Ben Crothers, Author Spotlight

Do you feel like your thoughts, ideas, and plans are being suffocated by a constant onslaught of information? Do you want to get those great ideas out of your head, onto the whiteboard and into everyone else’s heads, but find it hard to start? No matter what level of sketching you think you have, Presto Sketching will help you lift your game in visual thinking and visual communication.

In this practical workbook, Ben Crothers provides loads of tips, templates, and exercises that help you develop your visual vocabulary and sketching skills to clearly express and communicate your ideas. Learn techniques like product sketching, storyboarding, journey mapping, and conceptual illustration. Dive into how to use a visual metaphor (with a library of 101 visual metaphors), as well as tips for capturing and sharing your sketches digitally, and developing your own style.

Designers, product managers, trainers, and entrepreneurs will learn better ways to explore problems, explain concepts, and come up with well-defined ideas – and have fun doing it.

Hello book lovers! Today is a day where I will be writing another author spotlight for a well-accomplished author whose work I have loved. As you know book lovers I love learning about authors and the inspiration behind their work, it fascinates me and adds to the depth of the book because the reader will be able to better understand it. That is how the author spotlights were created because I soon discovered that you lovely readers ALSO love learning about author’s, so I am excited to tell you a little bit more about author Ben Crothers whose book Presto Sketching compelled me from beginning to end. I personally would recommend this book to all of those that love design books but really the book can be read by anybody as it is flawlessly written and highly enjoyable. With today’s author spotlight for Ben Crothers, a biography of the author and an interview between us both will be shared, and I hope that you book lovers enjoy reading it! To kick this off here is an author bio about the wonderful Ben Crothers!

Ben Crothers is a designer, facilitator, artist, author and speaker. His day job as Principal Design Strategist at Atlassian (an Australian software company) keeps him busy facilitating workshops and training in design practice, but he’s often also teaching at General Assembly and various companies, and writing on topics to do with agile working practice, sketching and design.

Fun fact: Ben’s first book was actually a collection of comics he drew for the Australian Army newspaper called Stand Easy, back in the early 90s. Since then, drawing has always been an important part of every job that Ben has had, from designing websites and web applications, to visual facilitating, to creating infographics and storyboards. For Ben and his clients and teams he’s worked with, all of these drawing techniques are in service of better problem solving and better communication.

When not drawing or writing, Ben enjoys extreme sports like abstract painting and brewing beer.

Now, how wonderful does Ben Crothers sound?! The author is a truly exceptional writer and I hope that you lovely readers have a read of the author’s work because you will not regret it! Please see below an interview between us both, I hope that you enjoy the author’s answers to my questions, they are incredible and provide some great advice too!

Thank you for joining us today at Red Headed Book Lover! Please tell us more about yourself

I’m on a mission to make as many people as I can as capable with the whiteboard as they are with the keyboard. Visual thinking and visual communication are so important, and I don’t want anyone missing out on these superpowers, in their life and work. I’m Principal Design Strategist at Atlassian (an Australian Software company), where I train design practice, facilitate a lot of workshops, and generally help people’s strategic thinking and creativity. I also teach sketching, and speak at conferences and meetups from time to time about sketching and visual thinking. It’s so fun and rewarding!

Could you please tell us readers about your book and what inspired you to write your book?

I’d been teaching sketching and visual thinking for years, and more and more people were saying to me, “You need to do more of this!” That got me thinking: how do I scale myself and what I teach? So, I thought I’d put out a book, to reach a lot more people.

Presto Sketching is a structured set of insights, examples and activities to help bring out your inner visual thinker, and to amp up your sketching skills. It helps you explore problems, generate better ideas, and communicate those ideas more effectively, all through really simple drawing. It’s geared more toward designers, researchers, entrepreneurs and managers, but honestly: anyone who has to solve problems and communicate solutions will benefit from Presto Sketching.

Most people will say “But I can’t draw!” You’ll be amazed at what you can achieve with whatever drawing skill you think you have! Let’s face it: we have a metric ton of information coming at us every day, and not only do we have to take all that in, we also we have to then communicate whatever our ideas are amongst all that clutter. Through the patterns and tricks I show in Presto Sketching, I want more and more people to pick up the marker and use the power of visuals and sketching, to help each other with all that information.

What would your advice be for aspiring writers?

