La pensée visuelle dans

Une interview publiée dans sur le thème de la pensée visuelle et de ses usages, illustrés par ma pratique.

La pensée visuelle dans ma pratique

La pensée visuelle tire ses bénéfices de force de l’image et du langage métaphorique pour ancrer une réflexion, un processus, des concepts. L’image est plus que jamais au cœur de mes interventions : qu’elle soit dessinée, sketchnotée ou formalisée, elle est une réponse synthétique et concrète, un raccourci intuitif et poétique aux nombreux sujets que je traite. 

Aujourd’hui, mettre en forme correspond à œuvrer pour le beau et le vrai : quand une mise en œuvre brille par sa limpidité et sa fraîcheur esthétique, elle donne à voir sa vérité, elle est alignée avec les étoiles. Une autre caractéristique est l’instantanéité : je dessine ou crée en présence de mon client, prise dans l’énergie combinée de nos inconscients, attentive à ce qui se manifeste dans l’instant présent. Cette instantanéité, vécue sur le vif, elle manifeste le contenu rationnel, émotionnel, spirituel, offrant ainsi une interprétation sensible, vivante, subjective… toujours vraie.

Mon interview dans

Guylaine Marchi-Hanus* m’a contactée, début juillet, pour enrichir son article dédié à la pensée visuelle, sur, en me soumettant huit questions auxquelles répondre en mots et en images. C’est toujours une grande chance et un immense plaisir que de voir cet art du langage visuel accéder à une meilleure visibilité, en particulier locale. L’article est illustré par « mes » créations : celles-ci sont, en réalité, toujours des « co-créations », car principalement soutenues par la relation qui se tisse et l’énergie qui s’en dégage, déployant ainsi une mise en œuvre collaborative.

* Nos chemins se sont régulièrement croisés : Guylaine a participé à ma première formation luxembourgeoise sur la pensée visuelle en 2018 ; elle m’a aussi proposé d’animer un team building pour sa propre équipe au sein de la House of Entrepreneurship (entité lancée par la Chambre de Commerce du Luxembourg) en 2020.

La pensée visuelle ou la force des images – français

Visual Thinking, or the Power of Images – English

Interview by Guylaine Hanus, published on, 8 August 2022. Translated by Andrew Hawker.

In the first part of our article on visual thinking, we explored the foundations of this trend, which has inspired many related disciplines – including sketchnoting, visual mapping, computer graphics and graphic facilitation… We now dive into Luxembourgish waters with a professional in the field – in her own words a “visual thinker” who loves her job. Based in her native Luxembourg for the past five years, Vanina Gallo shares her vision of visual thinking and talks about her projects.

First, thank you, Vanina, for sharing your experience and for shedding light on this broad and fascinating subject. To begin with, we often talk about graphic facilitation, which is in fact one among many practices stemming from the field of visual thinking. But what is visual thinking, actually? And what are the main practices stemming from this movement?

Visual thinking is based on the visual processing of information: it covers a great number of practices. Its aim is to facilitate reflection, integration and decision making. According to the adage “a picture is worth a thousand words”, it helps understand and memorise information more completely and immediately. Visual thinking therefore strengthens attention, commitment and collaboration. To practice it is to encourage active listening by energising both your hands and your neuronal connections. All of this stimulates creativity.

Visual thinkers apply several methods simultaneously to transform words into images and make them tangible: they structure and prioritise the semantic content (by highlighting essential words), make a deeper impression (by using easily recognisable symbols or images), unfold and codify the reflective path and its progression (by using diagrams, templates, etc.), play on synchronicities and associations (by activating imagination & intelligence), become part of the group… Indeed, the hand of the visual thinker becomes the invisible hand of the group. The different uses of visual thinking are called sketchnotes, doodling, mind mapping, visual mapping, graphic recording, scribing, graphic facilitation, data visualisation, etc.

