What are the Idea Shapers?

photo of Brandy Agerbeck with halo of markers around her head

by Brandy Agerbeck 

The 24 oh-so-learnable skill sets to master visual thinking

Sit down with a blank sheet of paper and pen.

With visual thinking that piece of paper can:

  • Give you a place to offload your overwhelm
  • Hold all the factors going into a difficult decision
  • Be a safe space to let out complicated feelings
  • Become a map of your next project
  • Chart out the relationships between people in a community

And about eleven-umpteen other things. 

 

I am here to help you tackle life's challenges with paper and pen. 

I broke down the complexity of visual thinking in very accessible, oh-so-learnable pieces. 

In fact, my goal was to make each piece so frickin' straightforward that when I explain it you say, "Well, duh." 

Beyond the "duh," I teach you the nuance of the tools and the choices you have. How different choices make different types of meaning. 

Let's take my favorite idea shaper to start with. My gateway drug into the visual thinking habit. 

The Connector. 

This idea shaper is drawing a line between two ideas to connect them. 

"Well, duh."

Right?! 

Yes, and there's limitless ways to show how two ideas are related through simple lines. 

Let's swap out ideas or text snippets with faces to personify this technique.

 

In the three examples below, how would you describe the relationships between A and B given the lines between them? 


Example 1

We start out with the style of line; a dotted line instead of a solid one. This type of line can symbolize possibility, potential, something uncertain or unknown.

A may be uncertain if they recognize B. Perhaps A is wondering if B is a potential friend or possible foe. 


Example 2

Here we changed the style of the line making it a zigzag. Those sharp edges could connote tension between the two.

Here A and B equally disdain each other. The red-orange color can amplify the emotion. 

Changing one end of the line into an arrowhead instantly creates a movement. Now using direction, A looks like the aggressor bullying B


Example 3

Again, we are also using arrow to show direction

Now we added two new choices: Line thickness and a disruption in the line.

A has a much stronger attraction to B.

B doesn't return the interest. There's no personal relationship as far as B is concerned. 

Adding color and a label of an American bill defines the relationship even more:

Now these two lines could illustrate A as a fan of B. The money could be paying for a concert ticket, an anonymous donation to someone in need, or an OnlyFans subscription.

 

Three examples of simple lines -- ones that anyone can draw -- that are packed with meaning.

Connectors, man.  

They're fricking great and one of my all-time faves to teach. 

 

Let's talk about how to master Connectors.*

Of course, you can run with this concept and explore line weight, style, color, the ends (like arrows) and labels right now on your own. 

Rock on. 

Practice Connectors to your ❤️'s content and make your own discoveries. 

Hands-on practice is always, always a crucial part of visual thinking. 

I can't insert a cartridge in the back of your head like a Speak N' Spell and instantly impart a robust visual vocabulary of Connectors

But I get darn close. 

Do you:

  • Think visual thinking is only for the folks tapped with the artistic talent stick?
  • Worry that visual thinking is too complicated to learn? 
  • Concerned learning visual thinking will be a time suck? 

I hope A, B and me has already shown you how easy visual thinking can be.

 

*Or any of these 24 idea shapers. Heck, even all 24.

 

The Connector is one of 24 idea shapers.  

Keep scrolling for the briefest introductions to all of our The Connector's 23 buddies. 

Between sections, I share ways to learn together. 

 

Your blank sheet of paper can become anything

This is what makes learning visual thinking daunting

Your blank sheet of paper can become ✨anything.

This is what makes having  learned visual thinking ✨indespensible. 

On this page, I'm ordering the tools in the order that I introduced them in my 2016 book, The Idea Shapers: The power of putting your thinking into your own hands.

The 24 idea shapers are organized into 5 steps I shared in my 2013 TEDxWindyCity talk, Shape Your Thinking

Step 1 | CHUNK

Identify and isolate discrete, relevant ideas from a big messy pile.

The Idea Shapers for Chunking are:
Icon of The Postage Stamp, from The Idea Shapers book

The Objective
Beginning with your end goal in mind

Icon of The Postage Stamp, from The Idea Shapers book

The Landscape
Scanning your entire mental terrain at once

Icon of The Postage Stamp, from The Idea Shapers book

The Stack
Using modularity to sort and shuffle ideas

Icon of The Postage Stamp, from The Idea Shapers book

The Retort
Distilling language for concision and clarity

Do you prefer to learn by reading? 

