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Graphic recording, flipbook, and video for VYPER

It was a great honour to team up with Valley Youth Partnership for Engagement and Respect (VYPER) – a critically needed youth-adult collaborative project that ran from 2014 to 2016, across the Fraser Health region of BC.

Their mission was to create a community where all youth are healthy, sage, engaged, have meaningful opportunities, and feel like they belong. The project’s aim was to help reduce stigma around mental health and substance use issues, and shows that young people are capable of being active participants in decision-making and contributing to the success of community members.

The Drawing Change team collaborated with the folks at VYPER on a number of projects:

  • live graphic recordings performed at the VYPERence conference so we could validate and capture youth voices in their own words;
  • focus group program evaluations with graphic recording so we could gather input from service providers in a visually useful way,
  • Dozens of quick illustrations that we made into a printed flip-book,
  • then the same illustrations turned into videos with the help of Daniel Ugsang at VYPER.

Sam’s Graphic Recording


A sample of Tiare’s Graphic Recordings


These live recordings show how VYPER focus on empowering youth through meaningful collaboration and consultation. For more on the final outcome of the project, see the resilience report here.

Here’s the flipbook! Tiaré Lani Kela Jung made these iconic images to make “adult youth partnerships” look as awesome as they really are.

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Drawn Together Through Visual Practice graphic recording book launch Vancouver

Book launch for Drawn Together Through Visual Practice: Vancouver

Drawn Together Through Visual Practice graphic recording book launch Vancouver

Live graphic recording created in tandem by Avril Orloff and Corrina Keeling

On October 29th we celebrated the release of our new book, Drawn Together through Visual Practice! We had a great turnout for the book launch event, which took place at Gallery Gachet in Vancouver, bringing together local facilitators, visual practitioners, friends, curious creatives, and even our moms.


Local authors gave short presentations on their work, and facilitators in attendance shared some practices, including a live graphic recording, and fielded questions from the audience.


The event was hosted by Stina Brown, MC extraordinaire. Stina’s book chapter explores how to connect the self to the planet using facilitation. In these times of great uncertainty, finding ways to lead groups into taking action is empowering. Stina also shared an activity with the audience, which is often used by graphic facilitators: a spectrogram that can be easily set up to ask a group questions.


Local author and graphic facilitator Aftab Erfan gave a short presentation on her chapter about Deep Democracy, which uses visuals to help explain what’s under the surface. Aftab works with groups to help unearth what is in the unconscious in the room, and the audience definitely learned more about itself that day!



We were also treated to a presentation by author Aaron Johannes-Rosenberg on his chapter about PATH: a visual process to help people with disabilities dream of a full life and a plan to make it happen.



I spoke about my chapter about using cultural safety and cultural humility. Originally, it was my Master’s project – but after writing about anti-racism and graphic recording, I realized it came down to this basic question. are we drawing whiteness? And my answer was yes. So now you don’t have to read the thesis. I decided to answer a more interesting question instead: How can visual practitioners work with cultural safety and cultural humility? For more on my chapter, check out my 4-part blog series on using cultural safety and cultural humility.

Sam book launch

Here’s me talking while Avril and Corrina work on their amazing graphic recording for the book launch. Vancouver is lucky to have such a strong visual practitioner community!

Thanks to everyone who came out, and for making the book launch a great success!

Missed the book launch but want a copy of the book? Drawn Together through Visual Practice is available for purchase on Amazon, and now on Kindle too!


cultural safety and graphic facilitation

Better Graphic Facilitation with Cultural Safety: Using our Hands

cultural safety and graphic facilitationFinal post in this series on how to become a better graphic facilitator through engaging with Cultural Safety and Humility. 

Cultural Safety is an emerging core competency for visual practitioners working with Indigenous organizations and community groups.

This series concludes with a summary of these suggested core competencies, and ideas for implementing at an organizational level. 



SB-hands-600x600Although it will always be faster to draw simpler icons, what is gained in speed may be lost in distinction when ideas are distilled to universal concepts. Illustration can model holistic ways of knowing. Drawings can show us a strengths-based approach.

