The essence of digital visual literacy

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How long did it take you to see an image of some kind? Probably no time at all because our ability to visualize is fundamental to our thinking process. Yet most of us are only partially aware of the whole, amazing, invisible, and instantaneous thought process that takes place inside us when we use our imagination. Digital Visual Literacy means thinking, interacting and problem solving more visually by combining words and images using digital technology. For many reasons DVL is useful to anyone solving almost any kind of problem; so let’s start with this reason: When we are not intentionally and skillfully using pictures to help ourselves and others connect, communicate and solve problems more effectively, we’re probably limiting ourselves — and thus our results — in a significant and habitual way without even realizing it.

Why we don’t we realize it

Basically, how we individually and in groups think and interact with other is grounded in words, language, and verbal concepts. It’s NOT in a full working partnership with our sense of vision, or what is visual — like a picture. But words can’t, don’t and won’t ever equal reality — they’re only approximations and representations. Each of us interprets them differently and subjectively, and they’re easy to forget. This default to words doesn’t can prevent us from imagining, creating, analyzing, seeing things clearly and even getting emotionally charged up when we need to be.

This imbalance is perfectly understandable. Every one of us was taught and encouraged to learn the skills of speaking, reading and writing by everything and everyone around us. At the same time, our learning how to see, interpret and communicate visually came far more naturally and automatically, with virtually no structured activity. This is so true that few of us ever learned in school or anywhere else how incredibly complex our visual wiring and learning process really is, or what made it as powerful as it is, and what’s at stake when we aren’t fully utilizing it.

Transform frustration into improvement

Consider for an instant how much of our communication is actually non-verbal and visual — like our facial expressions, or hand gestures and the degree to which any great communication, like good storytelling or humor — invokes or conveys a stream of images and emotions within us. Unless we studied drama or communication in school, these are not the skills most of us spent structured time learning or practicing.

We all experience frustration with ineffective communication and problem-solving. Just recall any meeting that’s left us feeling we’ve wasted our time when we haven’t moved forward. Among the many possible reasons for this habitual thinking with communication that significantly under-utilizes our natural ability to visualize, which in turn constrains our clarity, thus our actualization.

Visualization delivers emotion

Given how likely such limitation may be operating unnoticed throughout our lives, we’ve developed DVL as an almost universal, practical and accelerated way to:

  1. Leverage the power of our natural ability to think visually.
  2. Ensure we’re not limiting ourselves in over-reliance on words and verbal concepts when we need to be thinking and communicating visually as well.
  3. Instantly shift any idea from internal and private, to visible and shared. In this transformation from invisible to visible, we can move an idea from one stage of possibility to another in terms of others’ perception, clarity and alignment. We might also transform an idea from one that is unclear or only partially unconscious, to one that’s far clearer and thus more useful.
  4. An image almost always conveys or sparks an emotional association just as faces and facial  expressions, whether they’re conscious or unconscious.

DVL: clarity accelerates action

To operate at our best, cultivating Digital Visual Literacy may almost seem like a “why-haven’t-we-been-doing-this-all-along?” kind of common sense. Well, many people have. Creative professionals, for example, have depended on visual thinking for ages. For the rest of us, though, the good news is: It’s a easier than you might think, as it starts with relaxing into it and letting go of various “shoulds” about it. DVL isn’t something to stress about because it’s pure empowerment. Given that nearly anything visual helps build engagement and clarity, no matter what degree or style of visual expression you employ, there’s no “have-to” here; there is only: What would you like to do?

Thus, DVL is about what you want to do and can do, right now with visuals, based on where you are and what you’re dealing with. Our aim, therefore, is to demonstrate DVL in a way that encourages you to adopt a curious mindset — one that allows you to learn the “how-to’s“ as quickly as you want while finding fun and joy in your learning along the way. Yes, DVL does involve digital devices, but even more fundamentally, DVL is about a way we look at things, people, communication and situations. It begins with our perception and our drive to make things more clear and real — to ourselves and others.

Course purpose

We intended and designed Visual Supercharge as a . . .

  • fun, engaging, and inspiring exploration of a remarkable hybrid kind of literacy • tour of how DVL can be applied to countless situations and challenges in life
  • demonstration of skills, tools and mindset available to anyone who’s Internet-connected*
  • treasure chest of examples that we make up in the moment and/or work out in advance
  • doorway to greater effectiveness, especially at work, whether you invest more time or not . . . not as a . . .
  • software training or instruction, which is already available online
  • step-by-step guide for how to do what we demonstrate.
  • formal, highly-structured course with a syllabus or objectives
  • quickly-referenced information platform
  • solution to any particular problem or challenge

not as a . . .

  • software training or instruction, which is already available online
  • step-by-step guide for how to do what we demonstrate.
  • formal, highly-structured course with a syllabus or objectives
  • quickly-referenced information platform
  • solution to any particular problem or challenge

Course overview of its Content and Episodes

As you can see in our free 3-part Course Introduction, each episode provides a variety of examples, applying basic DVL skills, tools, models, formats, mindset, etc. to classic recurring situations — primarily in the workplace. More detailed information and background materials can be accessed in individual episode sections as well as in Supplemental Readings and blog pages.

