Stuck? Diagrams can help.

When was the last time you felt stuck?

Maybe it was trying to solve a problem, or managing a project. Or learning a new skillset or subject matter. Whatever it was, we have all felt stuck and many of us feel that way pretty often.

I’m talking about the kind of stuck that crushes our momentum, zaps interest (ours and others) and leaves us in a muck of our own mental making.

When we are stuck we know to turn to tried-and-true tools like jaws of life, life rings, tug boats and tow trucks. 

But what do we turn to when we just feel stuck

Like emotional tow trucks, diagrams have been helping people feeling stuck for hundreds of years across industries, fields and cultures. 

10 jobs with oodles of diagrammatic potential

  1. Architects (info, data, built et al) projecting scope and vision for structure and language
  2. Designers navigating stakeholders through decisions
  3. Statisticians and Analysts telling stories with data
  4. Engineers and Technologists (data, front end, ML et al) explaining scope, connections, components, and logic
  5. Operations Managers making decisions about how information and resources flow
  6. Product Managers considering directional options and incremental planning 
  7. Project Managers trying to inspire a team with a shared vision and clear milestones
  8. Researchers (user, academic, market et al) zooming out on problem spaces and framing insights
  9. Teachers (early childhood, elementary, secondary, post secondary et al) visually engaging students to increase comprehension of topics
  10. Writers creating visuals to get their points across

Diagrams are everywhere if you are paying attention. 

Literal ALT: A Venn Diagram showing "Call it a diagram" at the intersection of Depiction and Helps Someone.

Nuanced ALT: A simple (and perhaps cheeky) diagram defining the concept of diagram as a depiction that helps someone.

Charts, infographics, schemas, models, workflows, data visualizations, canvases, maps, figures, graphic organizers et al. 

The doodle to illustrate a point in a meeting? Diagram.

The simple map used to highlight where the birthday party will be next weekend? Diagram.

The instruction manual used to put together that new who-see-ma-bob? Diagram.

The visual your team used to get to that big goal?That’s right, diagram

But wait!? If diagrams relate to that many paths, when are we actually taught how to diagram? And are we ever taught what it takes to make a diagram be good

For too many people, the answer is never and no. And I want to change that.

This book teaches you how to diagram.

There are plenty of books cataloging and analyzing beautiful diagrams that helped someone or a group of someone’s who were stuck. And many books provide diagram templates or visualization methods that help in certain contexts and on specific types of problems.

But there is a surprising lack of education on diagramming. Like where do you start? How do you know what to do first, next and last? And how do you know if what you are doing is working?

I wrote STUCK to give people more confidence in the act of diagramming. It was written primarily for people who feel under-educated or less practiced in this important lifeskill.

But if you already make oodles of diagrams only to wonder if they suck, this book can definitely help.

You will learn:

  1. A controlled vocabulary for diagrams and diagramming
  2. A simple process for diagramming designed to be useful across contexts
  3. A set of heuristic criteria for what it takes for a diagram to be good
  4. Actionable collaboration strategies for diagramming with other people
  5. Common patterns and recipes for diagrammatic success 

Oh yeah, and I might have gone a little overboard with the back of this book. Whoopsie. It provides resources that you might find useful over your diagrammatic lifetime including a diagrammatic literature review in which librarian and taxonomist, Jenny Benevento, dives into how much there, there is when it comes to diagrams.

Bonus: Read about Jenny’s research process and see some of her (and my!) reading list.

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