Common Mistakes With DIY Visual Models and How to Fix Them


Common Mistakes With DIY Visual Models and How to Fix Them

I create a lot of visual models for myself and clients, and I see a lot of people creating their own visual models, which is amazing!

I hear from people frequently how much value they’re adding to their business already with their DIY visual models.

So, in this article, I’m sharing with you my top three mistakes people make with their DIY visual models, and how to fix them:

Mistake 1. Mixing your metaphors.

A visual model should align with what you’re communicating in your model. If you’re showing people how to get from A to B and it’s a linear process, you’ll want to choose a visual model that shows that it’s linear.

Linear shapes can be things like:

A series of arrows like this:

A rocket like this:

A journey left-to-right, here’s one from a client:


Pro-tip – If you’re illustrating a linear journey from one point to another, don’t use a circle.

I get it, circles look complete to the human eye; so if you’re trying to look well rounded and whole, it’s tempting to use circles. But if you take away one thing from this article, please let it be that you will not use circles to communicate a linear journey or process.

Circles are great for:

  • Demonstrating parts of a whole.
  • Interlocking ideas.
  • Cycles.



Mistake 2. Over-reliance on one type of model.

Once you understand a type of model, it’s easy to go out and make allof your visual models like that. And I see this, particularly with Venn diagrams. I love a good Venn diagram, but if it’s the only shape you’re used to working with, it can become repetitive and confusing. If you have a Venn diagram for everything, it can be hard for your clients to remember which is which.

Venn Diagrams are great for:

  • Distinct ideas that have overlapping elements.
  • Separate principles that when brought together create something amazing.

Pro-tip – Mix up the models.

Have a Venn diagram for one. A series of arrows for a journey or process. A circle with interlocking parts for success principles. That way your clients can quickly and easily recognise and recall your different models.

Mistake 3. Not being clear on what shape-style suits your brand.

And finally, the last mistake I see is more a tip for refinement. If you correct the first two common mistakes, this is the icing on the cake. And I love cake. Not only is there the general shape to consider when trying to convey the metaphor, but you want to think about what kind of shapes best suit your brand. Are you all about hard, angular shapes? Or soft edges? Or maybe something in between?

For example, if your brand is more about hard angular lines, how can you communicate that in a visual model that could easily be a circle instead?

Here is a visual model from Software House:

Other brands might have had a circle divided into four segments. But for this company, a shape that leaned more towards angular edges made more sense. So, we went with this segmented plus sign instead.

Pro-tip – Think outside the square (or circle) and think about other shapes you might use that are a more accurate reflection of your brand.

There you have it. Three common mistakes I see with DIY visual models and how to fix them. I hope this helps you with creating your own visual models.

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