Using visual design to communicate content, in context

Using visual design to communicate content, in context

Younito Man
UZMO book


Presenting, Documenting and Exploring Visually

At the start of every bikablo® basics class, we talk about what bikablo is and how it is different. Most people who attend our classes have ‘no drawing skills’ and are worried about their lack of drawing ability. At the end of two days, they are consistently surprised with the dramatic change in their ability to visualise. The reason for these results is that bikablo is a systematic approach to visualisation. In bikablo, we say that ‘visualisation is not about art, it’s about language’. And just like any language, the goal is about communicating meaning. All languages do this because they have systematic grammar, syntax and cultural nuances that allow people to have shared understanding of what is being communicated. Just like the languages we speak in, bikablo is a systematic visual language. It has letters, words, grammar and syntax that can be combined and recombined in different ways in order to communicate content in a way that is meaningful to its audience and their surrounding context.

Using visual design to communicate content in context
Younito is thinking

In his book, ‘UZMO’, bikablo co-founder Martin Haussmann provides a simple but very powerful framework for understanding, and using, visualisation as a language. It has three basic elements, that I like to represent as a Venn Diagram:

  • Content: what is being communicated i.e. the ideas, messages, concepts
  • Design: how content is being visually represented
  • Context: the surrounding circumstances and environment that could change how content is interpreted

When I communicate this idea at the beginning of a class, it’s always greeted with a few nods and a few puzzled expressions. But as we gradually build in each layer of the technique and apply it in practice, I return to this framework as a way to plan and then execute our visualisations. Through this journey of theory and practical experience, the penny drops on what this framework means and how it can be used in practice. Let me give you a simple example of how I used this recently.

The context

I was designing a 2-hr class on how to design and facilitate collaborative meetings and workshops. There would be 32 students who were coming after work and would be seated in a ‘cosy’ classroom for 2-hours. My presentation was largely based on a slide deck I had created but was organised around two frameworks that would gradually be revealed. The students would need to hold the frameworks in their mind as we progressed through the slide deck. I would need to be able to refer back to the frameworks throughout the class. I needed to create ‘signposts’ for each part of my content that would help the group remember the frameworks as I talked to them. I also needed people to be able to see the signposts from the back of the room.

Finally, this was a class that I planned to offer multiple times, so I needed re-usable content.

The content

The 5 key jobs of a facilitator

  1. Scoping
  2. Design
  3. Preparation
  4. Front-of-room facilitation
  5. Value capture

The 5 key design elements of any collaboration session

  1. Purpose (and context)
  2. People
  3. Process
  4. Content
  5. Environment

Overall there were are two frameworks each with elements, so 10 content elements overall.

Younito has an idea

The design

As you can see from the images, I created 10 physical signposts which we call ‘mobile elements’ in bikablo®. I used bold, visible lettering with an icon or container around each to anchor the meaning of each piece of content. I also used two different colours to delineate the two different frameworks. I used foam board (or foam core) for two reasons. Firstly because its smooth white surface really takes well to markers without bleeding. Secondly it is a light, stiff and relatively durable material which would last longer with repeated use. 

This is a simple example, but the framework is scalable to larger, more complicated visualisations, and indeed, to any form of design work more generally that involves content that must be communicated in a way that can be interpreted in a way that fits a particular context.

Join us at one of our upcoming 2-day classes to learn more about this framework and how to use it in practice.

The article was written by Natalia Tsygankova. Natalia has always loved words and talking to people. She has put that passion to good use and has been sharing people’s stories in the community radio, TV and print media for the last 10 years. Natalia is also a big fan of true storytelling events and regularly volunteers at the most famous one – The Moth, interviewing the winner. You can hear her own story of moving to Australia from Russia in 1999 here. Natalia believes that everyone has a story – So what’s yours? Contact her today to share your story.

Book a brown bag session

How to make contextual visuals based on teamwork, themes and bikablo® icons.

As an agile & visual coach, I am still humbled about the positive impact our visualisation methods make on knowledge workers.

The bikablo technique features a fast, unique learning experience that works in your office location and has a great impact – the Symbol Safari. So what is the Symbol Safari?