It’s important today to reflect on how our work is representative of the people with whom we’re collaborating. Because graphic recording and graphic facilitation are fast work, there is no easy answer. The important part is that as a practitioner, I am aware of the choices I make. Most practitioners use familiar ways of drawing people—often as “everyman” stick people (star people, bean people, and other shapes). This “Everyman” idea is meant to be a stand-in for a universal symbol—and in North America, we consider all other differences to be compared against Whiteness as the default.

A question I’ve come to consider is how can a stick figure (if it doesn’t have a race or ethnicity) represent, or support, cultural safety?

Although it will always be faster to draw simpler icons, what is gained in speed may be lost in distinction when ideas are distilled to universal concepts. I find myself asking in a graphic recording or facilitation session, what is more important: cultivating cultural safety or how I draw this stick figure? This may mean in some cases, I decide it is appropriate to use stick figures, because there are other drawings or text that create imagery or processes that support cultural safety. Sometimes on the same poster I will have a number of “everyman” stick figures balanced with other types of images. Overall, I challenge myself to go beyond different skin tones in what I draw, avoid reinforcing stereotypes, and utilize all resources to ensure respectful representations.

Pacific Herring Summit Cowichan graphic recording

It’s important today to reflect on how our work is representative of the people with whom we’re collaborating.

Sometimes I draw culturally relevant images, and I also avoid being inappropriately reductionist. For example, while working with specific First Nations on the west coast of British Columbia about their traditional herring practices, I was able to refer to each Nation’s unique fishing traditions. But while graphic recording at a national First Nations data conference, I was careful to not choose one symbol (not a tipi, nor a medicine wheel, etc.) to represent the diversity present. Using one symbol would be applying a pan-Indigenous graphic and would potentially be received as disrespect. It’s an important moment of choice that needs to be made quickly while working. The strength or limitations of my decision is based on my own knowledge.

SB tools - starSuggested tool: Amplify Indigneous voices

Overall, try and amplify Indigenous voices wherever you can – for strength and resilience. Another way to amplify voices is to encourage non-Indigenous conference organizers to include Indigenous voices on panels, organizing teams, and in outreach. As graphic facilitators, we weave between many sectors, and you might be surprised at the connections to different organizations you may have access to.

And amplifying Indigenous voices is also about sharing the markers! This year, I’m taking my practice one step further and mentoring an Indigenous artist who wants to learn graphic recording/graphic facilitation skills so we can work together on projects. As well, I’ve been invited to a series of high schools in a remote/rural area to work with Indigenous youth and share sketchnoting skills. It’s a two part project: we’ll share skills at the workshops, then interested youth can come to a community youth Summit to be part of the official conference sketchnoting team.


SB tools - starSuggested tool: Be an anthropologist about yourself

Take personal notes during a session, similar to how teachers-in-training keep journals or how anthropologists keep field notes. This is a reflection-in-action project. It was challenging to take time out to make notes, but later on, while I reviewed them, I was amazed at details that I had already forgotten. For example, one of my blind spots is feeling I need to capture new-to-me information as fast as possible. Being confident that I can wait, and use that time differently, is one of my reflection-in-action learnings. I’ve noticed times where I drew a list, but a diagram or model would have brought more meaning.

SB tools - starSuggested tool: Graphic facilitation portfolio review

For my graduate work, I designed a research study about my own practice that is easy for other practitioners to duplicate. I selected five illustrations from my portfolio over a period of 10 years and analyzed my design and content choices about how I drew issues of race, gender, or other markers of difference (or how I avoided it). Educators will recognize this as a self-study, or action research. Next, I kept a journal to better understand my biases and my worldview. I shared this journal with a trusted reader or group to deepen the learning. Then I wrote up the research findings and adjusted my work based on my learnings.


