I like to collect unexpected visual thinking stories. They come in handy during workshops or when I tell people that I make a living by solving problems with pictures and they say, "You do WHAT?!"
That's why I love stories about cosmonauts, Buddhist monks, police officers, aeronautical engineers, consulting company CEOs, theoretical physicists, golfers, astronomers... people who are the last to come to mind when thinking about visual thinking. Because they are problem solvers who don't consider themselves artistic and have no "design" training, they often come up with the most inspired visual solutions.
Someone asked me a couple weeks ago where I find all these people. "Everywhere" was my first answer. "Since everyone is a natural born visual genius, you don't have to look far for examples." Which is true, but here's the real secret: (shhh!) I read "The Economist" every week.
Check it out, from this week's issue alone: (The Economist, April 7th, 2007)
In the science and technology section, page 77: "Computer vision. Easy on the Eyes"
"Given the briefest of glances at a picture, most people believe that they have not had time to recognize anything at all. Ask them whether they saw an animal and they consider themselves to be making a futile guess. Yet those guesses are right much more often than they are wrong..."
And this in the obit, page 84: "Paul Lauterbur"
"The whole history of modern science, Paul Lauterbur once joked, might be written on the basis of papers turned down by academic journals. (snip) His core discovery, of how to get spatial information about atoms in a magnetic field, was scribbled on a paper napkin over dinner in a Big Boy restaurant in Pittsburgh, between two bites of a hamburger."
In what other magazine can you find two completely unrelated stories about two completely unrelated topics... that are really about visual thinking? Love it.