Want to Learn Better? Just Draw It!

Nov 20, 2018

I am not a scientist or a researcher. I’m an entrepreneur and a creative—specializing in the field of visual learning.

So when I come across amazing science and research about visual learning, I celebrate. After all, the hard science underpins everything our business stands for.

For instance, when this article appeared on my Twitter feed, I knew I had to shout it from the digital rooftops:

“Drawing is the Fastest, Most Effective Way to Learn, According to New Research”

And boom goes the dynamite.

As Jessica Stillman from Inc.com writes, if you’re trying to learn something new, “The fastest way to cram new information into your brain is by drawing it.”

The article draws from (pun intended) a brand new study by Canadian researchers who wanted to test out the “picture is worth a thousand words” mantra, specifically as it relates to learning, comprehension and retention in an academic setting.

In the study, volunteers were given a list of words and definitions and instructed to memorize them. Half wrote them down repeatedly, and half doodled or sketched them out. Then, their recall was put to the test.

You can guess who won.

“After just 40 seconds of low-quality sketching, subjects not only remembered significantly more, they also recalled more detail and context about the words and ideas they were studying. In short, they learned more, faster.”

As the research abstract states: “drawing improves memory by promoting the integration of elaborative, pictorial, and motor codes, facilitating creation of a context-rich representation.”

In layman’s terms, sketching/doodling/drawing unlocks the brain.

At The Sketch Effect, we are obsessed with visual learning. As I mentioned, our business is founded on the principle that people learn best when learning visually. That ideas are better understood, remembered, and shared when they are paired with compelling, relevant visuals.

When new research comes out to bolster this notion, I’m its biggest cheerleader. And it’s not just this study.

As I’ve previously written, there’s tons of data out there testifying to the value of visual learning. Here’s some of my rapid fire favorites:

  • 83% of human learning occurs visually
  • 93% of communication is non-verbal
  • The brain processes visuals significantly faster and more efficiently than it processes text
  • People following directions with text and illustrations do 323% better than people following directions without illustrations
  • People remember 10% of what they hear, 20% of what they read, and 80% of what they see and do.
  • Recall after a meeting is 6x greater when the information at that meeting if presented verbally and visually (as opposed to only verbally)

Considering both the data and the fact the society is becoming more visual (just look at the explosive growth of emojis, visuals-based social media, modern news, facetime, etc.), leveraging drawing as a go-to learning strategy a no-brainer. Or rather, an all-brainer (ok, bad pun).

To recap, why is drawing or doodling such an effective way to learn? As Stillman summarizes:

“Drawing gives your brain so many different ways to engage with new material — you have to figure out how to draw it by imagining it in detail in your mind, you experience the physical feeling of rendering that idea, and then, in the end, you look at a visual representation of it.”

Next time you’re learning something new, tackling a big challenge, or searching for new solutions, consider adding drawing to your toolkit. It doesn’t matter how artistic you are. It isn’t about art…it’s about unlocking your brain.

And, you just might have fun, too.

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