Author: Sam Bradd

Graphic Facilitation Workshop wrap up – Vancouver Canada

The Drawing Change team just wrapped up its annual Visual Facilitation training in Vancouver! This year we welcomed participants from the UK, the east and west coast of the US, Canada, and Japan. Here’s to your continued visual success, fellow visual thinkers. Here’s video highlights from our training, and thanks so much for the opportunity to learn together.

Reflections on new things from this workshop:

Eating together.  The dinner before the workshop starts is still such a highlight. It builds a comraderie and greater trust between participants – before we need to get vulnerable and make art together.

Towards Greater Cultural Safety. This year, I asked trainer Shawna Duncan, and colleagues Michelle Buchholz and Tiaré Jung to host a conversation about working with cultural safety and visuals. (At first, I thought a panel might be good, but Shawna guided me into how we could use Indigenous methodologies instead for which I am so grateful.) Grounded in the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, we used a variety of methods to discuss how to be in relationship, draw and listen wisely, and then how to find more resources to continue this work in our own lives.

Iteration. Philosophically, I’m refining my training style. I believe we creatively learn best when we try right away, then practice and iterate. So instead of spending an entire morning with our sketchbooks working small, we learn the basics and then get up to apply them to the wall right away to learn graphic recording principles. I’ve dropped some of the content-delivery I used to do, and focus instead on setting up participants to learn with each other at their own pace. There is no finish line, there is no desired outcome – only to be able to provide the opportunity for people to learn what they want.

Better Reflection. Speaking of peer learning, we also debriefed in a new way on Day 1. I didn’t go to art school, but I took one course in university that gave me a taste for what an art critique is like (anxiety, judgey, lonely) and I don’t think it’s a positive experience to build up creativity and resilience. So instead of me singling out each person’s work for feedback/feed-forward, I asked every person in the room to take post-it notes, walk around, and identify a strength on each person’s graphic recording. By noticing what we admire in others’ work, it’s often a sign for what we want to work on in ourselves / in our own work. One of those “one finger pointing out, three fingers pointing back” things. And such a success! Everyone had at least a dozen positive affirmations on their first graphic recording poster.

New: Third Day for next workshop. Speaking of more feedback and personalized attention, I think I’ll be adding a third and optional day to the next workshop. I’d like to experiment with a third day for longer projects, smaller groups, and the ability for me to work 1:1 with people who want that kind of learning environment. (For an excellent example of this kind of learning, I’d also recommend Brandy Agerbeck’s Lab – max of 6 people, in Chicago). Some participants can only take 2 days off work, so the 2-day workshop will stay intact – but some people would want to immediately be able to apply what they’ve learned in a supportive environment, and we can do that together on day 3.

I noticed that the field overall has grown by leaps and bounds from when I began teaching workshops. Participants are curious for resources, tools and practices that weave into their existing work and how to add visuals – I can’t wait to see where we will all go next.

Contact us at

NEW resource that just launched – a custom magazine with resources, tips, and the foundations of a visual vocabulary for participants. For now, available only in-person at workshops.

Read more about the workshop content here, and the next workshop will be May 2019.

Evaluation and Graphic Recording together for social justice

What if evaluation methodologies were about transformational systems change, and deepening social justice? An article in the free, new e-Anthology from the Developmental Evaluation Institute (DEI) features graphic facilitation as a tool for developmental evaluation.

Written by Trilby Smith and Natalie Ord from the Vancouver Foundation and the Fostering Change Initiative, Trilby and Natalie shared their experiences using graphic recording for developmental evaluation. 

It was an opportunity for me to reflect on how graphic recording can inspire action. Some of my thoughts: 

“Art can inspire action. Fostering Change uses policy, youth-led engagement and art, including graphic recording, for social change. By listening and drawing, graphic recording humanizes evaluation tools, engagement and research. We can show participant voices, statistics, and visualize together the system-wide change that’s needed.

In this image, when youth say foster kid stories shouldn’t be exploited, but personal stories can put pressure on the system, the Youth Advisory Committee is describing a balance of qualitative and quantitative approaches. That’s also how graphic recording operates. Additionally, the power of graphic recording comes from helping people see that they’ve been heard. And, because it’s done live, we can be in a relationship with the speakers to ensure we’re capturing things with transparency and integrity. Advocacy work shouldn’t be extractive: as the YAC says, this work can honour your whole self.”  


Download the anthology for free here.  

The DEI “provides pathways for new, emerging, and mid-career evaluators to develop skills in developmental evaluation for social justice.” Three graphic recording images are featured, including by Tiaré Jung (below), and Corrina Keeling. The anthology is great and highly encourage people to download it.

Introducing the 2018 Drawing Change Community Scholars

September is officially in full swing – our boxes of fresh Neuland markers have arrived, and we’re busy organizing for our sold out Graphic Facilitation and Recording Workshop this October.

