We’ve been big fans of We Think Visual @ since we first saw their work at 3XE . We’re really pleased to bring you an interview with their founder Naomi Fein, complete with uniquely created illustrations. We hope you enjoy this one as much as we did.
I have a varied background including arts, education, graphic design, animation, facilitation…
Coming from an arty background, I’ve always been drawing and playing with materials. I went to art high school that gave me confidence in my artistic ability and shaped my approach to creativity. My mother was a teacher. Inspired by her I launched a teaching career when I was 10. My best (and only) student at the time was my little sister, so I practised on her, and managed to teach her to read and write by the age of 4.
I had been working as a graphic designer, and been running my own creative workshops for years when I decided to move to Ireland. Once in Ireland, I focused on creative community work. I taught puppetry in Derry, a Traveller youth worker in Cork, and ran my own animation workshop in Carrigaline. At the same time I used my design and facilitation skills to create effective education and marketing materials for small businesses and the community sector in Cork.
I enjoyed running my small one-person business. I learnt a lot of what it takes to have a successful business, the mindset and practices that push it from a job to a business.
How did the idea evolve?
During 2012 a friend introduced me to the concept of “Graphic Harvesting”, using big sheets of paper and markers, we practiced harvesting TED talks. It made total sense, and because I had been drawing using a wacom tablet for over 10 years, it made more sense to replace the big paper sheets with a digital endless canvas.
I experimented with my clients at that time, collecting live knowledge at a Travellers health conference, and the National Youth Council conference for youth workers..
During a visit to my homeland, Israel, I met with a family friend and showed her my recent graphic harvesting work. She got very excited. She works in international HR for a large multinational. She described a big problem she experienced in her role. On many occasions they flew high level managers around the world. Spending precious time and resources, to bring the right people into the room, generating knowledge to shape the actions for thousands of people. She and her colleagues felt frustrated after those intense trips, overwhelmed with the work waiting in the office, to translate the decisions reached by their co-workers from different locations and cultures.
This led me to form Think Visual. Equipped with my new insight, I moved into the business world, leaving the community sector behind. I created Think Visual with the aim of bringing clarity that is easy to remember, act upon and share to the multinational business world.
What are your inspirations? Is it graphic novels, cartoons / animation / pixar?
I love animations, but I can’t say that this was the inspiration for Think Visual. It is easy to focus on the visual part of our work, but actually the main area we work in is invisible. I always say Think Visual is 80% Think and 20% Visual.
My inspiration came from great thinkers such as Carl Rogers, the father of counselling, David Allen, the master of Getting Things Done (GTD) and Thich Naht Hanh, a buddhist monk nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for his contribution to the peace process during Vietnam war.
And of course from very talented visualisers like David McCandless or many other visual artists, young and old (check out our Pinterest boards!)
However the main source of inspiration is from the great storytellers and stories. It’s hard to pinpoint which one inspires me most. I’ve been a book worm all my life. I come from three generations of storytellers on both sides. For the past ten years I have also lived Ireland, a country that celebrates storytelling as part of its heritage.
To make beautiful graphic harvests you need to start with a great story. When you have the story, the visuals just appear in our heads. Once they are in our heads, it’s an easy journey to put them on the screen.
Which artists influenced / inspired you?
My grandma is an amazing artist. She has a fast confident hand, her sketches are captivating and story-full. Her drawings, like her stories, are full of humour that I try to keep in my work. I guess she is my biggest influence.
Hundertwasser is an Austrian artist and architect that captured my imagination early on, with his diversity of artistic outputs, as well as his passion for creating a new balance between human and the natural environment. Lastly, I love naive art. I have a collection of children books from around the world displaying many talented artists and illustrators.
Where do you hope to go to in the future? Servicing more events, conferences or moving into something else as well?
Think Visual is all about bringing clarity to the world in a visual way in order to help people make the change they want to see.
How do we bring clarity? We listen to complex information (at conferences, events, workshops, meetings, one on one…) and we “harvest” the complex knowledge and re-tell it.
Because we are visual creatures we use visual storyfull language which make it more memorable, actionable and shareable.
My vision for Think Visual is that we will work with some of the greatest minds and souls of this world, and be able to re-tell their story and make this place into a better world for all. I hope we will develop into a global community of visual storytellers, graphic harvesters and facilitators to support the growth of wisdom on the earth. Sounds big? I guess it is
I dream we’ll grow into a global company with about 100 people around the world, working with large multinationals and organisations, governments. We will have an amazing graphic and animation studios that will convert the clarity into beautiful effective outputs. And we will be experimenting with new visual technologies that are emerging now, all very exciting!
Is it tricky to keep up to speed with the speaker while you create your pieces to complement the talk.
YES. After an event or a meeting your brain is totally exhausted. You need to keep a very high level focus for lengthy time. It feels amazing while it’s happening.
To harvest a live speaker we prepare well. We study the topic, sometimes interview the speaker beforehand. We make sure we know the look and feel of what we’re going to use. When the moment comes we can relax, listen and draw.
Visual is valued highly, and can bring greater engagement to tweets, articles, infographics, how far towards the visual do you think this trend will continue to go?
I’m not sure. I guess with new technology we might get to see 3D visuals pop from our screens, or using google glasses they will interact with our surrounding.
The question for me is how effective would those be?
Will we find new ways to capture our insights and knowledge and share it in a way that keep those crystallise knowledge bits alive?
Visuals play a big role because they have a way to keep the stories.
“picture worth a 1000 words, a good story worth 1000 pictures”
I saw a pen that allows you to draw in 3D, like a mini 3D printer, I’d love to see what harvested conversation would look using that pen.
What have been your favourite images created to date?
That’s a really hard question!
I think our work on the Internet of Things is my favourite so far.
How was 2014?
Amazing. Moving from one person operation into a team of 5 people and more contractors around us.
What are your plans for 2015?
Growing our team. That is my biggest plan for this year. Finding more visual storytellers, graphic harvesters, illustrators and animators to join us.
And do our first job in the US!
What’s it like being based in Cork for launching your business?
So far I see mostly pluses for starting in Cork. There is an amazing support networks. I guess because it’s a smaller community people are very caring and helpful.
We are based in the Rubicon Centre, it’s a brilliant place to be. Paul Healy and his team have been great help at different pressure points, and the local LEO and other individuals.
We have been very lucky that some of our global clients have offices in Cork, which makes it very easy to support them. There’s a good interview about this point with Denis Collins http://goo.gl/Gu29xT
The challenging point is that most of the talent is based in Dublin, and for some very strange reason people are not in a rush to move to Cork as their base. I don’t know why, I personally think that the quality of life here is much better than in Dublin.
Anything else to add?
Our Mission and Vision:
People need clarity.
We are the instrument for clarity
Together we produce infinite visual harmonies
Everyone has a story to tell.
when we truly listen,
Everyone is an artist
as we create,
we become agents of change
Everyone is unique
when we connect