8 years, 3 months ago

Visual Thinking

Here is another of my favorite Richard Feynman stories (and fitting to honor the memory of Feynman today, for it is 25 years since the day he died):

“When I was a kid growing up in Far Rockaway, I had a friend named Bernie Walker. We both had “labs” at home, and we would do various “experiments.” One time, we were discussing something — we must have been 11 or 12 at the time — and I said, “But thinking is nothing but talking to yourself inside.”

“Oh yeah?” Bernie said. “Do you know the crazy shape of the crankshaft in a car?”

“Yeah, what of it?”

“Good. Now tell me: how did you describe it when you were talking to yourself?””

So I learned from Bernie that thoughts can be visual as well as verbal.

– Richard P. Feynman, It’s as Simple As One, Two, Three

That boy became this man

Feynman Diagrams

Image source: The photo of Feynman is from Gleick, J. Genius


If you are just joining us, you may like to read the earlier posts in this series, for they set the context for our discussions of architect mastery. In this post, we have turned the lens of our attention to visualization — in our mind’s eye, but also remembering “sometimes a pencil is the best eye” from the lessons in observation in the fish story (http://bredemeyer.com/RequisiteVariety/?p=90), as well as using visual models to help us reason, design and communicate.

The discussion in the comments raises many important points, and provides many useful pointers (thanks especially to Peter Bakker) to resources, that help us explore and understand the role of visual thinking and visualization in architecting.