Category Archives: Visual Thought

Reflection Visual Thought

sitting with Buddha and my pen in Tokyo

It’s always amazing to be somewhere new. You take things in differently. We’re able to see with perspective that can be hard to cultivate at home. Then there are some places that just amaze. At the beginning of September I got to meet the second biggest Buddha in Japan, Great Buddha or Daibutsu, on a day trip to Kamakura from Tokyo. We started out by meandering through many buddhist temples and hiked through a park to meet Buddha. The hike was enlightening – I was seeing new and different plants, trees and animals. I carried a little journal and pen and so this happened:

What you can’t see in this picture is that I was looking only at buddha and not at my paper, an exercise I always loved from high school art class. The space was so peaceful and adding a little drawing felt just right!

As I was drawing, I let go of ‘what I thought buddha was supposed to look like’ and simply allowed myself to draw and pay attention to the different details in the statue. It made me think about how much we try to please our partners and bosses and co-workers based on what we assume we’re supposed to be doing as opposed to sometimes truly feeling out the moment in a moment or meeting or project and navigating from what we think is best for all.

Drawing in thought,



change complexity conference Presentations video Visual Thought

Ever heard of Pecha Kucha?

Wow, what a fun experience! LOVED it! I was asked to share a pecha kucha presentation at Plexus Action 2013. In the presentation I share a little bit about my journey and my message as a visual communication advocate. The video was captured on a phone and doesn’t catch my intro, just fyi. Also note that you can’t see the first few slides in the video from the screen so I’ve tried adding them to the video and have included them below. Enjoy!

Freedom to Draw – a Plexus Action 2013 presentation by Amanda Lyons (@amanda_lyons)

Disclaimer: true Pecha Kucha slides are up for only 20 seconds at a time. We had technical difficulties and so these slides were advanced by a human. If you are a stickler for timing and Pecha Kucha, perhaps you’d claim this is just a ‘wanna-be’ – and I’m ok with that!


More on pecha

business Definitions healthcare Language Visual Thought

experiential thoughts


This was by far one of the coolest projects I’ve gotten to collaborate on! A friend and colleague asked me to explore an idea with her. As a massage therapist, Geraldine found herself asking, “How does one translate touch?” Immediately my mind was swimming with images: swirls of energy changing colors together, our skin smiling via pores opening as it calms, then the color and unevenness of watercolor and texture of acrylic paint chunks invaded my mind…. And with each of these images I was associating an experience. Some brought surrounding warm air, others brought curiosity to push the idea further… after all ‘touch’ encompasses so much for each of us individually.

We decided to do an experiment together. These visual thoughts were captured before and after a massage – How can visuals help us understand an experience such as a massage? Thanks to Geraldine of Primitive Healing for collaborating!

Perhaps next time there will be drawing ‘during’ too!


Find Geraldine & Primitive Healing on facebook!

business comedy Language motivation productivity Reflection Visual Thought

If I get around to it… MOTIVATION


Do you have a muse that sits on your shoulder or a website you visit for an inspirational laugh? Today, I found myself looking for some inspiration, for a muse, for something – anything – to motivate me. I laughed when I shared my words with someone else and the image that popped into my head was one where a figure was breaking out of the mold, after a bit of time in a slumped sit. After appreciating my laugh, I found myself asking a few questions, “What does motivation look like? What gets us from eh to Yes!?” I want to know what my next step is. Then I found the fabulous webcomic by xkcd about Curiousity (and today’s lack of motivation)…

VISUAL by xkcd and shared via a Creative Commons License

FABULOUS! Thank you to the amazing Randall Munroe of (If you aren’t a regular, consider becoming one.)

And I did get around to drawing a few of my thoughts. Enjoy.

Motivation by carrot (just maybe, no definitely and mostly) doesn't work anymore - for me. Actually, it never did.

I asked, “What would you choose?” but I think I’d rather ask, “What do you choose?” SO, what do you choose? Will you go for that button even if you don’t know the consequences?

Then I found more on Motivation from Dan Pink, but we’ll save that for tomorrow!

sketchnotes Visual Thought

#VizThink NYC hosts @bigbluegumball – Mixed Signals in Communication

Steve and Todd Cherches of Big Blue Gumball are amazing and energetic facilitators who do trainings around the world on communication, presentations and so much more. These two have found a way to illuminate concepts and ideas via visual thinking – and to do it with humor. The two brothers have style that flows well and invites whoever they are working with to bring their own insights to the room as well!

Entertaining as always, Steve and Todd helped us make connections between the way that we communicate, the context, the details we weren’t thinking about, and those symbols and understandings that seem so ‘everyday’ and common place. Bad signage and other visuals that challenge our perspectives were a big part of the night as we explored our own assumptions. There was lots of laughter and color…

Visual notes from VizThink's May 3rd event!


A huge shout out to our amazing space sponsor, Liquidnet. Thanks so much for sharing your amazing space with us! We LOVE it! Rock on.


Dean Meyers, a rocking fellow visual practitioner, took visual notes at the event as well! Check out more of Dean’s work here and reach out via Twitter: @deanmeistr. I love your sense of color Dean! Rock on!