Graphic facilitation has the potential to enhance knowledge and build on the self-awareness necessary to advance meaningful change. As professionals, we can help the groups we work with by developing our core competencies, just as we work on other aspects of our practice. Here are suggested core competencies to support building cultural safety in our work:

  1. It starts with me. Each of us has to do our inner work. Arrive with humility. Research and understand my own history in the context of colonization of this country and the impact colonization has on the indigenous people and cultures here in their own land.
  2. My relationships with others in the room. How I introduce myself in a culturally appropriate way, and how do I behave. Who are the leader in the room? For this engagement, have I established appropriate networks in advance?
  3. Understanding my biases and worldview. Start from an assumption that things are not equal, institutions are not neutral, and that at the same time, people inside them may be very well-intentioned.
  4. Review my body of work as a critic. Pull out a selection of my images, and examine my work with a lens of cultural humility. What patterns do I notice? What choices did I make?
  5. Become an anthropologist-about-myself. Make field notes during a session one day. Use reflection-in-action. Take time out of the work to reflect on it and write down in as much detail as I can.
  6. Go beyond multiculturalism on the surface, and don’t limit myself to drawing different skin tones. How do I avoid reinforcing stereotypes in my images?
  7. Listen for the paradigms of colonialism, systems of class, gender, privilege.
  8. Support traditional Indigenous knowledge, connect stories to land and place.


Graphic facilitation can help support an open type of discussion for challenging issues, bringing art and conversation together in a room. Organizations can adopt graphic facilitation as a change methodology to tackle tough issues such as cultural safety, while learning about First Nations cultures with the richness visuals can bring to group conversations.

Here are some implementation ideas:

  • Cultural safety depends on people understanding histories they likely weren’t taught in schools; graphic facilitation is an engaging way to explain histories.
  • Encouraging people to learn—starting with self—is key to building cultural safety because competencies are not developed overnight. Information from keynotes or presentations is synthesized into smaller, bite-sized chunks.
  • Graphic facilitation creates reflection tools that create a natural conversation or solo reflection area which can prompt people to examine their cultural identities.
  • After the event, the visuals can be shared by email, newsletter, intranet, and in reports to continue to engage people emotionally and intellectually.
  • Graphic recordings can support organizational change: saving time by quickly summarizing meetings, identifying next steps, and mapping out change processes such as assessment tools, trainings, and human resources policies.I believe each mark we make is an opportunity to reflect in the moment and adjust the course forward, together. In writing this, my intent was to share my personal learning with others, to ask for and gather feedback, and always consider how we can challenge our own work to go deeper.


With gratitude to Cheryl Ward at the San’yas Indigenous Cultural Safety Training Program (British Columbia, Canada) and Joe Gallagher, Harmony Johnson and Janene Erickson at the First Nations Health Authority (BC, Canada) for support and feedback on this draft and along my learning journey.

I hope you have enjoyed reading this series! For more on the incredible work being done by graphic facilitators and visual practitioners, check out our new book, Drawn Together through Visual Practice

cultural safety and graphic facilitation cultural safety and graphic facilitation cultural safety and graphic facilitation


cultural safety and graphic facilitation

Cultural Safety and Graphic Facilitation: Using our Hearts

cultural safety and graphic facilitationThird in a series about cultural safety and graphic facilitation.

Here, I look at how graphic facilitators can use our hearts, in order to better understand how emotion and empathy can be utilized in graphic recording sessions.

I’ll offer concrete strategies to help us build stronger connections and relationships.

THE HEART: EMPATHY IN Graphic facilitation

SB-heart--600x600Be aware of what triggers me emotionally. Build my own resilience. Define my role in the room. Show stories of success, not just trauma. Be humble.

Graphic recording intense stories and histories requires empathy. My colleague Kelvy Bird wrote to me that “the work we do is not emotional, but generates emotion in us and others, and involves accessing empathy through it all.” Developing empathetic listening and relational skills as part of Cultural Safety is more important than a new set of icons.

