Recap: Visual Thinking workshop | Draw to express complex ideas & convince stakeholders

This month’s meetup focussed on how to explain an idea to stakeholders using visual communication. We invited two speakers to give a visual thinking workshop about how to make quick drawings that communicate complex ideas.

Flatland is an agency in visual design thinking, focused on strategy, change and communication. The workshop “Visual Design Thinking x Customer Safari” was prepared by Mei-Li Nieuwland and Niva van de Geer.

This event was sponsored by Women@Capgemini. We were able to host our event at the Capgemini office in Amsterdam where they prepared a nice room for us and provided us with lots of lovely, healthy snacks.


As usual, the evening started with Ladies that UX introduction and a couple of announcements. We were very happy to let you know that we have a permanent sponsor UX Academy who offers a 3 full-day custom-made UX courses (more info at the bottom).

Visual Design Thinking x Customer Safari

Visual thinkers taught us how to combine drawing with observation techniques to gain original insights about customers and shared lessons from cultural anthropology and design thinking. The main rule is to take notes at all times and write down and draw everything that you observe as you’d be a safari researcher who sees everything that’s happening around them for the first time.

Everything starts with words. When building a character, a persona or trying to explain an idea, write down a list of words that associates for you with that persona or an idea. Then it’s time to draw and highlight or even exaggerate the characteristics of a persona or an idea in order to draw the viewer;s attention to the right place. 

Words can mean different things for different people. Drawing can help us think, because it forces us to be more precise about what we think. In a good visualization the most important aspects of the story are highlighted and the interactions between different parts of the visualizations are made interesting and understandable.

To create good designs, it is important to know the context of users. Drawing helps us to notice more things around us and to communicate more effectively. Customer research is necessary to learn more about the context of users, by combining it with drawing you can observe, analyze and present your findings more effectively.

Lets draw!

After the visual thinkers shared with us their insights, we could apply what we’ve learned and start drawing which was useful and fun experience. We started with the basic shapes like circles and lines which we later combined into everyday objects and tried to put htme into perspective.

The trick to get a better shaped forms is to draw from the elbow or shoulder.

Afterwards we learned how to draw people quickly and used basic shapes to add character to our people drawings. Each shape corresponds to different personality traits. For example, round shapes correspond to energetic, young and happy personalities and squares correspond to conservative, rigid and strict personalities. Differences between males and females can be visualised easily by putting the centre of gravity on the lower part of the body for females and on the upper part of the body for the males.



Anthropologist learn about people through watching participants (observations) or through observing people while taking part in their interaction (participant observation). When doing this, it is important to pay attention to the research question, the lens we look through, the setting and population, to use all senses and to draw and take notes.

We applied this approach during the workshop and created Ladies that UX persona. We observed people sitting around us chose 3 persons to draw and try to highlight their personality traits that we thought defines them. Then we had to talk to each person and confirm or deny the assumptions that we made about them and make adjustments of our final drawing of a persona which combines the traits of the previous 3 characters and results of the interviews. 

The main takeaway of the workshop:

You don’t need to be good at drawing to communicate effectively with drawings.

After the workshop we’ve received a really nice feedback from the attendees:

Fantastic hosts and amazing food! Thank you Capgemini! Was great to see a lot of new faces and the workshop was super fun and useful. Perfect after a long day at work to learn the basics of sketching in a really fun way. Flatland you did a great job ! -Carmen

The event was really interactive and fun. It brings me a new perspective about visual thinking! -Priska

We would like to thank Mei-Li and Niva very much for the awesome workshop they did. We will be applying these new skills soon. Here is a cheat sheet from the workshop, courtesy of Flatland. If you enjoyed this workshop, make sure to check out their courses


Flatland is the international office of ‘Jongens van de Tekeningen’, operating from Rotterdam, The Netherlands. The team consists of design consultants and they give teams and individuals the tools to communicate clearly and effectively. By drawing they empower teams to extract, make visible and capture crystal clear solutions.


Also, we would like to thank our host Women@Capgemini very much for the great location and the food they provided for us!


Women@Capgemini is an initiative to set guidelines around gender diversity across the Capgemini Group. They strive to create an inclusive environment where gender balanced teams and management will bring more fun, innovative ideas and creative solutions.


Another shout out goes to UX Academy who became our permanent sponsor! The UX Academy is founded in 2014 and is running by 5 freelance interaction designers with more than 15 years of experience. Each year they teach 350 participants. They offer a 3 full-day personal UX training program in English. Their unique selling point is that they have only 6 places available in each training and every training is custom-made, depending on the needs of the participants. Bring your own case to this course! The next training is Basic UX on 26, 30 of October and 3 November in Amsterdam, given by a woman called Anne Vroegop. Probably in December there will be an advanced training as well.

Thank you for reading and we’ll see you in our next event – Inclusive Design: Cross-cultural UI & Designing for accessibility! RSVP on Meetup here.


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