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social, health, political imagery through the lens of George J Huba PhD © 2012-2017

I usually advocate in this blog for using Mind Maps (or my content-centered version I call Mind Models) to have the benefits of visual thinking available to all, including those persons with neurocognitive problems.

If you read the blog, you know that I am using visual thinking methods in my own journey through cognitive decline.

I find that a lot of people are very interested in mind mapping but may not want to make a full investment in using a full-blown mind mapping program.

The alternative that most use is to draw simple diagrams on a pad with a pencil or pen. Many of these diagrams look like spider webs more than mind maps, but this does not bother me at all. Simple quick diagrams are much better than no diagrams and you can get a significant amount of improvement in thinking — especially as your cognitive abilities decline typically with age or more rapidly with neurocognitive disorders.

I have written before about a simple little program named Instaviz (based on one of the most sophisticated mathematical algorithms for automatic diagram creation ever developed). The Instaviz story is a pretty interesting one. Click here to read the prior post in a separate window.

Because Instaviz is such a simple program to use but can create some extremely useful, simple to update, gorgeous diagrams just by drawing some circles and squares with labels on the screen of an iPad or iPhone and then drawing arrows to connect them, the easiest way to “get” why and how the program is useful is better illustrated with a video than a longer discussion.

Watch this video by the developer. In 2 minutes, 21 seconds, you should be able to see why this program produces such useful diagrams in a way that almost exactly mimics the way you probably draw diagrams on a notepad or on the back of a napkin at lunch.

Here are some examples of my use of Instavi. These are not dementia-specific examples, but rather simple diagrams that document my life and ideas and my vacation preferences. All in nice looking diagrams that most people intuitively understand and that can be read (unlike all of the napkins with poor handwriting on porous paper and glass rings muddling it all up) 10 minutes after they are drawn.

You can use Instaviz to quickly draw simplified versions of many of the mind maps I use for managing dementia. Yes, you will lose some of the effects of full-blown mind maps, but Instaviz may be a very good solution for many as the iPad permits such diagrams to be created from simple finger or stylus drawn input.

These diagrams literally take just a few minutes to develop. You just input the information, the program decides where to put the squares and circles and arrows so that diagram will be maximally clear. (Again, refer to the developer’s video.) Done.

To modify the diagrams you just add other squares and circles or erase some, and the diagram automatically (within an eyeblink) redraws itself to achieve maximum readability. Graphics magic to help you think much better, whether you are building diagrams to enhance your memory or to help you decide whether to watch a football game or a cooking show on TV (ok, ok … I know you don’t need a diagram for that but it could help you explain your decision to your spouse or probably not).

Each of these diagrams took me just a few minutes to develop most of which was spent on doing a little more formatting than the very good defaults for the program so that I could show you how good these diagrams can get after a couple minutes of making some artistic decisions.

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How much do I life this program for basic visual thinking? Enough so that if I did not have an iPad on which to run it, I would buy a basic iPad just to use this app. Really. The app makes the iPad a must-have device if you like to hand draft visual diagrams whether for final use or as early drafts for enhancement in a more “artistic” mind mapping program. The Instaviz app is currently (June 2016) priced under $8 US.

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