Want to Get Better at Selling Others on Your Ideas? Learn How to Draw a Vision Map

Have you ever drawn a map to show someone how to get to your house? Or how to get from your house to the park or the corner store? If you have, you know how to draw, how to visualize, and how to communicate a path in time and space.

These are the same skills you can apply if you are an entrepreneur trying to sell customers on a new product or service, or someone who helps others imagine the future. Draw a map to help people to get from here to there.

When your goal is to describe a vision for the future, information is not enough. People are up to their necks in information. What they need is a way to imagine their life after the change, and compare it with their life today. That's why it's called a "vision" and not a "plan."
--Marty Neumeier, author of The Designful Company

A vision map shows, economically, how to get from point A (where you are today) to point B (where you want and need to get). You can write about it and you should. But if you want people to understand you quickly and intuitively, draw it for them.

Now, I know what you're thinking -- you really can't draw. But remember, your drawing doesn't need to be great. Who cares if the lines are crooked as long as it gives good directions? However, it does need to be drawn by you, because when you draw your idea you create an abstraction in space and time. You show a path. And because only you know the path, you need to draw it for the rest of us.

Contrary to what you think, the ability to draw is not purely a talent. It is having a kit of visual symbols and icons, which is just like drawing a map. New York Times financial writer Carl Richard's napkin sketches are a great example. Alex Osterwalder, author of the Business Model Generation, is both a great visionary and visualizer, as you can see on his Twitter account almost daily.

To help you draw, I broke down my drawings into the visual symbols I most often use. Please feel free to try them out, borrow and adopt them.

My vision-drawing alphabet

Simple geometric shapes: Circles, squares, rectangles, triangles, and cubes are simple shapes that can depict an area or category.

1 circle with a word in it: Depicts something central to your idea or concept.

2 overlapping circles: Intersection of two ideas. The intersection is the "sweet spot." This is my favorite way of showing dichotomy resolution.

3 overlapping circles: Intersection of three ideas, or a trifecta.

2 lines drawn at 90-degree angles to each other: A graph. I use this to show the relation of one thing to another over time.

2 lines intersecting in the middle: Four quadrants. I use this to depict the emotional, the physical, the intellectual, and the spiritual.

2 words and an arrow between them: One thing becoming something else. Arrows can also depict direction, movement, or the future.

Infinity sign: I use this to show a continuous feedback loop, like "give and take."

Equal/unequal symbols: When used between two words, they summarize how things are alike or dissimilar. Other math symbols, like +, x, <, and >, are also useful.

A stick figure or a smiley face: A person. As simple as it sounds, adding a person connects the idea to users and humanizes it.

A stick figure in a circle: Depicts being user-centered.

Circle with a diagonal line over a word or symbol: Something that is banned or unwanted.

Simple icons: Heart for emotion, yin and yang for spirit, dollar sign for money, messy scribble for complication, etc.

Throw some of these together to express one of your ideas. Put it on Twitter. Email it to your colleague. Draw it on a white board. You will see that a picture is worth a thousand words.

If you already draw to sell your vision, I would love to hear from you and learn about your drawing tool kit.

Design the vision you love, by drawing.