It’s important that I am not swept up in strong emotions that pull me out of the meeting and into my own inner world. The first time I heard an elder tell me about their traumatic experience in Indian Residential School while I was working, I froze. I knew the histories—but how could I make art that did this justice? I needed to come back to center quickly, because my role was to make images, and capture her story, not mine. The key is building my own resilience.

cultural-safety-and graphic facilitation

An approach that keeps cultural safety to the forefront is to introduce myself in a culturally respectful manner where I describe where I am from and acknowledge whose territory we are meeting on and thank my hosts. This builds relationships based in the processes of cultural humility. Similar to any instructor or facilitator standing in front of the (class)room, the graphic facilitator has a position of authority in the room, so it’s important to me that I tell the group how I am there to amplify their voices, and put their needs first. The person with the markers doesn’t make all the decisions – I’m there to follow the group! – but it’s crucial to acknowledge this. Working live, I can explain that I can make adjustments to the posters as needed. I can also confirm with keynote presenters or participants one-on-one about the way I’ve captured their words. Contractually, I ensure that First Nations organizations retain ownership/copyright of the images, using the principles of OCAP (c): Ownership, Control, Access and Possession.

Engaging with participants while self-reflecting about visual processes is a praxis: it can lead to more questions, which lead to new, better approaches to the work. Participants may experience legitimate doubts about raising “concerns” with the graphics—they might feel their feedback would “ruin the pretty picture,” they may know race or culture is visualized incorrectly but are unsure how to “fix it,” especially around a sensitive issue such as race. Therefore, the responsibility is up to me to actively check with participants about their experiences: I can create the safety for people to approach me. While doing longer term illustration projects and developing imagery, I often ask my clients if we can directly engage community feedback via elders, an advisory group, or an informal network, and I am open to feedback during all stages of creating illustrations.

SB tools - starSuggested tools: Build capacity for respect, and find ways to stay grounded

When I work from a place of empathy, it gives me joy. There are as many ways to build empathy as there are people. We can build empathy toward others by being honest about our own culture, and strive for open-mindedness through cultural humility to learn, honour, and respect other cultures. We can demonstrate empathy in our actions: giving people our full listening focus, or being attuned to body language. We can nurture our spiritual selves so we arrive to our work balanced, and have the capacity to build even more empathy. When we are thrown off balance or triggered, we need tools to become re-centered and return to the present moment. Breathing, moving my body, self-soothing with a drink of water, anchoring my feet by pushing them into the floor, or engaging in self-talk help me while I’m working. When I’m engaged in community-led processes it helps me move from reflection to action, and gives me joy- listening and taking direction from leaders in the room about what’s needed.

How do you negotiate emotions and empathy in your own graphic recording sessions? what strategies work best? Please feel free to share your experiences or suggestions in the comments section!

* * * * * *

cultural safety and graphic facilitationcultural safety and graphic facilitation







In the final post in this series, I explore how our hands can be best used to ensure that our work is representative of the people with whom we are working with, and outline core competencies for cultural safety.

cultural safety and graphic facilitation

Cultural Safety and Graphic Facilitation Part Two: Using our Heads

In the introduction post, I explored the meaning and importance of Cultural Safety and Humility in my work with First Nations, Métis, and Inuit communities, and how this has shaped my practice as a non-Indigenous graphic facilitator. 


Graphic facilitators can use our whole selves in service of cultural safety. There are moments where we can’t rely on drawing tokenistic concepts of “multiculturalism” or “diversity.” Instead, we can draw from a deeper, more informed place. As a start, we can enlist our heads, hearts, and hands to support this work. I’ll use this structure of heads, hearts, and hands to outline a non-comprehensive set of tools that have helped me.


Understand history. Keep learning. Celebrate strong, diverse, and vibrant Indigenous cultures.

In order to support a group in building cultural safety, I have to see myself as part of—and not separate from—the journey of cultural safety as well.

My work starts before I arrive in the room. Even though I know race is socially constructed (that there is no scientific basis for racial differences), I know that race and Indigenous-specific racism shapes people’s lives. Cultural Humility helps me question the textbooks that taught me the winners and losers of history, and helps me understand Canada’s colonial history and how my family has benefited from laws and Indigenous- specific racism. By this re-learning, I uncover what shapes my worldview. Read more

Using Cultural Safety and Humility to Become a Better Graphic Facilitator

cultural safety and graphic facilitationI’m a graphic facilitator, and I want to plant a seed for other non-Indigenous practitioners who work with First Nations, Métis, and Inuit communities. The seed is Cultural Safety. Cultural Safety means that I work in a particular kind of way—with Cultural Humility—when I work with Indigenous people and others who are different from me. This is a four part blog series.