The Idea Shapers is a robust reference teaching you all 24 idea shapers. 

Want a sneak peek?

Sign up below to join my mailing list and get immediate access to the chapter, "The Properties and Powers of Drawing."

100% privacy. Unsubscribe any time.

Step 2 | SORT + GROUP

Arranging related chunks of information into useful groupings

The Idea Shapers for Sorting are:
Icon of The Postage Stamp, from The Idea Shapers book

The Filter
Sifting through chunks using criteria

Icon of The Postage Stamp, from The Idea Shapers book

The Flag
Setting ideas apart through types of highlighting

Icon of The Postage Stamp, from The Idea Shapers book

The Spectrum
Selective use of color to create organization and meaning

The Idea Shapers for Grouping are:
Icon of The Postage Stamp, from The Idea Shapers book

The Cluster
Organizing similar points through close proximity

Icon of The Postage Stamp, from The Idea Shapers book

The Buffer
Breathing white space around Clusters for clarity

Icon of The Postage Stamp, from The Idea Shapers book

The Banner
Categorizing and labeling your Clustered ideas

Want to master visual thinking one clear step at a time? 

As simple as hitting play and drawing along, The Agerbeck Method teaches you all 24 idea shapers via video, at your own pace. 

Click to explore more

Step 3 | CONNECT + CONTAIN

Using lines and shapes to express relationships

The Idea Shapers for Connecting are:
Icon of The Postage Stamp, from The Idea Shapers book

The Connector
Delineating relationships by placing lines between ideas

Icon of The Postage Stamp, from The Idea Shapers book

The Trio
Choosing shades of color to emphasize and de-emphasize ideas

Icon of The Postage Stamp, from The Idea Shapers book

The Flow
Creating direction and movement throughout your drawings

The Idea Shapers for Containing are:
Icon of The Postage Stamp, from The Idea Shapers book

The Container
Distinguishing ideas by drawing lines around them

Icon of The Postage Stamp, from The Idea Shapers book

The Anchor
Tying your ideas together with a central image

Icon of The Postage Stamp, from The Idea Shapers book

The Lasso
Corralling a collection of ideas using boundaries

Icon of The Postage Stamp, from The Idea Shapers book

The Fill
Complementing lines with areas of shading to create more depth and space

Short on time and ready to rock and roll? 

When you join Brandy in Vitals of Visual THINKING, you learn a third of the idea shapers in a single, activity-packed day. 

Click for details + next date

Step 4 | SCALE

Adjusting size to shift thinking and create organization

The Idea Shapers for Scaling the Size of the Canvas are:
Icon of The Postage Stamp, from The Idea Shapers book

The Poster
Working big to expand your thinking

Icon of The Postage Stamp, from The Idea Shapers book

The Postage Stamp
Working small to condense your thinking

The Idea Shaper for Scaling the Size of Ideas are:
Icon of The Postage Stamp, from The Idea Shapers book

The Pyramid
Scaling text and images to show a hierarchy of ideas

Focusing on a specific skill? 

Three times a year, Brandy leads a Deep Dive Day with her members in Camp Drawmore. Each virtual workshop uh, dives deep, into one or two idea shapers. After the live experience, the archive becomes an online course.

Explore the available deep dive days

Step 5 | Grasp

Strengthening your drawing and making meaning from it

The Idea Shapers for Grasping are:
Icon of The Postage Stamp, from The Idea Shapers book

The Investigator
Testing your ideas by looking through different lenses

Icon of The Postage Stamp, from The Idea Shapers book

The Iterator
Reworking to refine and strengthen your ideas

Icon of The Postage Stamp, from The Idea Shapers book

The Integrator
Synthesizing your ideas into a cohesive image

Icon of The Postage Stamp, from The Idea Shapers book

The Activator
Acting on what you learned from your drawing

Ta-da!

Those are your 24 idea shapers.  

Explore the site and continue learning. 

If you have questions, join me for my next monthly Q+A session, Drawing as a Verb.

Free | Registration required

Share "What are the Idea Shapers?"  

Don't miss a new article. 

Join 3000+ visual thinkers getting Brandy's weekly resources via email. 

Your data is safe. Unsubscribe at anytime.