A Call for Visual Literacy

From Dave Gray, a call for visual literacy:

…we have, over time, become more sophisticated in our reading of visual information. In a world where information is digital, where photos can be altered in Photoshop and where films can show impossible things like dinosaurs and talking animals with a high degree of realism, we understand that seeing is no longer believing.

But this kind of visual sophistication is not literacy. Literacy is the ability to both read and write. If a child could read written language but not write it – if he could read a mathematical equation but not perform such operations himself – then we would not consider him prepared for success in the world.

In our school systems we teach our children the three R’s – reading, writing and arithmetic, because we believe them to be fundamental skills for successful integration in society. But the three R’s are no longer enough. Our world is changing fast – faster than we can keep up with our historical modes of thinking and communicating. Visual literacy – the ability to both read and write visual information; the ability to learn visually; to think and solve problems in the visual domain – will, as the information revolution evolves, become a requirement for success in business and in life.

Chuck Frey sees mind mapping as an answer to this call. This may be a place to start, although the need is much broader than simply thinking visually. Data presentation and interpretation are even more important. (I, for one, don’t remember ever encountering a histogram in high school.)

Should Tufte (or the like) become required reading in secondary education? What would be the actual result of implementing “visual literacy education” in our schools?

On the Halcyon Days of the Apple Extended Keyboard II

John Gruber:

I think the old knock against Apple in the ’80s and ’90s from people who didn’t like them or didn’t get them was that they’re this company and they sell overpriced computer equipment to fans. And people would even say ‘Look, they sell keyboards for 160 bucks, what a rip-off…’ But here’s the thing: they were worth 160 bucks.

What if you said ‘Let’s make that’s top-of-the-line: better casing, better technology under the keys, something that’s built to last; this is what you would get. So no wonder the computers were more expensive – everything was built that way. The one I used in college, I used for 14 years consecutively through a bunch of computers, and then finally in November 2006, the E key got a little flaky.

Dan Benjamin:

I made the mistake when I sold old computers… in my mind, I just assumed we would continue to have keyboards that were great, that would continue to last. I never thought these would be relics of a bygone era and impossible to find.

From The Talk Show

Brainstorm in XMind, work in OmniFocus

It’s the best of all possible worlds! Now you can brainstorm in XMind and import directly into OmniFocus via Udo Gaetke’s clever AppleScript. The script creates a project from your map’s root node and actions (or subactions) from the other nodes.

Thus, this:

XMind plan

Becomes this:

OmniFocus Plan
Via Skitch

Get the script here (forums.omnigroup.com)


  • Although XMind isn’t scriptable, the XML file format is open; his script digs into the XML structure to pull relevant data

  • The script contains a property called import_folder. You’ll need to create a folder in OmniFocus with this name before running

  • The script contains a “rm -f” operation. This deletes a temporary XML file created by the script. You may want to peruse the script yourself before running