Start small. Please don’t ever feel that you have to start with Your Greatest Novel Of All Time. Post articles on Medium or LinkedIn about topics you enjoy. But whatever it is, make it small so that you finish it. There are thousands of people out there who have written half a book; I think it’s so crucial to feel the satisfaction of finishing something, and the learning experience that comes with that.

Understand and embrace that what you write now won’t be awesome, and that’s totally okay! That’s the material you just have to churn out to make progress toward the awesome stuff.

Oh, and try sketching what you want to write about first! If your story is about a journey, sketch out that journey as a map, including all the features and events along the way. Sketch your characters to help you envision what they look like, behave like, speak like, and so on.

In your opinion, what is the most important thing about a book? 

Oh, great question! For me, I think it’s the one big idea that represents the essence of the book. It’s that one thing that people will talk about, that scene that people gush about in book clubs, that provocation that starts conversations at dinner parties. Even something unique about the way it’s put together, or the writing style… but it’s that one big idea.

What is your writing process like?

Sometimes my process is very visual (surprise surprise!). I write and draw ideas for titles, examples and topics on sticky notes whenever I think of them. Then I can spread them all out on a wall, move them around, and get a sense of flow, branching, coming back together and so on. I do that for presentations and conference talks, too.

Other times I just smash out thousands of words while I’m on the train to and from work (I have a fairly long commute). When I’m writing in this way, I don’t worry too much about structure…or anything, really! I just get it all out first. Then I go back over what I’ve written and tag various parts with a set of topics and other key words, which makes it easier to go through and rework it, pull out the good bits and leave the dross behind. The tags are things like storyexampleidea chainactivity,needs reference… things like that.

I have a horrible habit of writing in lots of different apps, like Evernote, Notion, Pages, on either my work or home computer… which makes it hard to find stuff and bring it all together again! It’s a bad habit I have to break. 😉

Do you have a set schedule for writing, or do you only write when you feel inspired?

I don’t really have a schedule or anything like that. That said, my day job is four days a week, and I have Fridays to look forward to for writing, teaching and just generally hustling. My daily commute gives me plenty of opportunity to write, so it tends to be certain situations like that, that put me in a good frame of mind for writing.

I wish I was like a lot of people who say they are ‘morning people’ or ‘night owls’… that pattern doesn’t seem to work for me! If an idea is compelling enough to me, I’ll stay up until 3am smashing out the bulk of the writing about that idea. But otherwise, by 9pm I’m toast.

Do you read much and if so who are your favorite authors?

I read a wide variety of things across lots of themes, since visualisation pops up in everything from design to infographics to finance to history and culture. My diverse diet is a result of following particular rabbit holes while researching topics to do with visualisation. For example, reading into visual metaphors leads me to scholarly works like “Metaphors We Live By” (by George Lakoff and Mark Johnson), and before I know it, I’m reading everything from the Greek philosophy that lead to visualising structures as tree diagrams, to translating ancient Mayan hieroglyphics!

There are seminal authors in my field that I always go back to, like Dan Roam, Brandy Agerbeck and Scott McCloud (his book “Understanding Comics” is done as a comic, and it’s mind-blowing). I do read fiction too; a recent favorite is Australian fiction author Jane Harper, who wrote The Lost Man (her latest and definitely my favourite), The Dry, and Force of Nature.

Lastly, when can we readers expect to read more wonderful books from you?

Ah, funny you should ask! I’ve just released an ebook calledDraw in 4! It’s a fun light ebook of over 100 4-step sketches to boost your drawing confidence. Plus, until the beginning of June 2019, all profits go to Plan International Australia charity.

Apart from that, I’m slowly working on another book that is doubling down on using sketching for business strategy. I’m sure you’ve had to sit front of your fair share of slide presentations at work, or you’ve had to make a lot of presentations yourself. This next book is all about giving those slides the flick, and using the whiteboard much more effectively. Let’s hope it comes out in 2020!

Its official book lovers, I am obsessed with Ben Crothers! If you have liked what you have read about the author and are interested in learning more about Ben Crothers, then please do have a browse of the links below and be sure to have a read of the preview too! You will not regret it.

Goodbye for now book lovers,

Amazon U.S. – Amazon U.K. – Goodreads

Author: Website – Facebook – Instagram – Twitter – LinkedIn – Amazon AU – Book Depository

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