Once again, two talented Community Scholars will join the course next month: Adriana Contreras and Aaron Lao. Each Scholar is involved in community activism, amplifying voices and creating inclusive spaces through their respective visual practices.

Introducing Adriana and Aaron, who will tell us a little bit about themselves!

“Visuals and art-making has been the best vehicle to navigate a lengthy and ever-evolving relationship with migration” – Adriana Contreras

Adriana Contreras, and her father Juan Contreras; Photo by Ewa Jagla

Adriana Contreras is a visual artist, graphic designer, avid arts advocate, and a dancer at heart. She moved from Bogotá, Colombia to Vancouver, unceded Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh territories, with her family in 1998. Since then, she’s worked and volunteered with arts organizations such as SFU Galleries, New Performance Works Society, The Vancouver Art Gallery, The Burnaby Arts Gallery, The Latin American Film Festival, among others. She has also worked in countless projects with her father, photographer and painter, Juan E Contreras.

Andriana writes, “For me,  visuals and art-making helps navigate a lengthy and ever-evolving relationship with migration. It helps me understand the place where we landed and has become home, what it means to be a migrant in a racialized body on unceded First Nations lands, and what are the responsibilities that arrive with the privilege of living here; continually and simultaneously looking and the personal, the local and the global to make sense of the world.”

A book that  inspires me is Colour: Travels Through the Paintbox by Victoria Finlay. From my undergrad, it impacted the way I see the world, understand the history of colour and the social and political implications of our everyday choices as humans and as artists. What do we value and why? What are the consequences of our desires, expectations and demands on the natural world? What meanings do colours hold and how have they evolved? It is a fabulous read, filled with a wealth of stories and landscapes.





“Graphic Recording has been an important tool to draw out what people feel is most important about the culture and community of Chinatown, by recording their voices at community events and pop-up activations.” – Aaron Lao


Photo provided

Aaron Lao is an urban planner from Vancouver, who has always been fascinated by this city and its communities. As a student, he became involved in the Chinatown community, as part of a new movement of young people concerned about the cultural vibrancy of this historic part of Vancouver.

Aaron uses graphic recording during sessions on the future of Vancouver’s Chinatown. It’s an important tool to draw out what people feel is most important, by recording their voices at community events and pop-up activations. As Aaron has settled into his profession and has built relationships in these communities, he looks to ways that graphic recording can help community members express their desires, build understanding, and enable a strong public process.

I have been reading a very good book about cooking called Salt Fat Acid Heat, which expresses how it should feel to cook, even without a recipe, and which inspires me to expand my cooking horizons. It has great illustrations that are convey information graphically.








Visual practice belongs in the hands of everyone – from the classroom to community groups and the boardroom. Drawing Change is proud to get these tools into as many hands as possible.

Thanks to everyone who’s taking the jump and bringing even more creativity into their lives at the fall Graphic Facilitation workshop – see you then!  We’ve started a list for the 2019 workshop – send us a line at if you’d like to register now or have questions.

visual facilitation books 2018 on bookshelf

Our favourite visual facilitation books to add to your backpack

Summer is in full swing – hopefully this means you’re working at a slower pace lately, and maybe have a little extra time to flip a few pages at the beach. Personally, I’m trying to catch up on my reading-for-fun. I asked the Drawing Change team to send me one book that they found helpful along their visual journeys.

Half are outside the ‘foundational’ visual practice books that often inform our work. And, if you’re new to the field, you’ll also see a list of classic books that are perfect for learning how to think with your pen.

We hope you’ll find all these titles useful!

“Unstuck by Keith Yamashita and Sandra Spataro, Ph.D. is one of the very first “design thinking toolkit” type books that I came across – and it is concise, flexible, funny, and makes great use of graphics. Keith’s company, SYPartners works with leading companies and organizations to help them evolve and innovate. Published back in 2004, the book has since spawned an app, a website, and a workshop series…but the book is a pocket-size tool that you will reach for again and again.” – Snow Dowd

“I think I’ve bought 8 copies of adrienne maree brown’s book Emergent Strategy to give away so far. It’s about complexity, radical self-love, and community in your facilitation, with a sprinkling of science fiction/futurism.” – Sam Bradd



“A great practical 101 – The Graphic Facilitator’s Guide by Brandy Agerback breaks down the process of live graphic recording. This guide is filled with friendly diagrams that help you find the balance in listening, deciding, and drawing. It’s the kind of book that begins to uncover what’s under the surface of the tip of the iceberg.” – Tiaré Jung

“This book provides instructions and illustrations on the basics of drawing, designing, painting and carving in the Northwest Coast Indigenous art. It reminds me that we must continuously practice and work towards our drawing goals.” –  Michelle Buchholz (Wet’suwet’en) (note from Sam: please, if you’re not Indigenous, don’t copy or appropriate Indigenous art.)