Our four areas of focus

  1. Skills (intangible/fundamental/transferable) — or the ability to use a tool or methodology
  2. Tools
  3. Methodologies: processes and practices 
  4. Mindset 

Productivity skills related to visual thinking

  • Ideation, innovation and visioning
  • Problem solving
  • Meeting planning, coordination, and facilitation
  • Creating, identifying and representing the big picture / context 
  • Technology utilization
  • Presentations preparation
  • Visual skills and assets assessment

Challenges to Adoption

The obvious (realizing that almost all of us all have them, so we may as well address them directly.)

  1. Selecting, budgeting for or buying the “right” tools: 
    – Which tablet is best for me/us?
    – Which pencil or stylus do I get — do I really need one?
    – Which software package do I/we invest in (knowing you can start with a free, but very restrictive free version)?
  2. Learning to use your device from a basic operational standpoint 
  3. Learning the basic associated software: Zoom, Explain Everything, Miro, Files, Photos
  4. Having the time to learn and practice the basic moves and operations
  5. Applying DVL mindset, skills and tools to real situations to close the gap between knowing and doing
  6. Getting yourself started and remembering to practice a little everyday.

Contextual & Perceptual Obstacles

Considering how large the whole experience of literacy can seem at first, the idea investing any attention, time, and money on DVL might appear a bit crazy . . . like . . . Why would someone even consider that? 

After all, as busy working adults, how many of us ever think about literacy? We speak, read, write well enough to get along in the world, using skills we developed over 10+ years when much of our lives were focused on learning them as an obvious necessity. Then, later, perhaps, we developed other forms of literacy, like law, medicine, math, science or engineering, or some other practice, through formal study in college or a university. So, the thought of cultivating yet another form of literacy today wouldn’t be very compelling if it wasn’t required or demanded by a higher authority or situation. 

Motivation is the key (of course!)

With the above context in mind, we believe the overriding key to cultivating and adopting DVL is “simply” (ha ha!) your motivation. As we see it, given how immediately beneficial DVL can be — just in your own thinking process and setting aside all you can do with a digital device — almost any other condition that seems like an obstacle becomes secondary. Once you are motivate to integrate DVL into your life, any other obstacles will quickly become tiny challenges that only sharpen your skills.


Both of us have practiced visual literacy* as professionals for years. Prior to our collaboration, we didn’t know one another at all, or anything about each other. We lived on two different continents, nine time zones and two separate worlds apart, and started talking at the beginning of the pandemic. We still haven’t met in person, though obviously we’ve been working together virtually.

But none of those, or other gaps. stopped us from collaborating — and don’t need to stop your either! Yes, of course we had our challenges because we created this almost entirely in our spare time and our two lives were anything but coordinated. So we designed the course to demonstrate that with an open, flexible and non-judgmental mindset, DVL can help you bridge almost any gap, with a little fun thrown in, whether work-related, in your own personal growth process, with family, etc.

We hope the course will demonstrate to you that the desire to make things clearer — by making them more visible and visual — will also create a bigger shared context with people and that shared context is inherently valuable. What this often means revealing or visualizing a little piece of our overall reality that’s often invisible to the eye 👁 — which can be plenty transformative as well.

* The frequent, comfortable, daily use of visual images

Bartosz Gonczarek

Expert in economics, digital transformation and entrepreneur who co-founded the popular and Apple award-winning digital whiteboard platform: Explain Everything.

David Winkelman

Experienced change manager & meeting facilitator for a wide variety of organizations and industries, including Boeing, Toyota, NASA, Coca-Cola, healthcare, financial institutions and the US Navy.

What else might you want to know?

  • This is the kind of course that starts wherever you are, and there are no “grades”, distance markers or tests; everyone learns in a different ways, at a different pace! Cultivating DVL mostly means using it in real situations.
  • The first key to integrating our subject matter is to experiment with something new, or practice a little every day —even manually if you don’t get any screen time on a given day.
  • Another key is to find a learning partner who also wants to cultivate DVL, with whom you can comfortably share your challenges and accomplishments, take small learning risks, etc.
  • The Explain Everything software we use in this course has it’s own extensive online education in the form of video tutorials. If you acquire Explain Everything software, these tutorials will be a great source of How-to information and instruction.
  • Throughout the course, we refer to “mindset” along with skills and tools of DVL. Learning and applying DVL is as much about tapping your own creativity, flexibility and imagination as it is mastering any particular tool, technique or procedure. This is what we mean by “mindset”. When you get that, the rest will come easier and flow.
  • As we’ll explain in our Epilogue, (found at the end of the course in Episode 9, as well as at the conclusion of Episode 1, our 30-minute Course Introduction), the two of us are available as resources for you. We want to make this easy, so you can reach us through David’s consulting business, Winkelman Solutions, in three ways: 1) here, through email 2) by making a 30-minute Calendly appointment 3) through our communication form under the Contact tab.