Thursday, January 31, 2008

Bob Horn at VizThink '08

Nancy Duarte and Cliff Atkinson interviewed Bob Horn about his work during the first general session of the conference.

Nancy described his book, Visual Language: Global Communication for the 21st Century as "an encyclopedia of visual language and visual thinking" and said it was a big influence on her. (See my earlier blog post on the recent republication of this book.) Bob claims that visual language is a new language being born, an international auxiliary language. He defines it as the "tight integration of words and visual elements". He uses a familiar and simple example of this tight integration, the "one way" sign:

Neither the words alone, nor the arrow alone, convey the meaning. You need both.

Much of his work lately has been in the form of large murals, which can convey both an overview, or big picture view, and details. He says these can help us "think bigger thoughts" about the complex problems we face, because they provide a way of "keeping the entire strategic context in front of us". He thinks that "large murals should invite people to make their own patterns, associations, and objections." Ideally, they provide information which allows us to form thoughtful opinions, and make reasoned decisions, considering the multitude of factors and perspectives involved.

Here is the leftmost one-quarter of a large timeline mural on management of nuclear waste in England:

Bob pointed out that murals can convey emotion as well as information.

I attended Bob's breakout session. Here is the session description. My mind map notes from the breakout session are at

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