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How Drawing & Doodling Boost Creativity

Posted on June 21, 2017
Black & White image of doodles: hearts, squiggly lines, etc.

I’m a doodler. I doodle during meetings. I doodle while I’m on the phone. I doodle when I I’m trying to think. Are you a doodler, too? The Doodle Club is rather impressive: Einstein, Herbert Hoover, Walt Disney, JFK, John Lennon, and NIKE CEO, Mark Parker to name a few.

But do you ever worry about doodling? Productivity? Concentration? Well, worry no more. I am officially giving you permission to doodle. Doodling helps to increase focus, reduce stress, boost recall, enhance the thought process, and it sparks creativity. Here's how:

Greater focus

According to an article in Inc. Magazine, 3 Ways Doodling Will Help Your Focus and Creativity, by Peter Gasca, “Research in neuroscience, psychology, and design has recently demonstrated that people who doodle are often better at grasping new concepts and staying focused…” Based on other studies, Gasca points out that doodling helps people focus, sort things, and deal with stressful or challenging situations. As I already mentioned, I doodle when I am on the phone and in meetings – according to the research, this helps me stay focused. I also doodle when I feel pressure or I’m stuck, which ultimately helps me to process and problem solve.

Mood enhancement

According to, “Doodling can help centre your mind, and take away stressors of the day.” Girija Kaimel (and her colleagues), Assistant Professor in the Creative Arts Therapy Department in the College of Nursing and Health Professions here at Drexel, recently conducted a study to look at the biological effects of doodling. Their findings were recently published in The Arts in Psychotherapy. They found doodling boosts blood flow in the frontal cortex of the brain. This effect enhances mood. In other words, doodlers experience the psychological benefit of pleasure or well-being. Their study further found that 75% of those who participated in making art (even those who are not terribly creative), reduced their cortisol levels, aka the stress hormone, in the brain. This makes sense since the act of doodling allows you to focus on the lines, the squiggles, etc. Clear Your Stress equates doodling to “meditation with a pen or pencil.”

Whether it is the stress reduction or the act of doodling itself, according to a 2011 study, those who doodle have a 29% increase in recall ability. One argument is that ‘Doodles help guide the ‘default network’ of the brain, which allows you to pay better attention.”

Increased creativity

But that isn’t all -- Sunni Brown, named “100 Most Creative People in Business” by Fast Company, and whose TED Talk on Doodling has been viewed by more than one million people, argues in her book, The Doodle Revolution: Unlock the Power to Think Differently, that doodling is a key component to learning. And the ability to think differently is crucial to creativity. It is as if the act of doodling unlocks our brains and allows the creative juices to flow. CEO Mark Parker said, “Doodles help clarify the brainstorming process.” In a Wall Street Journal article, The Power of the Doodle: Improve Your Focus and Memory, Shellenbarger writes, “A blank page also can serve as an extended playing field for the brain, allowing people to revise and improve on creative thoughts and ideas.” While in a meeting with Lance Armstrong, Parker doodled and sketched in his Moleskin. When Armstrong asked to see the doodles, Parker ended up showing him what he referred to as, “the perfect shoe.”

There are so many benefits to doodling. If you are a doodler – keep doodling. If you aren’t, perhaps begin – it only takes some paper and a pencil. And even if doodling isn’t for you, support and encourage those around you who do doodle, keep them doodling. You never know what innovative idea will be born when that pen touches that paper.


Anne Converse Willkomm Director of Graduate Studies Goodwin College Drexel University
Posted in innovation-workplace