In the 3rd grade I learned about demoralization when my teacher shredded the loose-leaf sheet of paper I had decorated in doodles. In the 5th grade I was told that my math homework would not be graded until I removed the characters I drew explaining the Pythagorean theorem. The art of doodling is suppressed by the draconian teaching styles of unimaginative educators across the world who target this creative outlet and label it as delinquency. Artistic and mental growth is unintentionally stifled by the prohibition of doodling in classrooms. Nonetheless, I never let my teachers slow me down.
I define doodling as any form of quick drawing where a person illustrates as a tool to spark creativity and thought. This can be entirely absentminded or based on quick ideas. Sometimes doodles serve no obvious purpose and other times they may function as descriptors; doodles are visual communication.
After enduring repeated reminders to “pay attention”, we are led to believe that doodling is a distraction. Surprisingly, the case is quite the opposite. Research has shown that idly drawing can lead to better memory retention, stress relief and stronger focus. For me, I am a naturally fidgety and often anxious person who can become distracted through my overactive mind. By allowing my hand to form shapes, often transforming into improvised characters, I keep the mental distractions at bay and retain information relayed during meetings.
Doodling is a tool with many applications. Here are a few thoughts I have on the uses of doodles.
Doodles as a Memory Tool
Over the past few years, fidget devices have seemingly become fads, peaking with the barrage of fidget spinners rotating their way into every retail space imaginable. I argue that the act of doodling can be an effective alternative to satisfying tendencies to fidget. By letting your hand scribble, you open up room for better information retention. Incredibly, this technique actually enables many people to better focus on information being delivered to them be it in a classroom, client meeting or even in a casual coffee shop conversation.
Doodles as Notes and Presentations
Amplify your notes and presentations through the art of doodles. Here at Sweeney, we frequently use our whiteboards to guide conversation during meetings. Our notes never consist of pure text, but instead will take shape as diagrams, arrows and even visual illustrations of a strategy or concept. This is another example of doodling winding its way into productivity. Whether you’re presenting or taking your own notes, by giving yourself the freedom to spice up your information with a little doodle flair, you are creating a memorable experience for yourself and others in ways that better sell the ideas of yourself and those around you.
For some amazing examples of transforming notes into a visual presentation, check out the Infodoodler showcase on author Sunni Brown’s TheDoodleRevolution.com.
Doodles as Conceptualization
As a designer, I’m always itching to get those creative juices flowing. Doodling is an effective means to getting a head start on a project. Opposed to a meticulously planned out sketch, sometimes a spontaneous scribble can lead to results you may never have considered. The concept of a napkin doodle, the type of idea that you just need to draw out even when you’re at dinner, is very real and very important. As you’re absorbing information, taking a second to doodle these in-the-moment reactions will begin to build a library of early project concepts. These concepts then have the potential of evolving into a truly spectacular finished piece.
The negative stigma around doodling has plagued creative growth for far too long and I believe that it’s crucial that cultural perception shifts to emphasize the positive impacts of this tool. Anyone can be a doodler and reap the creative, psychological and expressional benefits. Allow yourself to scribble and fill those pages.
If you are interested in hearing an incredible mind speak about the art of doodling, Sunni Brown, author of Doodle Revolution has an amazing TED Talk. Please view it and learn more about the positive impacts of doodling.