On ‘Visual Thinking’

Alex Jones
2 min readDec 2, 2022

The Hidden Gifts of People Who Think in Pictures, Patterns, and Abstractions by Temple Grandin

I recently finished Temple Grandin’s excellent Visual Thinking, which I highly recommend. It’s particularly interesting for me as I am able to think visually, but I do so in combination with verbal thinking (a “voice” in my head). Learning that a sizable percentage of the population, including family members, don’t have that voice was fascinating. So, I wanted to share a few passages I highlighted to spread the word and encourage others to think more deeply about how we all, well, think!

visual thinking is not about how we see but about how the brain processes information; how we think and we perceive.

there are object visualizers like me, who think in pictures, and, as I suspected, a second group of mathematically inclined visual-spatial thinkers, an overlooked but essential subset of visual thinkers, who think in patterns.

“Object visualizers” like me see the world in photorealistic images. We are graphic designers, artists, skilled tradespeople, architects, inventors, mechanical engineers, and designers. Many of us are terrible in areas such as algebra, which rely entirely on abstraction and provide nothing to visualize. “Spatial visualizers” see the world in patterns and abstractions. They are the music and math minds — the statisticians, scientists, electrical engineers, and physicists. You’ll find a lot of these thinkers excel at computer programming because they can see patterns in the computer code. Here’s a way to think of it: The object thinker builds the computer. The spatial thinker writes the code.

The book cover for Visual Thinking — The Hidden Gifts of People Who Think in Pictures, Patterns and Abstractions by Temple Grandin
Alex Jones

I lead multi-disciplinary, globally distributed teams that craft remarkable products for millions of people. I start fires (the good kind).