“I recommend The Art of Possibility by Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander. In life, we spend a lot of time measuring results against specific outcomes. This book reminds readers that everything we experience is made up. We can shift our thoughts, to experience life based on a frame of possibility. We can focus on how we contribute, so we look at things in a new way. We can embrace the way things actually are but shift our perspective.” – Melissa Breker


“Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards is my absolute go-to recommendation for anyone who wants to learn how to really draw. It changed the way I see in a profound way.” – Annalee Kornelsen


“Practices of Looking: An Introduction to Visual Culture is one of those books that I have kept from my university days. It’s not a leisurely read, but it’s a great introductory text that works to instill critical awareness in the reader when considering visual culture, and visual symbols of representation. How do the images we encounter influence us? How can we break out of our assumptions and consider inclusive (or new) ways of seeing and creating images? There are limits to its theoretical frameworks, and could do with some updating and inclusion of other perspectives, but it’s a useful foundational text with which to build a visual language upon.” – Carina Nilsson


“Kelvy Bird’s way of scribing, Generative Scribing, has changed my practice. The workshop and books are gifts to the field. This book describes “generative scribing” and “key concepts that inform and cultivate a scribe’s inner capacities of being, joining, perceiving, knowing, and drawing.” – Sam Bradd


Classic texts for sketchnoting and graphic facilitation

• The Sketchnote Handbook: the illustrated guide to visual note taking – by Mike Rhode

• Draw To Win and Back of the Napkin: Solving Problems and Selling Ideas with Pictures – Dan Roam

• Resonate: Present Visual Stories that Transform Audiences Paperback – Nancy Duarte

• Design a Better Business: New Tools, Skills, and Mindset for Strategy and Innovation – with Lisa Kay Solomon, Justin Lokitz, and Patrick Van Der Pijl

• The Doodle Revolution – Unlock the Power To Think Differently – Sunni Brown

• Draw Your Big Idea: the Ultimate Creativity Tool for Turning Thoughts into Action and Dreams Into Reality – Nora Herting and Heather Willems

• The Front of The Room: a book on facilitation by experienced facilitators – by Dan Newman

Drawn Together Through Visual Practice – edited by Brandy Agerbeck, Kelvy Bird, Sam Bradd and Jennifer Shepherd

… and stay tuned for the Graphic Facilitation Field Guide coming out in 2019!

Neuland markers sam bradd graphic facilitation supplies on table

FAQ roundup and how to get started as a graphic recorder

It’s time for a Frequently Asked Questions! Summer roundup of questions I’ve been asked from folks new to the field lately:

I’m new. How do get started as a graphic recorder?

photo: CIPMM (2015)

I love this question. Welcome, fellow visual thinker! Six opinionated ideas and highly subjective advice:

  1. Start. I want you to START drawing! I am not a believer in just “following your passion”. I think you should be inspired to be creative, yes, and make sure you put the work in to get good at things. Don’t leap into your passion and then give up too soon, especially when it gets hard. I don’t wait for creativity to land in my lap. I have to make stuff, and see where it goes. And then, once you make something you have to share it. How will people know what you want to do, otherwise?
  2. Your first projects should personally interest you. Be proud to share them. Deliberately choose to work for trusted people for a few low-stakes projects. Build your confidence.
  3. Find a mentor. This field enables people to bring their professional experience (coaching, facilitating, leading) and apply it to visual work. Like many creative professions with a majority of sole practitioners, the foundation based on apprenticeships, networks, and learning from peers. It’s rapidly growing and I think mentors help us see how collectively as practitioners we can help organizations, clients, individuals.
  4. Take a workshop. Research. Read books. Set up a Skype call. Go to a meetup. Ask your mentor if you can watch them work at a public or appropriate event.  Go to a conference. Try to read forums before asking a 12,000 person Facebook group “what is the best pen to use?” And, take a graphic facilitation workshop to find like-minded people and start building your community. 
  5. Think about how you want to start a business. There’s no one right way. Maybe you’ll have a business partner, maybe you’ll have an unusual niche. Look to other creative fields for the business model that works for you. At minimum, you should clearly show people what you want to be hired for. No sense putting a link to your tattoo website up if you want to be hired to sketchnote.
  6. Be generous. If you’re asking for people’s time, effort, emotional labour from others: ask them/see how you can help them in a reciprocal way.

Favorite markers?

I’m a Neuland ambassador. I love that they’re refillable, non-toxic, and come in vibrant colours and tips, especially the Big Ones. I am a huge, huge fan. Let’s talk markers anytime, and I’ll show you how these ones are designed to not even roll off the table.

