Visual thinking gives us humanity, clarity and childlike curiosity

At the start of the pandemic, Hazel White of Open Change, was tasked with helping consultants in geriatric medicine find a fast and effective way to share their knowledge of end-of-life care. She believed the answers lay in drawing and visual thinking.

Hazel White's work with the NHS, helping doctors share specialist knowledge about end-of-life care during the Covid pandemic, gave her a strong sense of how visuals could facilitate clear communication, and ultimately led her to develop her skills at Scriberia's Academy. 


Your path to the Academy is a fascinating one, can you tell us about it? 

At the start of the pandemic, a lot of doctors were moved into Covid wards to look after patients, some of whom were not going to survive. Many of them were inexperienced when it came to having a conversation with somebody who wasn’t going to be leaving hospital. So, it became important that the knowledge that exists within palliative care and geriatric medicine could be shared, quickly and effectively.


I embarked on a piece of work with a consultant in geriatric medicine, Lara Mitchell. We developed visuals to distill what she knew would be helpful to others in that situation - key points to explain, phrases to use - and turned it into a series of easily absorbed visuals that would sit on a single page.

They were hand-drawn images, but they had real impact - they were shared internationally and were used in different ways by lots of different people to learn quickly and pick up some useful tools and methods. People seemed to find the hand-drawn aspect of it quite comforting. I realised that a drawing brings humanity into your communication, in a way that hard black-and-white text can't. 

That project was done so quickly; I didn’t have a lot of time to reflect on whether this the best way of doing it, I was simply saying what needed to be said. So, I when I saw Scriberia's Using Ink to Think course, I signed up. It was a really good introduction to visual thinking, and I really, really enjoyed it. From there, I decided to invest in the diploma, because I was ready to go into more detail. 

How does drawing help you work? 

In a lot of the work we do with our clients, we're trying to imagine a new future. I find drawing quietens the voice that stops people imagining and hoping for different ways of doing things. It stops them self-limiting because of budgets or policy or constraints. It seems to free them up to consider new possibilities. And, just as valuably, it helps people ask questions. When something is in writing, we’re expected to have a level of competency that makes us less inclined to speak up when we don't understand. But, drawing puts people in an uncomfortable zone - they don't feel so literate in that medium – which makes it alright to say "I don't get it" or "What is that?".  Drawing takes us back to our childlike curiosity, and makes it fine to say: “What do you mean?" or "Why?...”.

What was your experience of the Diploma? 

Scriberia Academy provides a very safe and warm space to explore ideas. The tutors give a huge amount of time to feedback which was really valuable and constructive, and gave all the participants confidence. I found the structured exercises made me want to go away and work on it on my own - just reiterate and reiterate until I got better results. 
People might wonder if they need to have a level of drawing skill already. I don’t think they do. It is such a welcoming and supportive environment. You can come in from any level and learn something very valuable from it.

What was the most valuable lesson you took away from the Diploma?

Simplify. What is the simplest way you can say this? No matter how I'm communicating, I ask myself this question all the time now. I use the same process of distillation. When I'm designing content for courses, I'm ruthless in the editing: “Take that out! Take that out! You’ve said that already!”. 
The diploma taught me that it's not about making you look clever. It’s not about showing off your skills. It’s about communication - always. It’s about basic communication and understanding. 

Want to know how to use drawing and visual thinking to make complex things simple and hard things easy? Our next Diploma course starts on September 16th.

Click here to find out more about Scriberia Academy's workshops and diploma