Everyone has their own style of doing things. Some of us put the peanut butter on our PB&Js first, while others slather on jelly before anything else. You may put your right shoe on first while your friend always starts with the left. You like floral detergent; your sibling uses pine scents in their laundry. We’ve all got options for a reason — we all like to do things our own way and stick with it.

This is usually the case with visual vs. written brainstorming. Written brainstorming is likely more popular because it’s taught in schools more heavily than visual brainstorming, but not everyone learns via written words. Visual learners take more to seeing their ideas drawn out or formulated into a graph instead of bullet points.

The question is whether or not written is better than visual, or if visual is better than written. The answer? It widely depends on your own style of learning and what is most comfortable for you. However, here we look at both visual and written forms of brainstorming and the pros and cons of each format at a very base level.

Written Brainstorming

Again, written brainstorming is perhaps the most widely used form of creative thought mapping because it’s so naturally ingrained into us. School teachers use written forms of brainstorming to help children learn to organize their thoughts and to take notes in order to make better grades. Because we’re taught these forms of brainstorming and are told they work well, we simply continue the trend without question.

It is true that written brainstorming is very easy to follow and organize, but it’s also very standard. By definition, brainstorming should be something that challenges creative molds; it’s all about thinking outside of the box. Written brainstorming, however, lacks that sort of wild energy unless you’re willing to get creative with it.

Another pro, however, is that written brainstorming is easily shared with others. If you want to show off your ideas, it’s easy to hand someone a written flowchart and they’re very likely to understand where you’re coming from (that is, if your handwriting is good).

Visual Brainstorming

Unlike written brainstorming, visual brainstorming is often more abstract. It’s about creating a picture and showcasing lines of thought instead of taking notes and having an organized flow. The idea is that freeform thought allows people to get out all of their creative thinking in order to get to the real heart of the good idea.

This kind of brainstorming includes illustrated thought mapping, abstract note taking, visual expressions of ideas and even physical representations of them. Because this is so personal and usually understood by only the creator, it can sometimes be hard to completely get the idea across. Many explanations may need to go into getting someone to fully understand the idea.

However, it is the most creatively freeing form of brainstorming. Visual ideas are very much real things to those who like to use them for brainstorming, and those who brainstorm visually are often very dedicated to fully forming an idea before getting down to the nitty gritty.

The reality is that both written and visual brainstorming have their pros and cons — which do you prefer?