What’s are most important skills a graphic facilitator needs to have? 

We are doing more than drawing – we are facilitating and leading, and helping others see their own thoughts. This month I might say: Listening and decision-making about what marks to make; awareness and skills to work on bias; empathy and a strong sense of personal leadership.

Last year I might have said patience, an ability to be reflective, a curiosity about learning (you can’t just draw what you think is happening). This is one of those “one finger pointing out, three fingers pointing back” types of questions.

What you notice or appreciate in others is also something you’re noticing in yourself, of course.

How is this a job? Why haven’t I heard about it? 

RIGHT? Pretty amazing job! Graphic facilitators are becoming more popular – so you may see them more now. But the field began in the 1970s, so it also has a long history, practices, and its own methods. Some folks work inside organizations, and some practitioners are consultants.

Do you pre-plan your layouts? 

No, and yes. I start with a blank page for graphic recording and most facilitation now. When I’m doing live work I am deciding as we go: I am matching the type of structure to the format of the meeting. Open plenary dialogue looks different than rapid-fire report outs, or a strategic plan deciding “three action steps”. These are emergent and not planned ahead of time, because facilitation and scribing is (or can be) emergent.

And when I facilitate meetings, I do pre-plan things in templates – when the group needs to see the structure in a specific way. If we need to do a “what are three next steps” for strategic planning meetings, or using a metaphor to help the group orient themselves over time – structure helps.

New graphic recorders should definitely practice planning sketches and layouts for live graphic recording and beyond. Have a mini sketchbook of layouts that you can turn to when you’re under drawing pressure – I have to mix it up, otherwise all panel presentations look the same (yawn).

graphic faciliatation: This wasn’t pre-planned, but also, it’s not random. Their theory of change swoops in from the left, the focus of their whole organization is central. Drawn over 2.5 hours


You travel a lot. What’s the best place you’ve been? 

This is a fun question, because in North America a lot of graphic facilitators are consultants who travel widely – it’s not required, but I love it. (I also follow the rules – I have a visa to work in the US and Canada.) All countries and projects have their unique joys. It’s more about the people than a particular location. I’d rather be with kind people in northern BC than a fancy hotel where no one is using what I’m contributing. But since you asked, there was a project in Tanzania where I was working in a tent in the tropical heat …with a security guard whose job it was to prevent the baboons from climbing on the tables! Work has brought me to 10 countries and remote locations, and I’m noticing more and more – globally and locally we are all working on such similar problems: communication, belonging/connection, displacement, and climate. The world definitely needs more ways of communicating with other in empathetic ways – and I think visuals are one way to do that.

Do I need to be a good artist to learn to do what you do? 

I think about graphic recording/facilitation like writing. Mostly, we don’t take a 2-day course and then suddenly create the Pulitzer Prize winning novel (and if you did, congratulations and then that novel was in you the whole time, no matter who your teacher was!).

I believe writing is a practice, a craft, and maybe also a calling; we all need writing skills even if we don’t become novelists. It’s the same as drawing – if you’re using drawing to communicate, or to help people think through ideas – it doesn’t need to be so fancy. It just needs to get onto the page.

This way, graphic facilitation and graphic recording are part of your toolbox.

… What other questions do you have, fellow visual thinker?  Post your other favourite questions in the comments and I’ll do a Round 2 later on.

2018 workshop with early bird pricing until September 1:

EuViz Workshops – Bias In The Pen and The Rising Tide with Brandy Agerbeck

Excited to see Copenhagen this summer! I’m co-facilitating two workshops at the EuViz 2018 conference for visual practitioners, and I thought it was a great opportunity to share resources I’m using these days to help me grow, and change. (And help me recover from making mistakes. I make lots of mistakes.) What’s most important is that it’s not just about what you draw. Our work is informed before we pick up the pen. 

They’re connected for me personally, as I want to promote equity and inclusion through my visual work, in my relationships, and to help raise the bar as our visual profession.

In both workshops, we’ll be working at the three levels of personal, practitioner, and the field.

It starts with me


Here’s a totally subjective list from what I’m reading these days, centered around decolonization/re-Indigenization, anti-racism and anti-Indigenous racism. I tweet out resources every week at @sambradd, too. We’ll share more of our workshop/learning tools after the session, too.

The White Allies’ Guide to Collecting Aunt Linda

You can’t just draw purple people and call it diversity

Workshop Guide to Discussing Identity, Power and Privilege

Sum of Us’ Progressive Style Guide

Decolonization Reading List (for Turtle Island)

Allyship, Advocacy, and the Legitimate Role of Non-Indigenous Folks

CBC: 18 books by Indigenous women you should read (Turtle Island)

Cultural Appreciation or Cultural Appropriation by Unsettling America


Read more