Visual thinking can cause a lot of confusion. There are a lot of insider terms and many sprung up separately and overlap with others. To help you get on top of all these confusing terms, you might want to skim through this visual thinking glossary. If you can’t find a term here, send me a message and I’ll add it.

Visual Thinking:

The process of using one’s visual skills to conceive, process information, and communicate ideas.

Mind Mapping:

A visual representation of hierarchical information that includes a central idea surrounded by connected branches of associated topics.


The practice of combining sketches and notes to visually document and explore ideas.

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Concept Mapping:

Visualization of relationships among different concepts that are connected by lines and sometimes words to explain the link.


A sequence of drawings representing the shots planned for a video or movie production.


A collection of imagery, charts, and minimal text that provides an easy-to-understand overview of a topic.

Data Visualization:

The representation of data or information in a chart, diagram, or picture.

Graphic Facilitation:

The use of large scale imagery to lead groups and individuals towards a goal.

Graphic Recording:

Capturing people’s ideas and expressions in words, images, and shapes as they are being spoken in real time.


The visual images, symbols, or modes of representation collectively associated with a topic.

Visual Metaphor:

Using a visual that suggests a particular association, similarity, or analogy to another idea or concept.

Visual Syntax:

Rules and principles that define the structure and arrangement of visual elements in a composition.


The spontaneous act of drawing, often without direct attention, to help think, focus, or just as a form of creative expression.


A diagram that displays a process or a sequence of actions and decisions.


A skeletal outline of a digital interface, used for planning the layout and interaction of an interface design.

Thumbnail Sketch:

A small drawing on paper (often the size of a thumbnail) used to work out a composition or visual concept.

Visual Literacy:

The ability to interpret, negotiate, and make meaning from information presented in the form of an image.


A simplified drawing showing the appearance, structure, or workings of something.

Mental Imagery:

The representation in a person’s mind of the physical world outside that individual.

Visual Note-Taking:

The process of representing ideas non-linguistically, i.e., in the form of a sketch, diagram, chart, or other visual form.


The process of creating an early model of a product to test concepts or processes.


Diagrams or layouts that represent the elements of a system or structure with abstract, graphic symbols rather than realistic pictures.

Visual Analysis:

The process of examining the elements of visual art closely to discern their structure and meaning.


Using a whiteboard to sketch out ideas or concepts to facilitate understanding or problem-solving.

Venn Diagram:

A diagram that uses circles to show the relationships among different sets of items.


A pictogram or ideogram displayed on a computer screen or other device to help the user navigate a computer system or mobile device.


A detailed plan or drawing to outline and guide the construction of an object, system, or structure.


A method of generating ideas by freely associating various thoughts and concepts without judgment or restriction.


The visual process of structuring information, often into diagrams or maps, to show relations and processes.

Visual Hierarchy:

The arrangement or presentation of elements in a way that implies importance; influencing the order in which the human eye perceives what it sees.

Colour Theory:

An area of study that looks at how colour affects our perception and behaviour.

Gestalt Principles:

Psychological theory that the brain organizes visual elements into groups or unified wholes when certain principles are applied, such as proximity or similarity.

Scale Drawing:

A drawing that shows an object in a smaller or larger size but preserves the proportions of the original object.

Perspective Drawing:

A technique used to represent three-dimensional objects on a two-dimensional surface, taking into account depth and space.

Affinity Diagram:

A tool used to organize data and ideas into groupings based on natural relationships and shared features.

Heuristic Evaluation:

A method used to quickly identify a product’s usability problems based on established usability principles.

Mood Board:

A collage of images, materials, pieces of text, etc., intended to evoke or project a particular style or concept.


A graphic organizer in the form of illustrations or images displayed in sequence for pre-visualizing a motion picture, animation, motion graphic, or interactive media sequence.

Visual Facilitation:

The use of visual tools and processes to help groups and individuals towards achieving goals or understanding complex content.


A short string of text connected by a line, arrow, or similar graphic to a feature of an illustration or technical drawing, and giving information about that feature.


The state of being strikingly different from something else, typically something in juxtaposition or close association.

Hierarchy of Visuals:

The organization of graphic elements in a design in order of importance of each element.

Visual Scribing: Another term for graphic recording, where a graphic recorder translates conversations or presentations into visual format in real-time.

Mind’s Eye:

The human ability for visualization, or the “seeing” of images or scenarios in the absence of visual stimuli.

Pattern Recognition:

The ability to detect arrangements of characteristics or elements that are significant.

Spatial Intelligence:

The human capacity to consider things in three dimensions, which includes the ability to understand spatial relationships in solving problems.


The representation of an object, situation, or set of information as a chart or other image.

Z-Pattern Layout:

A layout that follows the shape of the letter Z, encouraging viewers to move from top left to top right down to bottom left and finish at the bottom right.

Visual Model:

A graphical representation of a concept or process that aids in understanding, analysis, or communication.

Something missing from this Visual Thinking Glossary?

If you can’t find a visual thinking term that you need in this glossary? Send me a message and I’ll add it to the list.