• Amy Burvall

Visual Thinking: Image is Everything and Mad for Metaphor


One of my favourite workshops I’ve developed is “Image is Everything”. It’s a visual thinking experience that can be anywhere from 1-6 hours (or all day, or over a two day conference). The point is NOT to “learn to sketchnote” as so many related workshops are. In fact, although I do drawings to represent my or others’ thinking, I would not identify as a “sketchnoter”. A lot of my friends are, and they are fab, but I need to distill…I need to simplify into one icon only…that’s why I call what I do (for the most part) “Metaphorical Iconography”.


Above: an animated trailer I made (in my old style) using Paper 53 on the iPad, Reflector App, Quicktime, ad iMovie.

Recently, I worked with Canadian educators from all different disciplines and divisions exploring “Visual Thinking Across the Curriculum”.


Visual Thinking Across the Curriculum: Whistler Conference 2017 from Amy Burvall

The description reads:

This hands-on session will explore the “Whys” of visual literacy and offer participants an opportunity to tinker and play with:

● iconography and metaphorical thinking

● pictograms, “Shortology”, emoji, meme stories, and gifs

● graphic design, graphic facilitation, infographics and sketchnotes

● photography, cinemagrams (moving photos)

● icon-based annotations and marginalia

● using images to leverage CVs, social media, and presentations

We’ll experiment with ways to use visual language for personal knowledge management,amplification of knowledge and creative work, critical thinking, social interaction (conversation),and other forms of creative and intellectual expression.

As always, I ask participants to join my open Google+ Community, in which I’ve curated resources on visual thinking in several categories for over 3 years now.


If you are reading this post, you can flip through the deck to find out what kinds of activities we delved into, but I’ve included some images at the end.

In June I was asked to join some of the Simon Fraser University (SFU) staff  in their SKIP Conference, which stands for “Sketching in Practices”.

I wanted to do a sort of interactive keynote, and, given that most of the audience were already accomplished artists and visual thinkers, focus on my particular passion with visual thinking – metaphor. I developed something called “#MadforMetaphor: Sketching Complexity”


Mad for Metaphor: Sketching Complexity from Amy Burvall

The main idea is this:


We had all sorts of fun responding to over 25 prompts (I loved that the tables were covered in white butcher paper). [Photos below]

Finally, at SKIP I decided to offer an impromptu workshop the second day, focused on using iOS apps to “make one’s sketches come alive”. Animation can be done so well with all kinds of software – check out my friend Bryan Mather’s new experiment:


For the past year or so, however, I’ve made it a personal challenge to do every bit of creative work on my iPhone6, using just a few go-to apps.


IOS-ify Your Images from Amy Burvall

My personal favourite workflow is to do old school stop motion animation by duplicating an image card in Paper 53, adding to it, replicating that process…then sticking them all into the app ImgPlay to create a gif. I usually add copyright-free music in the Splice app.


The description reads:

You’ve made a great original image..now what? How can you breathe life into your drawing, making it more poignant and impactful? Amy shares her go-to techniques for creating simple animations with iOS devices and apps. Explore stop-motion, gifs, adding sound and squiggle movement…all with the convenience of your phone or tablet! Play and tinker with other apps that can augment your doodles in various ways and learn how to leverage these “app smashes” for your academic, creative, or entrepreneurial work.

As promised, here are some peeks into what we did…

Visual Thinking for You

If you are interested in exploring visual thinking for your school or organization – please know this is content and age agnostic – consider contacting me here or at amyburvall@gmail.com.

Take a Peek…


metaphorical typography


Oreo Challenge: read more about that in this post


Illustrated Kennings


Serendippidoodle Game


visualizing vocab


identifying our go-to visual icons


some are unconventional




4 icon challenge


spark the fire – metaphorical type

#art #ios #communication #professionaldevelopment #creativity #pd #prod #visual #workshops #metaphor #amyburvall #apps #visualthinking

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