Introducing Visual Thinking with LEGO®

Some time ago, I was trying to explain a project to a few workmates and I was a little confused about how to show them how the system will work. So, after this confusion, I started to look for something that can help me to organize better my ideas. Definitely I needed a tool that help me to understand better some things that I’m working with. Then, after search a little on the web, I found the Visual Thinking.

At the same time, I was playing LEGO® a lot with my first daughter. And I was impressed about her power of imagination and metaphors on building a model. And I was impressed too the she truly believe that the model that she created is exactly what she imagined.

So, based on this two ideas – Visual Thinking and LEGO®, I started to think: “How can I introduce Visual Thinking using LEGO® bricks? My point is to start with simple forms and increase the power of imagination and metaphors as the same we do when playing with LEGO® bricks. So, I need a script to my workshop.

The script is:

  1. Set the context: briefly introduce the workshop and yourself – personal marketing is mandatory 😉
  2. Start the LEGO® activities:
    1. Build an airplane (with how many bricks do you want)
    2. After, build a dog (with just 4 LEGO® bricks)
    3. Finally, build a box (with how many bricks do you want)
  3. Draw the 5 simplest forms on VT and start to draw something simple:
    1. A house
    2. A human
    3. A house
    4. A sad human
  4. Then, explain the Vivid Grammar on VT
  5. After this, show them the Visual Thinking process
    1. Look
    2. See
    3. Imagine
    4. Show
  6. Introduce the VT alphabet and draw some simple forms
  7. Show them the Egypt perspective
  8. Final step

The LEGO® activities

First of all, the three steps on the LEGO® activities are proposed to introduce the thinking based on metaphors. These steps was defined too on the LEGO® Serious Play process that Marko Rillo showed on this video.

Besides, my point is to make a metaphorical progression on what the participants are building. Let’s think about it:

  1. First model: an airplane. There is no (or a little few) questions about how an airplane looks like. This is the first step: everybody knows how an airplane is.
  2. Second model: a dog, with 4 LEGO® bricks. Now, people must think about a dog and must imagine it simple to build the model with just 4 bricks. After everybody build their model, I talk a little about how they can imagine that the model is a dog. And, thinking deeper, how can we imagine that their models can be another animal on another context. Maybe a cow, a horse, a cat, or even a tiger. Isn’t true? This is the first step that split the way we think when we are on childhood (based on imagination) and the think that we create when start to grow (to loose imagination and start to make judgments).
  3. Finally, the third model: build a box. At this time, everybody start to use many bricks and think in a big box. So, after they finished, I start to talk about imagination and beliefs. For me, a box with LEGO® bricks can be the simplest one: a box made with just one piece. And allowing my imagination to go to the sky, inside my box can be anything that I want.

The Design Thinking process

My script is based on Design Thinking too. The start with LEGO® challenges is the step that we open our minds to a new way of thinking. After this first part, everybody is focused on metaphors and imagination, and essentially, to make no judgments about what other people built. And this is the main idea: every model created is exactly what we believe that the model is. And this is the way little kids think and we loose when we start to be adults.

Then, after talk about imagination, creativity and no judgments (we started to believe on what other people build), I start to talk about Visual Thinking.

Simple bricks that we can use to build anything.
Simple forms that we can use to draw anything.


Alexandre Silva

I'm addicted on SW Engineer, agile and learning, a very good reader of old and good books, and I love to think strategically. I love to be with my family and a like very much to know people from other cultures.