures. It became even worse if the words are becoming more and more abstract. Words as society, market, law, inflation etc. stay for them just words; they are unable to convert the words into images. Picture thinkers don’t have to translate, they think in pictures.


As school systems are mainly auditory-sequential oriented, it is not surprising that mainly visual-spatial thinkers will have problems at school. Usually, they encounter learning difficulties. But not only at school. Most picture thinkers don’t fit well in traditional companies and institutions. They do things in other ways than expected or “normal”, due to “weaknesses” in thinking.


Picture thinkers are also called right-brainers, as some popularisations oversimplify the science about lateralization, by presenting the functional differences between hemispheres as being more absolute than is actually the case.


We have also committed to this theoretical sloppiness with left/right brain generalisations, although, a handy mini theory to generate creative ideas as we have demonstrated in Blocking the Left Brain Functions.

As we wrote in left brain/right brain thinking, the debate regarding about what goes on in our left and right brain hemispheres seems like a never-ending story. You will find support for the idea that creative people use the right hemisphere while people who are good at organising things are using their left hemisphere. But we can also find support for the idea that creative and non-creative thinking are not two different things but are more reinforcing each other.

The idea that the brain has different specialised functions that can be used to improve memory, learning and thinking are also the part of the foundation behind mind mapping.


A Whole New Mind: Why Right-brainers Will Rule the Future, a book by Daniel H. Pink, posits that the future of global business belongs to the right-brainers. He outlines six essential senses:

  • Design – Moving beyond function to engage the sense.
  • Story – Narrative added to products and services – not just argument.
  • Symphony – Adding invention and big picture thinking (not just detail focus).
  • Empathy – Going beyond logic and engaging emotion and intuition.
  • Play – Bringing humour and light-heartedness to business and products.
  • Meaning – the purpose is the journey, give meaning to life from inside yourself.

Daniel Pink is one of an increasing number of writers on the importance of the Conceptual Economy, as a follow-up of the Information and Knowledge Age. Conceptual economy is a term describing the contribution of creativity, innovation, and design skills to economic competitiveness, especially in the global context. Other contributors to our understanding of the conceptual economy include Tom Friedman’s The World is Flat, Tom Kelley’s The Art of Innovation and The Ten Faces of Innovation, explaining the role of assets such as empathy, storytelling, individual experiences and stimulating work environments in fostering creative ideas.

The discussion about the necessity to escape from dominant linear-sequential thinking was earlier argued by Howard Gardner. He developed The Theory of Multiple Intelligences in his 1983 book Frames of Mind:


In one of our next blog posts, we will give hints and tricks together with some useful resources to become “picture smart”. An essential skill to use mind mapping to the fullest of its advantages.

Misplaced Things – Thinkibility Nibble

 “Sometimes incredible buildings get lost in all the noise. They disappear behind the cars on the street or the branded coffee shops around the corner. I wanted to showcase them as the architect had intended.”

Misplaced design by the American designer Anton Repponen is a wonderful mind game. He has taken some of New York’s most iconic buildings and placed them in different landscapes.

This type of photomanipulation not only makes you look at the design of the buildings in a different way, it somehow transforms your ideas about the buildings, the people who  visit the buildings, and work there. If you ever have visited or seen these building in New York, think about how the manipulations and the placing of them in different landscapes change your feelings and conceptions about the buildings.

  • Can you imagine hundreds of people from all over the world walking into the Metropolitan Opera placed in a natural landscape?
  • Visiting the Guggenheim Musem in a rocky landscape?
  • Or walking into the UN buildings placed in the desert?

Do the new settings change the underlying purpose of a building like the UN? The idea is that the UN building should be a meeting place where people from all over the world meet to discuss ways to make the world a better place. Is it better to place such a building in a city or in a desert? Why? Can we do things to ensure that the same purpose is achieved regardless of where a builing is placed? How? Can we use photos and art inside a building to change our ideas and feelings about the purpose of our visit?

Detached from the familiar Manhattan cityscape and the hustle and bustle of cars and people, you can understand the design better. The form and the architectural shape becomes clearer. But also, other dreams and goals with a specific building become revealed or at least more open to exploring ideas and embarking a think dive into new possibilities. Possibility to create and shape the environment that reflects the underlying purpose of the building.

Can you misplace other things? Play a game and misplace everyday objects from your home and place them in an extraordinary environment? Play with the sizes of the objects and the game becomes even more interesting like a giant toothbrush on the roof or hundreds of plates placed as road markings.

You can read more about the project here.


Designed to Change your Thinking about. . .

Inspiration and ideas may appear when we see something ugly or uninspiring and we decide to change it. Like international borders. . .

Reimagining things is a great way to improve upon an already existing idea. You transform an existing idea into something new and fresh.

A competition from the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture challenged students to reimagine the design of border crossings.  The task was to see possibilities and design beautiful and welcoming structures using structural steel.


Crossing borders can be an emotional journey. In the photo above Ryerson University student Kyle Marren aims to lessen tensions between Spain and the British territory of Gibraltar. The UK says that Spain is using border crossing delays as a political retaliation, since they claim that Gibraltar belongs to them.The diplomatic design, Interject, suggests a shared public square and Spain is given territorial ownership of the crossing, since the border crossing itself is located on the Spanish side.


Inspired by a yurt, a portable, bent dwelling structure traditionally used by nomads, provided inspiration for the winning entry. Two twisting buildings were suggested for the  mountainous Kyrgyzstan-China border. Students from the City College of New York  suggested that one building for travelers moving in each direction.

Students from the  Catholic University of America chose to tackle an unusual border. Several countries have made territorial claims on Antarctica. Love the crossing border shaped like  an iceberg.much of the iceberg is underwater. Laboratories as well as inspections of gods and cargo can be carried out. This design draws people to the site, yet a port in this location may not be necessary.

Why not design your own challenge.

What places need to be re imagined to make them more beautiful, friendlier to use, healthier or safer. Any suggestions?

Here are a few suggestions to start you off. . .

  • Entrance to schools and day care centres
  • Entrance to shopping centres
  • Entrance to shops – particularly the perfume department since people with asthma and allergy may have problems breathing
  • Entrance to hospitals
  • Exits from youth detention centres and prisons

Photos: Fast Co Design