Many visual practitioners work cross-culturally, and it’s never been more timely to grow our collective skills together around an issue that is complex, challenging, and also deeply rewarding. Visual Practitioners use our considerable visual and facilitation skills to create—and see!—a more profound level of behavioural, interpersonal, and structural change. For these reasons, I believe Cultural Safety is an emerging core competency for visual practitioners. 

cultural-safety-and graphic facilitation

In this new blog series, I explore the concepts of Cultural Safety and Cultural Humility, and its importance to my work as a visual practitioner. The full article can also be found in our new book, Drawn Together through Visual Practice.  Specifically, I propose that we enlist our heads, hearts, and minds to support this work (jump ahead by clicking on the buttons above). This structure has helped me in concrete ways to be a better graphic facilitator.

Current campaign championed by the First Nations Health Authority
Current campaign championed by the First Nations Health Authority

But first, let me tell you a story.

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graphic facilitation for change example - culture engine

What we see in graphic facilitation is a reflection of our sector, too

graphic facilitation for change example - culture engineI keep a list of what participants say to me about the visuals after a graphic facilitation session. My big take-away – as someone who visits many sectors – is that we are all looking for ways to understand each other.

Every sector has a unique take on why graphic facilitation – or visual thinking – helps them.

It’s a mirror into how you see your own sector. 

Your adrenal system must be firing all day long, say the naturopaths.

It’s a very left brain, right brain balance, says the HR manager.

graphic facilitation for strategic planningIt’s a clear way to motivate my sales team, says the grocery store manager.

You’ve put emotion into this – as well as pictures, say the trauma counsellors.

You must get nervous before you go on, says the keynote speaker.

You’ve designed the perfect gift and excuse to reconnect with people in a few days, says the marketing manager.

It’s another art-based way to share traditional Indigenous knowledge, says the Elder.

You must have the best job in the world, says the online engagement officer.

But how does your brain work inside, asks the veterinarian.

Counseling is a reframing, and so this is a functional reframe, says the trauma counselor.
graphic facilitation in health
These are just some of my favorites. There’s truth in all of it.

I’ve been tracking this list on my phone for a year – and I love learning what resonates with you. It could be one picture, but it’s many interpretations, towards shared understanding.

What else have noticed when you’re in a room with graphic facilitation?  Leave a comment!

* * * * * *

Sam Bradd is the principal of Drawing Change. He uses visuals to help groups be better at what they do. In the last 15 years, he’s collaborated with researchers on four continents, the World Health Organization, Google, and Indigenous organizations. His new book is Drawn Together Through Visual Practice –> check it out here. 

Neuland ambassador- graphic recording markers

When I choose my graphic recording markers*, I use three guiding ideas: clarity, readability, and expressiveness. I can’t imagine doing this job without Neuland markers, and I’m pleased to be an ambassador. When the boxes come it’s as good as Christmas for me!

*do other countries say pens? Here in Canada, we tend to say markers.


Neuland markers are non-toxic, come in brilliant colours, and most important to me – they are refillable. I might cover a full room with ideas during one day – we draw a lot in this work – and it’s a green choice.

Here’s how I choose my markers:

Official Neuland Ambassador for graphic recording The first is Clarity. I choose Big Ones to draw oversized headings that get to the heart of the concept, and to clearly link ideas together. I want my pens to draw text and images that help make information clear and understandable.

The second is Readability. It’s important that participants can read what I’m writing. In my practice, I might be drawing and facilitating at the same time, or I could be listening intently and drawing. I like the No. 1 markers because the nibs keep my writing consistent. I like to use black, and then highlight key words in a bright colour.

Finally, Expressiveness is what makes each practitioner unique! I use the brush tips for a softer, artistic quality in my lettering, and often to draw an “anchor” image as a feature on the page. One of the things new practitioners always ask me is “how do you know what to draw?” You have to develop your visual vocabulary, and keep practicing! Start with the Bikablo books to build your visual vocabulary, and a big stack of paper. There’s an old cartoonist joke that to get better you take a stack of paper as tall as you, and you draw something on each page: By the time you’ve drawn on each page, you’ll see an improvement. For visual practitioners, practice is key – it strengthens muscle memory and helps us respond quickly and confidently in the moment.

