In Temple Grandin’s Visual Thinking, she writes about the work of psychologist Linda Silverman:
In a presentation about the differences in learning styles, Silverman flashes a slide showing a person with a tidy file cabinet and a person surrounded by messy piles of paper. The “filer” and the “pilers,” to use her terms. You probably know which one you are. What does it say about the way you think?
According to Silverman, “Filers” tend to be verbal/sequential thinkers and “Pilers” tend to be visual/spatial thinkers.
When googling around for these terms, I came across a blog post for the Container Store that suggested different products for different kinds of thinkers — tell us who you are so we can sell you something! — filing cabinets and file folders for the Filers, of course, but for the Pilers, they recommend a cabinet of drawers to throw the piles in. (But doesn’t that defeat the purpose of having the piles out where you can see them? Hmm.)
What’s funny is that I was just telling a friend on the phone that I use drawers as a way of storing my collage materials — I toss scraps into the drawers, and when it’s time to make a collage, I just pull out the drawer and start sifting through stuff.
All of these “versus” type situations can be rethought as spectrums and/or creative tensions. There are times when I want to access that sequential part of my brain and bring order to things, and filing does that, but there are other times I want to access my visual brain, and piles help.