instructional design, mindset, visual instructional design

Draw More: A Growth Mindset

This week, one of our graduate courses assigned two TED Talks:

Ole Qvist-Sørensen – Draw More, Together

Graham Shaw – Why People Believe They Can’t Draw, and How to Prove They Can

As I watched Ole Qvist-Sørensen and Graham Shaw argue for the importance of everyday, casual, and even communal drawing, I was struck by how much they were articulating the concept of “growth mindset”.

Very few books have altered my worldview to the degree that Carol S. Dweck’s Mindset has.

The core idea of Dweck’s books is that there are two mindsets we humans tend to fall into:

Growth Mindset → The belief that intelligence and skills can be developed.

vs.

Fixed Mindset → The belief that you are born with specific intelligence and skills, which remain the same no matter what actions you take.

These two mindsets direct our behavior, shape how we view ourselves and others, determine how likely we are to try new things or take risks, and ultimately infiltrate very corner of our lives, helping or hindering our success.

Which brings me back to this week’s assigned TED Talks.

Drawing is an incredibly powerful tool for communicating ideas. Yet very few people draw as part of their everyday thinking process, let alone show those drawings to other people or hand over the box of crayons to collaborate! There is a very simple reason for this: most people approach drawing with a fixed mindset.

According to the pervasive “fixed mindset” about drawing, you can either draw OR you cannot:

Can you draw? Pick one.
Drawing, as seen through the fixed mindset.

People who fall into this category (which, let’s be honest, is most of us) believe that no matter how hard they try, their drawing will be TERRIBLE, AWFUL, AN EMBARRASSMENT, SHAMEFUL. Therefore, why draw at all?

A “growth mindset” about drawing approaches things from a completely different point of view:

you can do it!
Drawing, as seen through the growth mindset.

People with a growth mindset understand that drawing ability is something you can improve. Your drawing ability is not innate, therefore your shoddy artistic skills don’t make you a bad person – they are not something to be ashamed of or embarrassed by. It is okay to draw, even if you aren’t “good at it”.

Let’s take another step back.

Here’s a question for you: Why draw?

Do we draw to show off, make money, and be famous for centuries to come?

Or do we draw to connect, communicate, share ideas, and just have fun?

I bet 99% of people in the world would choose the latter.

So break out that pen and scribble away – you’ll learn and grow, and maybe even have some fun!


With this in mind – and inspired by Ole Qvist-Sørensen and Graham Shaw’s TED talks – I’ve drawn a Guide to Making Toast, Celiac Edition” to demonstrate the communicative power of drawings, no matter the artistic quality.

The first page I took time to clean up, but the remaining three pages are as they were originally jotted down in my notebook.

I wanted to communicate how I felt when I first had to go gluten free back in 2007. These sketches might not be “good” as the fixed mindset would define it – but I believe they communicate a wealth of information (procedural and emotional) about both “making toast” and being gluten free.

Making Toast 1makingtoast2

makingtoast3

makingtoast4

Happy drawing!

Recommended Reading

For an introduction to growth mindset:
Brain Picking’s wonderful summary of Mindset

For a thorough demonstration on how basic drawings can memorably impart complex knowledge:
Randall Munroe’s What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions

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