The Symbol Safari is an activity that engages a team to create incrementally build a complex visual metaphor for a specific theme.

It is a great introduction with working with a marker and also using visuals in a team to create meaning out of complexity, with the help of bikablo® icons.

Michael Saunders, meetup leader kindly introducing Martin before the visual thinking meetup kicked off.

Introducing working on the wall, using the marker and the safari instructions

Visual Introduction
We Introduce the Bikablo Method and simple colouring

Our Safari Map - the journey to exploring visualisation

We Introduce the Bikablo Method and simple colouring

Selecting Icons to associate with their word-storming around a central theme

We Introduce the Bikablo Method and simple colouring

The teams draw and then we celebrate our new visual skills with a showcase.

Symbol Safari at your organisation?? Yes We Can!

A Symbol Safari workshop is a great introduction to visual thinking and learning to draw with bikablo methods.

Our training team offers bookings for this event. We bring all equipment, all we need is a room, with a few whiteboards and lots of curious minds.

Workshop Duration ~ 2hrs
Workshop Investment: $1080.00 (plus GST)
Discount: The amount will be deducted as a discount when ordering an in-house training within in 6 month.


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    John Hibble about how to become an awesome facilitator

    Younito Man

    John Hibble

    Facilitator, Educator, Designer, Coach / Co-author, Collaboration by Design

    I think I have to confess something to you guys. April this year I recorded an amazing podcast with John Hibble about his venture, The Facilitation Starter. John Hibble is an experienced facilitator with more than 10 years in the field.

    After I recorded this podcast in April my life became quite busy as I started building a house in May and had a newborn baby in July. That is the reason why this podcast stayed on my hard drive for quite a while. Now it’s time to unveil this great conversation about workshop preparation from the session designed over delivering a workshop to how you capture insights.

    Over the last month, things have changed slightly. I’m very happy to announce that John is also now a certified bikablo® trainer like Martin and me, and together we run as the Visual Friends bikablo® training in Australia and New Zealand.

    Now let’s do the time travel and go back to April and listen to John Hibble from the Visual Friends Team.

    Marcel van Hove

    Marcel combines agile team coaching with visual thinking. Marcel believes that a group of people drawing together on a whiteboard can change the world. He loves high-performing teams and therefore coaches teams every day.

    Keith Greaves about the Beautiful World of Big Group Facilitation

    Younito Man
    Keith Greaves

    Keith Greaves

    Founder of Chit Chat and Mosaic Lab

    The visual facilitation garage

    A couple of weeks ago I was running the first bikablo® visual facilitation garage. This advanced workshop has been around in Europe for a while and now we start this advanced class for people who have participated in the fundamentals class in Australia as well. When you start something new, you start something small and so Keith Greaves attended as the only attendee at the first visual facilitation garage in Melbourne in May.

    Keith and I had a great time together working in the garage. We had 4 hours of intensive learning together and we both learnt from each other. So I thought we share our conversation over those four hours in an interview with you.

    About Keith

    Let me introduce Keith Greaves in a couple of sentences. He grew up in Ireland and worked in several very interesting countries including Azerbaijan and Syria. Today Keith lives with this family in Melbourne running two companies: Chit Chat and Mosaic Lab.

    Mosaic Lab is a company that facilitates big groups and creates spaces for c0-creating and collaboration. He sets up workshops for 80-300 people to bring people together from all parts of the societies and brings people together to collaborate. Keith puts a lot of this energy into preparing those venues and you will learn in this podcast how he does it.

    Public Participation and the IAP2

    What really hit me when listening to Keith was his passion for public participation following the core values of IAP2. He makes a difference in the world by improving our democracy. Our democracy is based on a the idea of a majority. A 50% majority is good but imagine you had a co-created law proposal for the prime minister that bases on a super majority of 80%.

    Now let me pass on the microphone to Keith Greaves from MosaicLab listening to this story and I hope we see us at the next bikablo® visual facilitation garage in Melbourne!

    Marcel van Hove

    Marcel combines agile team coaching with visual thinking. Marcel believes that a group of people drawing together on a whiteboard can change the world. He loves high-performing teams and therefore coaches teams every day.