Minus the tape-recorder piece of it, I do something like this frequently. I have a background in photo and film, so I find visualization easier anyway. Mindmapping has always been a good tool because it wasn't so linear as other brainstorming methods. While I'm mindmapping, I am constantly visualizing things. Some are related to the topic at hand, some are not. My mindmaps are frequently pictures with word/phrase clusters.
Right now, I'm in the process of designing a dresser. There are some particular design challenges I'm running into. As I was drawing a whole mess of sketches...the usual way I visualize...I had an image of an imploding building enter my mind. No idea why, but I paid attention to it, wrote it down, and then tried to visualize relationships between what I was designing and a collapsing building. I eventually realized that with the design I had, placing a television on top would make it a little more topheavy than I wanted, so I revised my design. The result solved about half of the design issues I was having and created a more pleasing set of lines for me.
At night, I often visualize the details of a space as I drift off to sleep. I try to visualize a variety of places, and not someplace that I see frequently. Things like a cabin at which I vacationed when I was 6. A restaurant in Italy that had great mussels. I visualize the sights, sounds, smells, tastes and textures, and usually have a dream that involves those spots.
For me, because visual (rather than auditory or verbal) information is such second nature to me, this works really well for me to visualize EVERYTHING. I would suspect, though, like most learning/thinking processes, it's highly individualized and YMMV.