Visual Thinking School Blog

A few weeks Dave Gray pinged me to let me know about a new blog he was starting up about the Visual Thinking School/VizThink style events and asked if I wanted to contribute (and of course I said yes :) )

My first post was centered on finding other Visual Thinkers, and kicking off a community.

This morning I added a recap/how-to post about of VizThink5 and the Vizionary! game we played that night. be sure to swing on by and check it out.

– Ryan

VizThink5: Tonight!

VizThinkAt this point this is more of a reminder for me – but happy to give others a nudge as well. Life’s been a little hectic the past few weeks and I totally forgot this was happening on more than one occasion.

Regardless, it’s happening tonight and should be a fun, social evening. All the details can be found at

Hope to see you there!


VizThink5 – Vizionary!

Well, to be totally honest my September completely slipped away from me and I was a bad community steward and didn’t get VizThink5 organized in time – so instead it’s going to run on Thursday, October 11th.

I’m just confirming the venue (basically just waiting on details – it’s booked) but other than that we’re ready to go.

VizThink5 will be more on the social end of things as far as an agenda goes – the plan is to get our creative juices flowing again and run a little Pictionary-style tournament called Vizionary!

It’ll be a DIY style game where everyone in attendance will help come up with the words for the evenings games.

I hope you can make it up and have a little fun with your fellow visual thinkers. Registration and info can be found here.

VizThink4 Wrap-up

Last Tuesday we held the fourth instalment of VizThink. This time around Mike Jones, David Gelb & Martin Cleaver took on the task of presenting an introduction to Concept Mapping. With a crazy month between work & life, I was admittedly pretty hands off with this particular event – the three of them did a great job pulling it all together.


Martin took on the bulk of the presenting for this particular session but Mike & David both chimed in when they had something to add to the mix. Overall it was a lot of fun and highly interactive – the highlight of the night was the painter’s tape car that gradually appeared on the wall during the last group activity of the night.


As we peeled it off the wall we were thankful Malcom grabbed the high-quality tape for this little project – too late we realized that one roll of low-grade tape got used for the wall elsewhere and it unfortunately took some of the paint with it, so it looks like I’ll be having a one-man VizThink painting party at Indoor Playground in the coming weeks. And all this after Mark Dowds of Indoor Playground got a rather short 24 hours notice that he was having an event there – one of those “Oh, I thought you talked to…” moments between organizers. :/ Thankfully Mark is one of the most laid back, easy going guys in the TorCamp community though so we were able to make it work.

Overall the event was great – we had another crowd of ~40 people and roughly 75% (!) were first time VizThinkers. It seemed like everyone had a good time and I’m told the “VizDrinks” continued at Shoeless Joes until well past midnight.

All of my photos can be found here. If you were there and see yourself (or someone you know) please feel free to note/tag the pictures.

VizThink5: Vizionary Tourney
As I mentioned previously, the plan for VizThink5 is to keep things light and largely theory free while still getting the creative juices flowing – and what better way to do that then a little DIY pictionary ‘tournament,’ in this case called “Vizionary”.

I’d love to hear people’s ideas on how we can run it, but the thought was a bracketed format with teams of 2 or 4 (depending on how big a group we get) and use a best of 3 or 4 format to decide who moves on. We’d start out by having everyone create a few words each along specific themes and then start the games.

Things we need:

A Venue: Either a really accommodating bar or a venue that will let us do a BYOB affair would be great. A bonus would be somewhere with whiteboards or easels would be great.

Sponsors: While it’d be great to be able to offer up some food (Pizza etc.) what I’m really looking for is some folks who can help us come up with some fun prizes for at least our winners (or top three) and if possible some fun gifts/prizes for things like “Best Drawing” “Most Outlandish Word” “WTF?” (least coherent drawing) etc.

If you, or anyone you know, can help us out that’d be great. Food would be a couple hundred bucks depending on how many people we get out and prizes can be bought or donated.

I’ll be putting up the wiki for the evening shortly and welcome anyone with ideas to toss them up there. Let’s make this a fun little end of the summer VizThink…

– Ryan

VizThink3 Recap – VizThink4 Announced & some ideas for VizThink5…


This is a well overdue recap of the events of VizThink3. I left for Berlin just a couple of days after and haven’t gotten around to it until now though.

davegrayVizThink3 was a great event, getting Dave Gray to come up and present so quickly was really exciting and I’m appreciative that he and Scott Matthews stretched (well, started) their trip a day early so they could participate.

“So what should I talk about?”
A question you expect from anyone who’s going to speak at an event your organizing – Dave just decided to drop it on me ~30 minutes before we started. Had it been anyone else I may have gone into full panic but the reality is Dave runs these sessions all the time and while there was a touch of improv to the evening he was backed up by a bag of tricks many years in the making.


I’ve always thought Dave is a guy who’d love the BarCamp/TorCamp scene here in Toronto – loves to experiment with ideas while also experimenting with how he shares those ideas with as many people as possible.

I want… / I love…
With post-it’s scattered around the room of ~45 people these were the two questions Dave posed to the group. First he wanted two or three post-its that finished the sentence “I want …. from VizThink”. Once everyone was done we placed them on one of the walls of the space.

We then did the same for “I love … about VizThink” and placed them on the opposite wall.

What followed was an interesting exercise of group think & organization that saw the post-its categorized thematically followed by an exercise where everyone picked a theme they were interested in and then were asked to draw what it meant to them (or an image depicting the sentiment) on giant post-its on the wall (I really should drop 3M a line about sponsoring this puppy).

While doing it, it was an interesting, fun & active exercise for everyone participating. When you stepped back though what Dave had shown the group was a powerful way to bring all of the participants (regardless of their familiarity with each other) to a level playing field and have them collaboratively declare, organize & prioritize issues or themes that they are interested in.

Out for Drinks
Following our session everyone headed over to the Rivoli for some food & drink (well, I caught up once Roadside Assistance had retrieved my car keys from my trunk) .

It’s always great after an event like this to get out and meet the new faces who came out and I had a few conversations with some folks that I hope to soon convert into VizThink presenters :)

All the photos from the event can be found here.

Speaking of future presenters – VizThink4 is on deck and ready to go. The date will be Tuesday, July 10th in a venue TBD (got an offer of a new venue – just need to see if it’s available). We’ll be building on Mark Mulholland’s VizThink2 Mind Maps presentation and delving into Concept Maps. I’ve asked the presenters to try and keep recap to a minimum and help build out the deeper theories and practices of Concept Mapping.

Event details can be found here

And while I’m at it – for VizThink5 in August I’d like to keep things light and fun, make it more a social event than a practical one. My intial idea is to throw an informal Pictionary tournament (with some twists) but ideas and suggestions are welcome as it’s still very loose in my head.

If anyone knows of a space where we could get access to a good size deck/outdoor space with a backup indoor space please let me know – I’m thinking it be fun to be outdoors & somewhere where we can B(our)OB etc.

Event details will eventually be found here.

Hope to see you at future VizThinks!