VizThink holds many events in NYC and other local spots bringing together a fun community.  Most events are free and open to anyone interested in visual thinking! Come join us next time! (Follow #vizthink on twitter for more information. Find the NYC group via meetup at )


Observation Reflection sketchnotes Visual Thought

Finding understanding at the New York Peace Institute

I want to send a HUGE shout out to those who work in Mediation. I got to participate in Basic Mediation Training at the New York Peace Institute (@newyorkpeace) earlier this month and what an amazing experience. I was humbled and inspired by the skills shared, people I met, and energy that is going into peace building – it’s a movement!

NY Peace Institute is thriving!


I was taking visual notes throughout the training and this led me to really think about the meaning behind several images of peace. I realized as I was drawing them that I wasn’t being culturally sensitive with some of my images. I think it is a HUGE consideration as a Visual Practitioners to think about what we might be assuming, adding or changing based on an image we use. We are the filter to pen and paper or whatever the medium. So I asked to double check my assumptions. The question led to an insightful conversation about images for peace. The index finger and middle finger widely used in America means nasty things in other countries. The circle with three pieces of pie leads to memories of the 60’s in the USA – not exactly the kind of peace mediators elicit. The NY Peace Institute logo is perfect coupled with their slogan ‘Let us get in the middle’ – LOVE IT!

Even when intentions are good, cultural meanings behind images MATTER!


What an experience! I am grateful to have been apart of the community that emerged from the NY Peace Institute’s Basic Mediation Training. The people at the Institute are the kind of people that make you want to be a better person. It’s a place where people listen on a deeper level, share whatever they can, someone smiles and you know s/he means it. I’ve taken away so many things from this training that this post would go on and on and on and on and on if I were to share them all. Here are some highlights and some of my most profoundest realizations:

* ‘Respect’ looks different for different people. (Such a simple thought, yet ‘wow’.)

* Doing an activity that allows people to be creative can open people’s minds to better understand another. (I was excited to hear someone else using this one!) (See image below.)

* Questions are the means to deeper understanding. Keep asking.


One exercise asked groups to get as creative as possible… so we did….

Creativity ensues!


I recommend the training for all humans. The amount I learned about communication, my own style and really how to better understand those around me, will stay with me everywhere I go. It has changed the way I think. The training was also extremely well run. It’s refreshing to be in the experience that keeps moving with visuals, different speakers, small group exercises and lectured lessons. HUGE thanks to our AMAZING facilitators, and all of my co-learners! YOU ROCK!

Check out Brad Heckman’s blog or find him on twitter for fabulous thought provoking posts bringing parallels to mediation and life from all over the globe.

sketchnotes User Experience Visual Thought

NYC UX Bookclub Meeting (Sept 2011)

NYX UX Bookclub Meeting, September 2011

Itching to get out one night, a friend talked me into crashing NYC’s UX BOOKCLUB (@UXBookClubNYC) meeting and I’m glad I did. People in the UX field (short for User Experience) that I have met so far are super friendly and interesting. The vibe, the people, the conversation and even the space seduced me into smiling all night long, with a few belly laughs intermixed. The book on the table was Seductive Interaction Design by Stephen P Anderson – a provocative read. The session began with mingling, discussions about the book ensued, followed by the author joining via Skype. Typical me, I was sketchnoting…


I visually captured the Bookclub Meeting discussion and the author’s Skype session. One correction I have for the sketchnotes below: the event was actually at Projective SpaceWanderfly is one company of many that works in this space. (I apparently only read part of the writing on the wall. Whoops.)

Stephen Anderson joined us by page 3 of my capture. He began by giving us the story of the book and how it came to be, and then answered questions. I’d love to hear what you think. Enjoy!

VISUAL CAPTURE from the NYC UX Bookclub Sept 2011


One of the highlights for me: as the group began talking about the book, everyone reached into their bags searching for their copy. A Kindle emerged, an iPad or 2, another electronic reader and a few clunky books themselves. The group laughed and quickly discovered that the reader experience was quite different based on the mode of reading. This seemed to effect the reader for different reasons – some had no idea how far into the book they actually were while others saw all pictures in black and white without styling that existed in other versions, etc. Bottom line was that this not only effected the way that some read the book, but also created influence over opinions. What a ‘meta’ concept… in a UX group. Ha!

BACK to BASICS – Definitions & resources are always good… (especially for those of us who are new to the UX field). The following is my super basic understanding as I’ve collected…

“User experience (UX) is about how a person feels about using a productsystem or service. User experience highlights the experiential, affective, meaningful and valuable aspects of human-computer interaction and product ownership, but it also includes a person’s perceptions of the practical aspects such as utility, ease of use and efficiency of the system. User experience is subjective in nature, because it is about an individual’s feelings and thoughts about the system. User experience is dynamic, because it changes over time as the circumstances change.” – Via Wikipedia

UX Design is a growing field where people in roles (such as Information Architect, Interaction Designer, Visual Designer, Usability Analyst, and User Researcher, etc) do their best to understand the relationship and communication between the human and computer. Their common goal is generally to create the best possible experience for the human using the program, website, software (or digital product)…. There is certainly something to this. As a user I find myself making conscious and subconscious decisions & judgements about my experiences with different websites and software programs. Sometimes I naturally understand while other times I have to work really hard to understand a basic concept. (I either end up cursing at my computer, or reciting ‘I’m not worthy. I’m not worthy.’ Wayne’s World style.) When something works really well, chances are that one of these folks worked hard to perfect that experience.

