Intuitive 2D modeling has recently become an active part of my Graphic Facilitation practice: it’s a simple, effective technique that can be used as an individual or group reflection, brainstorming or visioning method. 


What does 2D modeling look like in practice?


In terms of what the the final products look like:

The top image you see here is my latest 2D model created sitting at my kitchen counter with a ball-point pen, a stack of small square sticky notes and some blank white 8×11 printer paper used horizontally. It’s sometimes the simplest and most analog of tools that allow us to emerge the most profound ideas and insights! 


The bottom images you see here was the first 2D model output I created during a recent Generative Scribing workshop led by Kelvy Bird and Aaron Williamson with Reilly Dow. We used large yellow sticky notes, a handful of marker types (sizes, colors), and large brown paper hung vertically. As with all great learnings, I’ve since adapted that foundational process to fit various purposes and preferences, one of which you see here.


In terms of what the process looks like:

As with all inner work, it’s essential to set aside some quiet time alone for this process. Or with others engaged in the same process.


First, clarify the intent of the work: identify the “why am I doing this work here and now”. For example, in the first image you see here, it’s now a key part of my monthly review process so the purpose is a personal and professional check-in with myself.


Gather your tools: some sort of writing implement(s), a small stack of sticky notes, and a larger piece of paper (“larger” meaning it’s big enough that you could arrange all the sticky notes on it as well as make some marks, lines, drawings or additional words).


Give yourself a few minutes of guided meditation and/or deep breathing to bring yourself fully present to now, lightly focused on resolution of the original intent you identified.


Write down 5 words that come immediately to mind, one word per sticky note. Do not think about or second-guess them, just write them down. The words you write can be any aspects present in your current awareness, including people, places, platforms, concepts – anything really, just as long as the words are true (as in genuinely having arisen spontaneously just now when asked to write down 5 words). 


Now place the sticky notes however seems right to you on the larger piece of paper. This may include ripping or folding them into various shapes, or hanging them off the edge (as seen in the 2nd example) or even ripping the sticky notes apart by syllables of the words (as seen in the 1st example). 


When your sticky note arrangement is satisfactory to you, it’s time to make any additional notes that come to your mind onto the model. Still in the space of spontaneity jot down the words, lines, marks, and drawings that come to you right now to be put down. Do not question them or try to figure them out, just jot them down knowing they are perfect and exactly what needs to emerge for and from you right now.


You can add some color or use another pen / marker if needed for completion of the model. 


When the whole and it’s parts are satisfactory to you (still in a spontaneous way, not in an effort at perfection), it’s time to make meaning of what you’ve created. On a separate piece of paper jot down what comes to your mind about the 2D model you’ve just made. You’re still not trying to figure anything out; rather we are simply doing the next level of surfacing (into your thinking mind now) by connecting the dots. 


When you’re satisfied with your understanding of your model, write down any indicators you’d see in your life that you’re on the right path and any next action steps that come to mind. 


You’re done! How was that process for you?


Over the next few days, weeks and months you’ll notice shifts in the areas you wrote down during and wrote about after.


Be open to how they evolve and emerge, possibly in ways you did not imagine: they may grow and expand, or dissolve naturally; they may become more steadily present as a support, or may enter crisis mode in order to be recognized and resolved; they may result in large and dramatic, or smaller and subtle shifts. 


It’s both fun and funny to notice them emerging in unexpected and seemingly small ways – for me one of these was in the dentist’s chair where I felt held and supported, grounded and centered (part of my original modeling) such that that usually stressful experience was quick, easy and zero stress (actually it was even fun and full of laughter!)


Some of the items that you wrote own may naturally translate into action items – either to start doing, stop doing, or simply being mindful of. Taking the actions that came to mind without hesitation can further amplify your momentum, and build upon the work you’ve done here today.


I’m now doing this exercise at the end of each month, to surface and see what’s there and to forward with what’s next. It’s a fun, fast method to access and be guided by my intuition and translate that into real-world actions. 


I’ve noticed measurable results in my professional life (the number and nature of my clients, colleagues and new projects) and personal life (increased energy, artistic creativity, and even an easy, fun time at the dentist which is usually quite stressful for me!). 


I invite you to try it out for yourself and share your experience with the process itself and your results over time!








Are you convening an upcoming offsite event, workshop or brainstorming / strategy session? 


Contact me today, I’d love to support your important work by getting your message out using Graphic Facilitation methods, maybe even this super cool 2D Modeling exercise too! 




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