Readings | Doodles | Week 3

Wednesday, February 20th 2019, 12:25:22 am

Sunni Brown’s defense of doodles makes a very strong case in their favor. Starting with the opening annecdote about their utility in helping Virginia Scofield get through a very tough subject matter in a PhD program, she frames their utility from the get go.

Her critique of the existing, denotative meanings (i.e. formal definitions) of doodling then goes on to explain how we got to the point of dismissing doodles as a culture. In her own words, she frames her opponent’s points by attacking their misguided definitions:

If you reference any standard dictionary, it will offer up a variety of disreputable definitions: To dilly-dally, to fiddle around, to make meaningless marks, or to do something of little value, substance, or import.

She follows this up with her correct definition of doodles as:

Doodling may be better described as ‘markings to help a person think.’

This draws them (pun intended) in a more positive light.

The Strategic Doodle and Useful Doodles

Brown’s defense of doodles sets her up well to explain how to put doodles to work for you. She begins with thinking about them as tools. She calls this “the strategic doodle” and defines it as:

To doodle strategically is to doodle to track auditory or text-based information and display it back to an audience (it can be an audience of one). Strategic doodling is where powerhouse learning and problem solving take place, which is why it’s beyond justifiable at school and at work.

She then explains that we can use these to help us solve problems at work, but only after we:

give ourselves permission to doodle.

Once we’ve allowed ourselves such an indulgence, she explains the components of good doodles:

  1. Lettering
  2. Bullets
  3. Frames
  4. Connectors
  5. Faces and Figures
  6. Shadows and Shadings

In each one she reminds us of what is possible in a doodle and how powerful of a visual language they can provide in the context of standard note-taking and other documentary actions.

Furthermore, she reminds us that doodles needn’t be solitary. She calls this social mode “group doodling”. In this, she not only gives us the ability to permit ourselves as individuals to doodle, but also invites our peers and coworkers. Through all this she not only sells us on the advantages of doodling, but she gives us the chance to evangelize those benefits through groups.

I, for one, am now sold on the benefits of doodling. I’m now off to doodle.


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Written by Omar Delarosa who lives in Brooklyn and builds things using computers.

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