Friday, August 16, 2013

"Thinking in Pictures"

When talking to people (especially in front of groups larger than 2 or 3) I often find that I have to pause and carefully consider my word choice. For a long time I attributed this to my having a limited vocabulary, but I no longer think this is the case.

For the most part, my brain works in pictures. When discussing complex topics my brain will often, all on its own, begin to lay out the concepts in a visual, diagrammatic format that's easier for it to comprehend. Here's an example:

The scene: First year architecture school. I'm at a jury, with my work on the wall, in front of four faculty members who are discussing my work. 
The topic: Our studio has been discussing the "elements of architecture": Form, line, structure, context, and (I think) void? Give me a break, it was ten years ago. 

Me: (pointing to a collage that I'd created) "From the beginning, I tried to look at the elements of architecture as inseparable. Sort of like a funnel full of teeth."
Juror 1: "Teeth!?!"
Me: "Uh, not mouth teeth, but teeth, like a screw!"
Juror 2: "Oh, I thought you meant," *mimes pulling out one of his own teeth*
Class: *chuckles*
Me: "No, no! For instance, if the funnel is divided into five sections (one for each element), and you drop a marble into it, it will roll through each section as it travels toward the bottom of the funnel. Nearer the bottom it'll pass by each section more and more frequently, until it's a part of each section at the very bottom. Similarly, you have to continually address and re-address each element of architecture in your design..."

Of course, at the time I wasn't quite so articulate because I hadn't prepared the speech in advance, but I think you get my drift. In my mind, that visual analogy made perfect sense (and for their part, the jurors thought it was well considered once I was finally able to convince them I wasn't subjecting my studiomates to unwanted dentistry), but it took a huge explanation to describe it to someone else, and I still struggled to convey the concept.

That's the way that my brain works every single day. Thinking in pictures is nearly impossible to describe to someone who doesn't; if I struggle to properly articulate an idea, how can I convey the process my brain uses to create the idea? 

Images are naturally more difficult to convey with spoken words. Maybe that's why I was (and continue to be) so drawn to art. Now I just have to carry a sketchpad and a box of markers with me everywhere I go and I'm golden. Although ordering at the drive-thru is going to be a pain in the butt. 

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