Doodle this!

Creatives have messy minds and they doodle.

That was my memorable take-away from a course on design thinking, led by a b-school professor whose objective was to teach creativity to future business leaders. She gained her expertise by observing and reading about creatives, meaning people whose professional work makes use of their imaginations.

Somewhat right, but clueless

By “messy minds” she meant the opposite of “one-track minds,” I suppose.

By doodling, she meant making info graphics and sketching out diagrams on paper napkins – in 1:1 relationship between words and picture. No, that’s rudimentary graphic art, not doodling. It’s a helpful skill for clarifying completed thoughts, but not an engine for generating new ones.

For the people who do it naturally, doodling is an aid for mental focus and organization, a habit — like mouth-breathing or biting fingernails when thinking, albeit less noxious and more productive.

I’m not sure what good it could do to take up doodling as a new skill without understanding why. B-school students won’t learn it from this professor. (I think professors should stick to lecturing on what they know so the students who assume huge debt to be there aren’t swindled.)

Creative, innovative connections are made by the mind, not by the moving hand.

Here are some recent doodles of mine to show how doodling really works, and works for me. It’s an individual thing.

When I’m on the computer, I doodle in Illustrator.

This happened while I on the telephone, purchasing a landscaping service.

Toward the close of the conversation, I turned an ivy leaf into a face and made a plant. No rhyme or reason for the drawings. I was thinking about the conversation.




The face was interesting. So I pulled it out to work on while I listened to “The Dark Web,” a 26-hour audio book. The backdrop came later, when I was bored,  and consists of graphics from my collection.

I had gotten new paints on sale and wanted something to paint, but didn’t know what. My doodle started with a star.

I decided she’s a troll. Then I made her a husband and two kids, Jack, Jack Jr. and Jill. They became the Troll Family Players, a troupe who acts out nursery rhymes in tableaux. I painted all of them.

Here we see Mom Troll and the Spider just before the curtain rises.


Tattoo Girl has been on my hard drive for many years. She was handy to use for testing art techniques. The process I use — natural media, digital, mixed — affects meaning.

Here she is partially painted with pixels. I had already done her in grisaille watercolor with RGB overlays. Pens and pencils are another option.

In the final analysis, I think my favorite coloring book look will do just fine.


The images that came out of these doodling sessions are incidental to the purpose they served. Doodling helped me focus my mind on 1) listening to the details of the contract I was accepting over the phone, 2) making a decision (I declined), 3) solving the problem of what to paint, and 4) doing a test run of how to paint.


(1) The thing with doodles is that there is seldom any place to use them beyond their initial purposes. It makes me happy to get extra play from these.

(2) I think of her when I read about fintech and blockchain accounting. I wonder if she would say the programmers and accountants responsible for designing the future of business have messy minds.

~MK Colling, 2017




About that e-mail list of yours . . .

That’s a good summary of e-mail marketing. Nobody cares.

How do you filter e-mail? By sender? I do.

I, too, have heard that a mailing list is gold. Use it to keep people from forgetting you, the folk wisdom goes.

Oh, I remember your name after seeing it a couple of dozen times a year for years on end! Your name is what triggers the trash filter . . .  unless you’re a heroic, world-class internet marketer/contributor, like Tim Ferris or Ramit Sethi or Seth Gooden or Guy Kawasaki. If I have time.

Give it up.