Visual representations pervade strategic decision making. However, the strategy literature has been mostly silent about why visual representations are so pervasive and about how they affect strategic decision making. We address the “why” question by building on ideas from cognitive science to identify four cognitive functions on which strategic decision making relies and that are improved by the use of visuals. We address the “how” question by developing a conceptual model and propositions describing how decision quality is contingent on characteristics of the task environment, the visuals, and the managers. Our work extends the understanding of boundedly rational search by explaining how visual representations affect the search process. Among other theoretical implications, we show that a problem space’s size and “satisfiability” depend on: (i) the ability of managers to select an appropriate visual representation and (ii) the extent to which that visual representation is both usable and malleable. We close by detailing some implications for users, designers, and teachers of visuals in the field of strategy and by suggesting directions for future research.