As I use it, this figurative and dynamic expression gives a more synthetic, intuitive and poetic vision of things – relying on feelings, taking shortcuts, getting straight to the heart of the matter and invoking the magic of involuntary associations.

Illustrations: Graphic facilitation for the Luxembourg Open Innovation Club (LOIC) of the House of Startups. LOIC regularly hosts presentations on specific themes, this time “Business Model Resilience & Innovation Framework”. (extracts)  

Tell us about yourself. When did you start in graphic facilitation?

My career path is based on two skill sets: drawing and coaching. I started drawing at a very young age. After graduating from the ESAG school of arts in Paris, I worked as a graphic designer, creating posters, publications, catalogues and visual identities for artists, institutions and large companies. The coaching came later, after personal therapy and training in Psychosynthesis, a school of humanistic and integrative psychology. It was in 2007 that I discovered graphic facilitation, thanks to a consultant friend, Pierre Goirand, who had just returned from the United States where he had learnt about this practice. He was looking for a graphic facilitator in France and suggested I give it a try. I loved the energy that arose in these encounters and – as I was starting out in coaching – graphic facilitation played a larger and larger part.

With graphic facilitation and coaching, images play a central role. They are always connected to the present moment, taken from the energy of what is being experienced. I use them for the visualisation and evocation of innate qualities (I often take Greek gods and goddesses as models of inspiration). I deploy them to represent the cognitive, emotional or symbolic content of the meetings and seminars I facilitate. This is how I published Penser en images (Thinking Visually) in 2017 and The Oracle of Greek Gods & Goddesses in 2020.

Illustration: The book Penser en images (Thinking Visually) introduces sketchnotes in 232 pages. Published by Mango in 2017 and out of print, it will soon be available in digital format. 

How do people make use of visual thinking in cultural industry? Can you mention a project of yours in this field?

I had the opportunity to introduce a team from Radio France International (RFI) to sketchnotes during a team building session: I showed them how to use drawings to organise their projects, help them in their thinking, and illustrate their themes. Later, I facilitated a seminar focused on their project “Écouter le monde” (Listening to the World). This project broadcasts “audio postcards”, where sounds and words are intertwined, giving a sense of the personality, culture and imaginary dimension of a place. It also lists, on their website, the sounds of the world, echoes of everyday life and the humanity reflected in it. It was an enthralling experience – to link these two senses to which the whole group was sensitive, the visual and the sonic.

Illustrations: Graphic facilitation of the “Écouter le monde” seminar, a project by RFI and other international players. (extracts)  

What are your favourite topics and what types of partners do you work with?

I have recently worked on two books that I designed and illustrated with sketchnotes: L’entreprise, cet organisme vivant (The Company, a Living Organism), by Pierre Cacoub and M&A for Good. Remettre l’humain au cœur de la finance by Élodie Le Gendre. These projects captivated me because they came from two independent and committed entrepreneurs, driven by a humanistic and “loving” vision of their expertise. Thanks to their trust, I could devote myself entirely to the project, juggling my various skills (strategic advice, graphic design, illustration, editorial advice and copywriting, etc.) to harmonise form and content. The starting point is always visual: each drawing is first sketched out in the presence of the author, as they explain their ideas to me. But it’s the conversation, the relationship, that forms the basis of the cooperation. This is also how I support the creation of a visual identity: I design it in the presence of the client so that they can see things take shape and interact in real time. Our respective realms of the unconscious are in tune; they resonate. The result is sometimes unexpected, but always true and aligned.

Illustrations: Sketchnotes to illustrate the book L’entreprise, cet organisme vivant. Essai sur un leadership éveillé by Pierre Cacoub. Pierre has advised managers for more than thirty years and has founded & managed a consulting firm. For this book, a real collective adventure, he was surrounded by the team of the Loft: Donovan Hawker, Abdu Gnaba, William Lebedel and Bruno du Teilleul. (extracts)  

Illustrations: Sketchnotes to illustrate the book M&A for Good. Remettre l’humain au cœur de la finance by Elodie Le Gendre. (extracts)     

Hasn’t the profession of graphic facilitation become much more popular, in Luxembourg and abroad?

