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Sunni Brown: Changing the World One Doodle at a Time


If there’s one thing we truly believe in, it’s that every individual is capable of creating. It begins with a skill innate in all of us, an ability that even the finest thinkers of history drew their best ideas from. From artists to writers, from engineers to politicians, we all once held a crayon or pencil to fill the page with squiggles, lines, shapes and stick figures.


This, dear friend, is doodling

Unfortunately, the doodle is tainted with such bad rep that the very thought of doodling incites all kinds of preconceptions. Lazy, childish, a mindless waste of time, fooling around, for artists and designers only — the list goes on.

Visual thinker, author, and self-proclaimed Dr. Doodler, Sunni Brown will have none of that. If we shoot these false beliefs down, she says, we will experience the benefits of visual language. She believes it is a more effective way of understanding each person’s models of the world, and that it’s a method already ingrained into our being.

With this mission in mind, she spearheaded The Doodle Revolution, a movement that stands behind a single, universal truth: that doodling is instinctive, and every individual is capable of doing it. Her book (of the same title and designed by our very own DesignGood Studio) teaches us that all human beings are equipped for visual thinking; we only need to reorient ourselves to bring out our inner doodlers and use doodling to understand and solve our problems.

“The Doodle Revolution is about saying, ‘Hold on, dude. There’s a whole belief system that surrounds this way of working that doesn’t make any sense.’ It’s like a flag saying, ‘Hey, this is legit and this is native and this is powerful, and we have a lot of disorientation around it. So let’s overturn all those bullshit beliefs about it.’”

For Sunni, this is the key to unlocking the power to think differently, a “literacy that enables people to solve problems a thousand times more effectively.” Though the concept is still “very much in the ivory tower,” it is through the Revolution that she intends to change this notion and empower people with the tools to think and perform visually.

The rise of the master doodler

Sunni’s journey is defined by her strong propensity for diversity and open-mindedness and keen sense of self-identity.

“I’ve always had a very diverse palette. And so when I was trying to navigate the dreaded career path that everybody finds themselves on at some point, I’d never stay somewhere too long. And part of that was a blind phase at how things unfold, and a part of that is really a lack of awareness of how hard shit can get. And then another part is it’s just my nature. Like if I don’t care about something, it’s very hard for me to do it.”

She’s taken all kinds of jobs, from working at a doughnut shop to being a newspaper carrier to serving as fire marshal.

After leaving her last job at a government agency—a job she described to have “almost killed [her] in a week”—she decided to become an entrepreneur. And it was in moving back to California and joining The Grove that she was introduced to visual thinking, particularly in the business setting.

You may think that as Master Doodler of the Universe, Sunni is fully adept at design. On the contrary, she admits not being a practitioner, but nonetheless shows deep appreciation for the value and functionality design adds to the world.

“I sometimes marvel at how everything around us is designed by someone. Not necessarily well or consciously, but things don’t really come into emergence without somebody actually putting some thought into how they need to be built. It’s really phenomenal when you think about it. You can’t really exist without design.”

Visual thinking: A definition

Sunni describes visual thinking as “a capacity to conceptualize information in a large-scale visual way so that it makes more sense and you can reflect it back to yourself.”

The idea stems from a problem she witnesses every day while working with business executives, managers and corporate leaders. They constantly tell her that they can’t draw, and that they can’t identify and communicate their problems through visual language.

“Shit is complicated and problems are sticky. I can’t stand it when smart people are in the room, sitting around a table, and they’re talking about complicated things and nobody is extracting that content and putting it in front of your face so that you can see what you’re talking about.”

Sunni has worked on several projects to conquer this problem. As a consultant and graphic facilitator, she works with organizations through performance visualization and innovation sessions. She also co-wrote Gamestorming, a book on applied visual thinking methodology that thousands of UX communities swear by. Finally, The Doodle Revolution, her latest creation, is the interactive toolkit that empowers just about anyone with the concepts and methods to think and communicate visually.

All these are grounded on Sunni’s motivation to help others by opening doors in their minds and releasing possibilities:

“What motivated me fundamentally was the idea that if people can’t see something, then it makes it almost impossible to solve it. I’ve always had the passion about that “Aha!” moment when somebody’s like, ‘Holy shit, I get it!’ and they actually change something they were doing based on the revelation that they had.”

How the doodle is changing the world

The Doodle Revolution has spread around the globe and is having an amazing impact.

Thousands of people have joined the movement—teachers, kids, facilitators, UX professionals, and even big names like Zappos, The Rockefeller Foundation, and Disney. From performance infodoodling to information design, people are steadily breaking down barriers and making a difference in both their personal and professional lives.

What matters most to Sunni is how the Revolution enables people to unlock their potential to think visually and perform effectively.

“It’s very liberating for them. It’s very empowering for them. If you could give somebody the gift of education, the belief that they’re capable, it’s definitely encouraging.”

This in itself is Sunni’s contribution to the community. It’s “giving people a doorway into visual competency that they already have.” It only takes a pen, a piece of paper, and the willingness to doodle your ideas into clear visual concepts anyone can understand.

Doodlers, unite!

Are you a doodler at heart who wants to join the Revolution? You can make a difference one step at a time.

Besides buying the book, signing the manifesto, and spreading the message, Sunni encourages everyone to tap into their own potential and explore the possibilities visual literacy has to offer:

“They can ultimately explore their own capacity for visual thinking, because that’s what I care about. I really do care deeply about people have the potential to solve their own problems or problems of the world. So the best thing they can do is to self-educate.”

As for future plans, the one and only Sunni Brown hopes to continue growing her business and building thought leadership through new and regular content. In fact, a little birdie told us that she’s working on a couple of new book ideas, which we hope to learn more about soon!

At the heart of the movement is the desire to think above and beyond. Embrace the doodler inside of you, and know that you have the power to think and express your ideas differently, whether in ink, chalk, or crayon.

Wonder what’s on Dr. Doodler’s bookshelf? Sunni recommends Smile at Fear, which she describes as a “save my life” book. Another is TheWar of Art by Steven Pressfield, a classic that has always given her the peace she needs when she’s anxious. “You can turn to any page in that book and there’s something that just grounds you immediately into a bigger perspective the reality of how you are safe, even if you are freaked out in a bigger picture.” If all this has you in a reading mood, you can find Sunni’s books, and lots of other great titles, in our bookstore.

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