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Periodic System of Visual Thinking

February 26th, 2016      Visual Strategy Facilitation, Visual Thinking

How can I encourage others to work visual in a more professional, regular and deliberate way? Among others this question drives me, while thinking about how to multiply real and valuable strategic discussions throughout the world.

With this in mind I developed the Periodic System of Visual Thinking to use in my Masterclass Workshops. The method is based on a poster which is from now on available and free to print out.


The Periodic System of Visual Thinking from Holger Nils Pohl on Vimeo.


What is its purpose?
As it is very well structured, the Periodic System of Visual Thinking helps to create new pictures by combining various others. In a simple way it shows the similarities and differences between the elements. It provides an organization of different types of pictures and therefore helps to memorize and classify them. Nothing too fancy, but a useful tool to have in your toolbox.


How does it work?
By using it as a poster, it works as a source of ideas and symbolizes possible combinations. Like the Periodic System of the Elements in Chemistry it can also be seen as a map. On one hand the relationships between the individual elements becomes clear, on the other hand possible new ideas present themselves. The order of the Periodic System is based on the principle of mutual centric – in other words: the element’s complexity and the required ability to use those rises from outside to inside.




By adding printed cards of every single element to the poster, we can actually create a “chemistry set”. So far we use these cards in two different ways. First, it is very useful to just lay them out on a table (if it is too small you can also put them
on the floor or on the wall). Afterwards, on index cards, everyone draws ideas for pictures or categories which fit the elements. All of the index cards are then arranged to the matching elements. In some cases one picture may fit two elements. Then you change the order and place matching elements next to each other. This way an always transforming network of pictures develops. The second use of the cards often ensures even a better overview and also a lot of fun. You randomly or deliberately choose elements of the Periodic System that you would like to mix or interlink. Having three or four elements lying in front of you, it is your aim to develop matching pictures. Sometimes this might be very easy and sometimes the results are unexpected. In some cases explosive combinations occur that either work really good or bad.
All in all the Periodic System of Visual Thinking is supposed to help to work visual with pleasure and on a regular basis. And who knows if someone might find a formula that nobody had ever thought of before.
Download your copy here.
The Periodic System of Visual Thinking will be part of a book I’m writing with Christof Breidenich and will be published 2016 by the Stiebner Verlag.

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5 Responses

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    Rosanna von Sacken

    February 27th, 2016 06:20

    Hi Holger,
    I try to download a copy from your link near the end of your post, but it wouldn’t download. The spinning circle of death (on a mac) just kept spinning for a long long time. Neither could I download from Dropbox. Same thing happened (_periodicsystem v4.pdf). Suggestions?

    Thank you

    Mathieu Spencer

    March 14th, 2016 01:57

    Hello Holger,

    Same here on dropbox it just spins.
    After downloading the pdf directly to my mac, it crashes preview overtime I open it.

    Thanks for the help

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