Graphic facilitation is booming. The more complex the world becomes, the more it requires an interface that simplifies it or makes it more accessible. Major multinationals and EU institutions, discovering agility, have made it their hobbyhorse. In Luxembourg, while most facilitators come from France or Belgium, it’s language that determines its deployment: to work in Luxembourgish, you need to understand and write it easily.

Training programmes are popularising graphic facilitation – very successfully and to a varied audience. At Luxembourg’s teacher training institute IFEN, I’ve worked with teachers, who are very enthusiastic about supporting and diversifying learning methods with visual models. And who could be a better audience than teachers and students to promote visual thinking?

Illustrations: Graphic facilitation for Mersch city hall, during a collaborative workshop led by Mediation to reflect on local communication with residents. (extracts)   

Did the covid19 pandemic change the dynamics of your practice? Why?

An external crisis often resonates with an internal crisis. I was born and raised in Luxembourg, then lived in Paris for thirty years. When I returned here five years ago, I badly needed to journey back to my roots and to nature. The pandemic only strengthened this momentum. Today I am more attached to what surrounds me directly: creating connections and acting locally, returning to the body and to gestures, doing things with my hands, spending more time outdoors… This is why I take great pleasure in volunteering at Terra, an agricultural cooperative just a stone’s throw from my home. I also started painting again for pleasure, to challenge myself and to enjoy the time and concentration needed. I am convinced that it’s these extracurricular activities that nourish my work. Even my relationship to time has changed – and I respect the rhythm of each project. Because, as the saying goes: “There’s no point in pulling on a flower to make it grow faster”.

Illustrations: A painting, “Iris”, and a pencil drawing, “Peony”: Vanina Gallo paints these flowers from a book that deciphers their powers and language. According to Vanina, “to immerse yourself in their energy by painting them is to reveal the beauty of the forces with which they suffuse us”. Each flower comes with a personal and poetic text, intended for the person to whom the work is addressed.  

Who is the most important graphic facilitator or designer for you, your source of inspiration?

My current inspirations are not from the fields of facilitation or graphic design. The first is the painter Georgia O’Keeffe. She brings me back to the plant and mineral world and is currently moving me to find my own way of painting flowers, exploring the mystery of their shapes (how petals and leaves unfold, bend, intertwine with each other…) to better feel and translate their energy, their truth and beauty.

The second is Hildegard of Bingen, a twelfth-century mystic nun, composer and woman of letters… This woman of a thousand talents wrote and illustrated her Scivias (“Know the Ways of the Lord”) in which she recorded and described her many visions, notably with the help of illustrations. It seems to me these are the sketchnotes of the time.

Illustration: Scivias, Hildegard of Bingen  

Illustration: For a visual identity, Vanina Gallo was inspired by plants to schematise a method of agile management that proceeds from an “organic” approach. (work in progress) 

What’s your next project?

My next project is to evolve the visual identity of Sevenstones, an M&A “boutique” with a deeply human, lively, warm and quirky spirit. My role is to implement the semantic, metaphorical and visual territory that will illustrate this singular brand strategy. For my client, I am the “guardian” of authenticity between form and content. For if “the form is the content that rises to the surface” (according to Victor Hugo), for companies, content is the purpose – and the form should embody this truth of the purpose.

My position today is that of a partner and co-producer of graphic, artistic or poetic objects, where words and images are combined with a conscious purpose, where beauty intertwines with truth. I integrate coaching and the transfer of knowledge into these projects to validate my clients’ strategy and help them carry it out. By helping them implement these projects, by verifying their consistency and by giving them shape, I help materialize the intangible that make sense to the clients and to myself.

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