Making diagrams

I am working with some colleagues on a large proposal to the National Science Foundation. Every once in a while, I need to stop word-smithing, and instead explain what we are doing by making a diagram.

I know that that’s supposed to be work, but there is something just so darned fun about explaining things in pictures. It feels less like work and more like play — sort of the grown-up equivalent of a kid getting to color with crayons in school.

I think that this is because when you make a diagram, you aren’t just communicating ideas. You are also communicating, in a visceral way, how those ideas relate to one another. The physical arrangement of the components of your diagram is itself an important part of the story.

Words are amazing — they are our human super power — but sometimes a well-designed diagram gives the sense of things, in a way that words could not. And maybe that’s why the part of proposal writing where we make diagrams is so much fun.

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