Basic UX resources in the field include:

IXDA (Interaction Design Association) – find your local chapter for events, etc (NYC)

UPA (Usability Professionals Association) – find your local chapter for events, etc (NYC)

There are often MeetUp groups as well such as the Agile UX Meetup in NYC.

Art for Business Arts Education Language Reflection Visual Thought

Conversations MAKE ME DRAW: 1) Ohours & 2) Healthcare & Social Media

Conversations MAKE ME THINK DRAW!

Lately I’ve been having conversation upon conversation (some with clear purpose and some without) and loving it. Dialogue stimulates my creativity and inspires me to be better – and to DRAW!


I was fortunate to meet Paul Roales for Ohours about a week ago. Our conversation was rich as we come from very different backgrounds. As we sat down in a tea shop in New York City, Paul asked me what this ‘visual stuff’ was all about, telling me that he didn’t get it. We talked about art, business, and as I came to the beginning of defining the ‘visual field’ as I call it, we even focused on the history of art in business. This goes back to the cavemen drawing on walls, but through periods of time where kings rule had much to do with the art that was created. We talked for a full hour instead of the intended half hour and each walked away with more knowledge than before. Check out my sketchnotes!

visuals about art, the visual field, etc
Pieces of a conversation with Paul Roales

CONVERSATION 2) Healthcare & Social Media

Healthcare is in the midst of HUGE transition as many different health care providers do their best to give the best care possible, often using antiquated processes and systems. I know this not only as a patient from time to time, but I also have the fortunes of listening to my father’s point of view. Joe Lyons (my father) has worked in Healthcare for as long as I can remember. Although he isn’t a doctor, he has spent many an early morning meeting with doctors, understanding their culture, and helping doctors and others understand the bigger system that is a primary care practice, a hospital and so on. His perspective is unique as his experiences have led him to see change through the lens of Organization Development and to embrace the likes of Peter Senge, Otto Scharmer’s Theory U, and other models/theories.  Joe Lyons has a deep appreciation for what it means to change a culture – more specifically, the culture of today’s healthcare. A fascinating topic that I won’t do justice today. Rather, I wanted to share a conversation I had about Healthcare and Social Media. How can the two support each other, and how are they already supporting each other? This is just the beginning of a rich conversation. Sketchnotes below!

How can we use social media in healthcare for the greater good?

I’m always looking for topics that stretch my visual thinking! Connect with me and we’ll have a conversation – twitter: @amanda_lyons !

Coming soon – Open Video Conference sketchnotes!

Education Observation Visual Thought

Visual Capture of Howard Rheingold’s COOPERATION THEORY (Session 5)

Rheingold’s class continues with discussions of Cooperation in biology. It’s facinating to look at the systems and relationships created in nature around us. Scientists such as Lynn Margulis have done extensive research on the cooperation of cells. Margulis had to be persistent as her theory was rejected by many – a pioneer for women in science. Go Lynn! Cooperation abounds in biology from plants knowing their ‘brother’ and ‘sister’ seedlings to birds riding on another animal’s backs. See my visual capture of Session 5 for more examples.

People like myself and Margaret Wheatley love this natural cooperation!

Part of me gasps when I think about the roles humans play in disturbing ecosystems. So often we are taught with tunnel vision – first is Math, Language Arts, Music and Recess while later we study Calculus, Poetry, and the clarinet. It’s not often enough in my past that someone reminded me to focus not only in the depths of that one subject but also to focus on the larger view of the effected surrounding system. The sooner we learn this in life, the more we will understand holistically in order to avoid mishaps. Two which come to mind in the realm of sustainability include:

1) Our wonderful windmills which save resources in some places can hurt birds. (Read about this here, here and here.) Did we think about this before building our massive moving fans? Does it make it ok that birds have lots of other ways of dying – such as our tall buildings, windows, etc?

2) If we gather our energy from the ground, what ecosystems are being effected? (Read some about this here and here.)

Education Observation Reflection Visual Thought

Visual Capture of Howard Rheingold’s COOPERATION THEORY (Session 1)

Cooperation Lit - Session 1 - Howard Rheingold

I’m excited to be able to share the first of a series… another great first!

As I listen and capture Howard Rheingold’s class titled Intro to Cooperation Lit, I find myself happy to be included in a course where people understand learning. Yes, the content of the course is intriguing and informative on a deeper level than your run of the mill course, but the course itself is far from a content-pushing-intellectual-ambush. Howard creates the space in his classroom where bigger things can happen, form and evolve. He facilitates collaboration, and gives you permission to really learn by pushing the intersections of content, technology and your own personal experience or story or journey. This is the space that inspires people to create. So, I’d recommend looking out for what’s next. Who knows what this class will do together, and I’ll be right here capturing it!

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