It’s becoming painfully obvious to me how ignorant I am about the visual thinking world. Searching for terms about mapping information space I’ve come across all sorts of terms I wasn’t aware of that relate somehow to what I’m looking for but don’t seem to quite characterize it exactly; cybercartography, data visualization, information visualization, to name a few. More and more I’m wanting to find a concise overview of all terms and definitions related to visual thinking – a visual thinking taxonomy.

I’ve found bits and pieces and attempts at it. The Conference Topics image on the VizThink home page looks like it was an attempt to capture some of the concepts related to visual thinking. To me, this graphic seems to be about defining what you can apply visual thinking to. Ok. Great. That’s important. That’s one way to classify the visual thinking world.

I’ve also found visual definitions of methods of visual thinking. The Periodic Table of Visualization Methods at Visual Literacy is a pretty nifty interactive visual. Another nice piece of the puzzle.

There’s another perspective of the visual thinking landscape that I’d like to see though and that’s a kind of taxonomy of the disciplines that fall under the visual thinking umbrella. The closest metaphor I can think of is of engineering. In engineering, there are several disciplines; mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, chemical engineering, civil engineering, etc. All of them use the language and tools of physics and math, but they all deal in different (though often overlapping) realms.

What would a similar taxonomy of visual thinking disciplines look like. Brainstorming last night, I came up with the following so far: information graphics, data visualization, information visualization, mind mapping, graphic design, graphic facilitation, graphic recording, cartooning, animation … I know there are more, but my ignorance is getting in the way.

Hmm. Creating relationships, and groups and hierarchies among all these things related to visual thinking seems like a job for some kind of visualization method. Since seeing the SpinScape demo at VizThink, I’ve been wanting to come up with a mind mapping project to try out in SpinScape. Why not try this. So, if you were at VizThink and got the SpinScape closed beta pass and want to help define this structure, log into SpinScape and contribute to my Visual Thinking Taxonomy map. It’s just a rough draft at the moment. Feel free to add, move, rearrange, etc.