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Rapid Viz: A book review by Bob Morris

Rapid Viz: A New Method for the Rapid Visualization of Ideas
Kurt Hanks and Larry Belliston
Course Technology/CENGAGE Learning (2006)

The power and value of highly-developed visualization

The title’s meaning is self-evident but the potential value of what can be learned from Kurt Hanks and Larry Belliston in this book is not. First published in 1980 and now available in a Third Edition (2006) that some view as inferior to its predecessor (1990), this book is based on the same core assumption that Dan Roam’s three books are: the quality and clarity of ideas can be increased and improved by illustrating them. If you have no ideas, you need other sources of assistance. If you have difficulty articulating your ideas with words, Hanks and Bellistin can prepare you to express yourself visually and that, in turn, will strengthen your verbal skills. The techniques and skills that Rapid Viz approach requires are introduced in this book, and thoroughly explained, accompanied by exercises that can help you to develop them.

In their Introduction, Hanks and Belliston explain the objectives and guidelines used to develop their book as well as the goals of the Rapid Viz method, once that was fine-tuned during several decades of application and modification. They also suggest what their reader (“student”) needs to get started: a pencil and/or felt-tip pen (“Use whatever you want as long as it’s simple, cheap, and you can carry it in your pocket or purse at all times”), perhaps multi-colored felt-tip pens and/or pencils, perhaps an eraser and/or ruler, sheets of some regular bond paper, a pad of 14” X 17” tracing paper.

At this point, I presume to suggest that you consider a sketchbook with blank pages and have it nearby as you complete various exercises within the book. Why? Sooner and more often than you may now expect, completing the process of instruction that Hanks and Belliston follow will generate stimulate your thoughts and feelings as well as images associated with them. You need to record notes, comments, and illustrations (however simple). As you learn more about the process, and as you strengthen your skills, you will also develop an “eye” that will recognize your progress over time. My personal preference is for the Pro Art Sketch Book (5.5″ X 8″, 220 Pages) that I purchase through Amazon for $5.94 plus shipping.

With regard to the exercises within Chapters 1-6 and the additional exercises in Appendix A, most of them can be completed within the book. There may be a few that you wish to complete several times, hence the need for the sheets of paper and a blank-pages notebook, if you have one. Practice may not make perfect but it can certainly support improvement. However, practice with discipline and purpose. As Hanks and Belliston point out, “The exercises attempt to restrict your freedom temporarily. Tight restrictions as to what is drawn, how long to take, and so forth make drawing easier during the early stages of the learning process. Set you own tight goals. Too many choices breed confusion and non-performance. Decide specifically what to do and do it.”

Two final points. First, with regard to “rapid,” make haste slowly. Rapid Viz really is a progressive process. Also, the value of this book will be determined almost entirely by the quality and extent of attention and effort you commit to the learning opportunities that Kurt Hanks and Larry Belliston offer.


I also highly recommend the aforementioned Roam books:

On the Back of an Envelope
Unfolding the Napkin
Blah Blah Blah

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