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Let's Get Visual – Using Visuals to Engage and Inspire

Photo of Jes Simson
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Jes Simson one of our Community Champions for the Renewable Energy Challenge. You'll see her popping up across the challenge with handy tips and words of encouragement – and posting community updates here like a true champion!

Here at OpenIDEO, we love visuals. Visuals are a great prototyping tool, enabling you to test your core assumptions and gain rich human-centred user and stakeholder feedback.  Crafting them also helps you simplify your idea down to its core components and structure your thoughts.  Putting pen (or scissors and glue) to paper can also  unleash new ideas  and push your understanding of what's possible.  You'll be amazed by the wild ideas that you come up with when you're armed with a sharpie rather than a keyboard.
Additionally, the simplicity of visuals helps 
ensure that all of your collaborators are on the same page and builds  shared understanding .   There's a reason why some of OpenIDEO's best ideas are accompanied by attention-grabbing visuals. Bold visuals capture the attention of and inspire our community to collaborate with you.  

So grab a pen and some paper, it's time to bring your idea to life and get  physical  visual. 

Image via  ©  Creative Commons, text added in PowerPoint - screenshot.   


To help us along the way, we're taking Jon's idea  Rent 2 Own on a wild ride of visual discovery.  Rent 2 Own is a solar system that gives low-income families access to affordable, healthy and green energy.  It's inspiring stuff.  
The key to crafting engaging and inspiring visuals is to convey one core idea, simply.  Here are my top tips:

1.  First, think about what you want your visual to achieve.
For Rent 2 Own, we want to (1) ignite the imaginations of OpenIDEATORS to spark collaboration, (2) capture the essentials of Rent 2 Own's technology and business model so that everyone is on the same page, (3) create a prototype to get valuable insights from users and (4) map out a user's journey to find any holes in Rent 2 Own's offering.  

2.  Next, boil down what you want to say until you can boil no more.
This is your core message and it's what your visual needs to communicate.  

3.  Now it's time to get visual!
By visualizing that core idea in a way that achieves your aim.  Sketch out a few possibilities until you find something that works.  For some pointers on how to actually put pen to paper (or mouse to pixel), scroll down to the bottom of this post.

Remember, visuals don't need to be perfect.  In fact, sometimes you get better feedback when they're a bit rough around the edges.  Create something that gets the ball rolling.  The OpenIDEO community is incredibly adept at helping you refine your ideas and fill in the gaps.  So go get visualising!


1.  Capturing the imagination of the OpenIDEO community 
Bold visuals capture the attention of and inspire OpenIDEATORS to collaborate with you.  Aim for images that have a big impact, pull on the heartstrings or tell a story.  You could sketch out your world changing idea, visualize the unmet need that your idea addresses or capture a user's grin as they use your product for the first time.   

A high impact call to action that visualises the unmet need Rent 2 Own addresses – created in less than 5 minutes on Piktochart.

  2.  Making complex ideas simple
Visuals help you distil complex ideas or processes into something that everyone can understand.  Use flowcharts, pictures, videos, objects, diagrams and  value proposition    Business Model Canva ses  to capture the essence of your idea. 


Image via rent to own / pay as you go / pre-paid solar systems, text added in PowerPoint - screenshot. 

This business model shows the activities, partners, resources, channels, customer segments and cost / revenue structures integral to Rent 2 Own's success. 

Business Model Canvas via Strategyzer

  3. Testing your assumptions
Visuals are a great  prototyping tool , enabling you to  test your core assumptions and gain rich human-centred user and stakeholder feedback .  

Visuals allow you to quickly and easily show your user how your idea will help them.  Through their reaction, you can gauge whether your idea actually fills a need.  This could be via a poster (as below), a radio ad, a physical object, a video or through roll play.  

Image via 
©  Creative Commons, text added in PowerPoint - screenshot. 

  4.  Exploring a User's Journey
E xperience map s   bring your user's journey to life.  These maps also help you identify the key elements of your user's journey that need to be designed for.    


But I haven't drawn since kindergarten ... 

That's ok, now's a great time to start!  Here are a few of my favourite methods to quickly bring high impact visuals to life:

•  Get crafty with whatever tools you have on hand - pens, paper, scissors, glue, cardboard boxes, pipe cleaners.  Don't forget to take a photo! 

•  Find an image with a © Creative Commons licence, drop it into PowerPoint or Keynote, add text and then take a screenshot. If you want something a little more polished, Canva and Piktochart are super easy free online tools. Don't forget to source where your images come from. 

•  Upload a video to YouTube that explains your idea or shows it in action.

•  If you're building a digital solution, POP and Marvel are super simple tools to quickly prototype apps.  You can also build great website prototypes using PowerPoint or keynote

•  The business model canvas is a super simple way to communicate your idea's business model. The value proposition canvas captures how your user will benefit from a new product or service.  
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Community Champions , Renewable Energy Challenge


Join the conversation:

Photo of Meena Kadri

Great stuff, Jes! Did you swing by Jon's idea and let him know about what you've created here with his concept?

Photo of Jon

Thanks Meena, yes she did asked me before it went live and we agreed it looks brilliant,,,,,

Photo of Meena Kadri

Nice one! We love collaborations like this between our community on rocking ideas :^)

Photo of Jes Simson

Thanks Meen and Jon.