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CanUX Day 2, Part 2: Dave Gray from XPLANE

15 years ago, Dave Gray founded XPLANE, a visual communications company that has been pumping out beautiful graphical explanations for all sorts of clients, products and services ever since.

His presentation at CanUX kept up the theme of drawing and sketching, but flipped the emphasis: while the other presentations were about communicating design ideas visually, this one was about designing visual ideas for communication. In other words, it was about designing for visual literacy.

Dave’s passion is for explaining complicated stuff in ways that leverage perception, invite collaboration, and spark the imagination. He suggested that although people can generally “read” visual artifacts, most cannot “write.” After a brief primer on the visual alphabet (check out for more info), he took the group through a few exercises developed at XPLANE for stoking creative process. The basic premise was that everyone can learn how to draw.

What’s next for Dave Gray? We chatted a bit about his desire to advocate for visual literacy in academic and professional communities. Pretty cool stuff. Check out these links here and here for a sense of where he’s going with this stuff.
The idea of visual literacy is one that I’ve been really keen to explore over the last couple years—first from an applied linguistics perspective at school, then from a practitioners perspective as an illustrator and now an interaction designer. It’s a really interesting topic, and I’d highly recommend the book Reading Images as a great starting point for anyone interested.

You can also check out a paper and presentation I gave on the topic of vis lit and web-based graphic design back in grad school…sort of geeky though, so be forewarned!

David Gillis More posts by David Gillis