The rest of my kit for graphic facilitation includes chalks, tapes, photo cards, chimes (you never know – I worked with a facilitator who had laryngitis once and they came in handy!) at least two erasers, avery labels, and other pens.

You can check out the Neuland catalogue here – including facilitation tools, books, and workshop supplies.

how to edit graphic recording posters

Are you wondering how to edit graphic recording posters into digital files? You’re not alone.

This summer, I had the privilege of mentoring some amazing folks new to graphic recording. They were not new to visual thinking, but new to using giant paper and working live. I loved hearing how they are excited to help groups be better at what they do – and I can’t wait to see what ideas they will bring to our profession!

Besides their questions about process and facilitation, each of them asked one specific logistical question: “So we create these huge posters, live. How do we edit them into smaller files for print and web?”

And once I had explained this out loud a few times, I knew a video would be way more helpful.

So, by popular request, and for my very first time doing a video tutorial – here’s how I edit my graphic recording posters afterwards. I selected one from a recent international meeting in Bangkok (did you know veterinarians are often the first line of defense for public health disease outbreaks? I had no idea!).

How to Edit Graphic Recording Posters – Drawing Change from Sam Bradd on Vimeo.

I use:

  • Photoshop
  • A digital camera (I have a mirrorless Fuji digital camera, no flash which works for me)
  • I also have the good fortune of living with a professional photographer who shoots with a Nikon full frame camera and flash – definitely fantastic if you can set that up
  • Natural light

Step 1: bring the images to a place with flat, even natural light and photograph them

Step 2: save a copy of the photo and open it in Photoshop

Step 3: Crop. Then, use Photoshop levels to select chunks of the image, small parts at a time, and colour correct using the Levels tools. Often one side of the image will be brighter than the other.

Step 3: After the images are edited, the final step: I use Photoshop to add a title, the session information, and my contact information to the bottom of the images. (You can create an automated ‘droplet’ for this, if you want to really get wizard-like. I can’t help you set that up, but you can google it.)

Here’s a few other resources:

Logistics: The best place for help with logistics is to search the Graphic Facilitation Facebook group (search in the top right) for previous threads. People compare cameras, setups, and other tips.

Deepening your practice: If you’re looking for ideas for how to widen, or deepen your visual practice, we have a new anthology. The first time I read it all the way through I learned so much from these talented colleagues, and hope you do too. visualpracticebook.com

Visuals to communicate new data about First Nations Communities

FNREEES Now is the Time census information

New First Nations data is now available.

Now is the Time is a brand new report with about First Nations communities, thanks to the First Nations Information Governance Centre.

FNIGC writes that Now is the Time: Our Data, Our Stories, Our Future,The National Report of the First Nations Regional Early Childhood, Education and Employment Survey is “The most technically complex survey in FNIGC’s history, the report of the First Nations Regional Early Childhood, Education and Employment Survey (FNREEES, or REEES) shows strong associations between the importance First Nations people place on language, culture and family, and the educational, employment, health, and well-being outcomes in their communities.”

FNREES quick factsFirst Nations Data: Quick Facts

Sometimes, you need a statistic quickly. The Drawing Change team was thrilled to create an easy to read, 32-page “Quick Facts” version with FNIGC. It uses visuals to communicate key insights into the data. The format is a small, spiral-bound book that is portable and easy to reference.

Drawing Change collaborated with award winning illustrator Julie Flett for the cover, with layout by Karianne Blank and illustrations by Sam Bradd.

“Now is the Time: Our Data, Our Stories, Our Future,The National Report of the First Nations Regional Early Childhood, Education and Employment Survey is the culmination of a landmark five-year survey process conducted by FNIGC, the premier source of information about First Nations people and communities, and its Regional Partners,” writes FNIGC.


Visuals and Infographics

We used visuals throughout this project – in the fall, early survey findings were released using infographics, a compelling powerpoint presentation, and there was live graphic recording at the annual conference. Here are two of the five infographics:




Congratulations on this milestone, FNIGC!