Visual Mnemonics: Six Keys to a Good Visual Prompt

You can imagine “visual mnemonics” to help you remember tricky information. But how you imagine can make all the difference.

When you first start imagining memory prompts, you may find that they start to fade. Why? Imagination is like any other skill: you need to get certain things right, and you probably need to practice. Take a look at this six-point checklist.

A visual mnemonic should be:

Unique Shape
The key to the rest. We remember unique shapes, like faces. Every mnemonic you imagine should have a unique shape.
Our brains are designed for real-world objects, not 2-D cartoons.
Imagine crisp details. Don’t just think “chair” – you need to /see/ this thing. Recliner, stool, office chair – what does it actually look like?
The bigger the better, because you see more detail.
Make your mnemonics well-lit. Darkness blurs detail. (All shadows look alike.)
Colors are interesting, and help make the image unique.

If your memory prompts succeed on all these points, there’s a good chance they’ll stay crisp in your memory. (As long as you review, of cours.)

Reusing mnemonics but keeping them unique

Some information is repetitive. Like months, numbers, letters of the alphabet, and battles.

You can reuse the same mnemonics for this, just as you reuse words. But you have to be careful to make them unique.

When you reuse mnemonics, they must always combine to make something unique.

You might use sword for battle many times. But each time, the sword should stab something different, for each battle, or else you’ll get mixed up. The mnemonic works because the total shape of the sword and whatever it’s stabbing is unique.