20 Jun 2016

Doodle Power

doodling in expressive arts

Designer Milton Glaser said: “When you draw an object, the mind becomes deeply, intensely attentive. And it’s that act of attention that allows you to really grasp something, to become fully conscious of it.”

In recent years abundant research has shown that in our age of ubiquitous gadgetry, drawing pictures by hand and doodling are critical to memory and the experience of flow.

Encouragingly, it does not matter a bit what the level of drawing skill you possess. Author of The Doodle Revolution, Sunni Brown says “perceived skill has absolutely nothing to do with the quality of the learning experience for the doodler.” And learning is the goal.

Brown relates that Apple, Ford, Zappos and Disney, some of the most creatively energized companies out there, have all encouraged doodling to promote productivity and innovation. She lists further benefits of work place doodling as a way to maintain focus, solve problems, and filter emotional responses in the midst of challenges. Brown says in her well-known TED Talk, “the doodle has never been the nemesis of intellectual thought. In reality, it is one of its greatest allies.”

Several UK studies at Plymouth and Cambridge Universities have shown that subjects remember significantly more when allowed to doodle, with a study in the Journal of Applied Cognitive Psychology, finding that doodlers recall 29% more information than non-doodlers.

Doodling seems aimless but research shows that it’s one key to a healthy mind. While engaged in what seems purely random, our fascinating subconscious bubbles up. It’s almost like a waking dream. Our doodling iconography is our own language rich with symbols and connections. Doodling is the stream of consciousness made into a visual map.

I am an entrepreneur, artist and confessed chronic doodler. As far back as I can remember lecture and class notes were covered in margin scribbles that threatened to overtake the page.

In my experience doodling is conscious dreaming for the creative mind. 

My business partner & I do many conference calls together and we’re both avid doodlers. We’re attending to all that is said in the conversation, and participating and even leading vocally, but streaming from both of our hands on our separate pieces of paper is a flowing river of imagery. Sometimes it’s topically related, but more often I feel we each hit upon vital subterranean territory.

Over the many years of our business calls I’ve enjoyed this visual reminder of our individual, deeper creative existences. To the point where if we ever did a call together where those streams of ink stopped, I’d be concerned for our mutual creative well being.

There is a self-knowing that we brush up against in these wandering marks. We let go and allow the drawings build organically. A doodle doesn’t need a goal. My best doodles have character and personality, and sometimes, even wit, but they free me from any concern for an outcome.

Doodles reveal our preoccupations and sometimes shine light in our dark mental corridors. It can be like watching a puzzle unravel. If you do it a lot it opens the gates of creativity like an express train.

Your wandering doodling hand makes a neural path to a free-er faster connection from the deepest reservoirs of the creative brain to the top–level mind. Doodling clears our mental and emotional weeds.

Draw on!