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Dave Gray, the founder and Chairman of XPLANE (a firm that has great expertise in communicating complex concepts and processes visually), has published a pre-release version of his new book, Marks and Meaning. It’s a fascinating read, one which I highly recommend, and an innovative approach to publishing a book.

Dave Gray, the founder and Chairman of XPLANE (a firm that has great expertise in communicating complex concepts and processes visually), has published a pre-release version of his new book, Marks and Meaning.

Published via print-on-demand service Lulu.com, Dave calls “version zero” of his book a work in progress, an evolving exploration of visual language, visual thinking and visual work practices. It is described as “part sketchbook, part textbook, part workbook.” I recently ordered a copy of it, and was blown away by the depth of insights that are already contained in this rough, unfinished draft. It’s like seeing the tip of an iceberg; you just know there’s much more under the surface compared what is now visible.

Dave’s entire focus is on helping today’s information worker (that describes just about all of us!) to understand how to present information visually, in a meaningful and compelling way. The book is chock full of hand-drawn information models and examples, which I found to be quite interesting. It contains blank pages, where you can add notes and insights gained from it.

Dave also provides some very compelling explanations of his visual thinking theories. On more than one occasion, I found myself murmuring out loud, “Wow – that’s deep!” In short, this guy has put a lot of deep thought into the art and practice of visual communication, and it shows, even in this rough draft.

What does this have to do with innovation? First, the process that Dave is using to write this book is quite innovative. He has invited readers to critique the content of this rough draft, plus submit their own interpretations and illustrations, which may be incorporated into later editions of the book. It’s truly a collaborative process, and Dave has already started up a Google Groups discussion list to get the dialogue started.

Secondly, visual thinking is a key creative problem strategy. It’s a powerful way to communicate your ideas, quickly and intuitively. Depending on the diagram, process map, mind map or other form of business visual you have created, a picture could indeed be worth more than a thousand words. In addition, the higher you go in an organization, the more senior executives don’t have the time or patience to read long reports. They want something more visual that summarizes the key ideas visually. So visual thinking in business really is a very timely subject.

Because this book is at such an early stage, there’s a real opportunity for readers (that be you) to give Dave detailed feedback on every aspects of the content of Marks and Meaning. Some people may be put off at spending US$34 on an “unfinished” book, but I consider it to be a great opportunity to contribute to a book that I predict will be considered to be one of the seminal works in the world of visual thinking.

I strongly recommend that you order a copy of Marks and Meaning – I think you’ll be very impressed, and will gain plenty of insights that you can use in your creative problem solving challenges.

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