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
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.
Julie Stuart and Claudia Lopez (bios below) and I are facilitating “A Brave space: exploring bias and how it shows up in the pen.”
Most creative people want to make stuff, not run the business side of things. Maybe this is familiar: you’ve launched your visual practice business (great!) and it’s been more than a year (congratulations!) and now maybe you’re wondering – how do I get more of the work I really want?
Therapy + visuals = art therapy. Education / studying + visuals = sketchnotes. Facilitation + visuals = graphic facilitation. Mediation + visuals = visual mediation. Visuals are expanding the edges of many fields. What else is possible with your unique background?
What combination of visual work is part of your practice right now? Maybe it’s 50% videos and 50% graphic recording, or 20% x five different kinds of creative projects. No problem.
Draw a circle and write down your work in the centre.
It’s time for the annual wrap-up from some of my closest graphic facilitation and graphic recording colleagues.
Last year, we shared what we noticed about about human nature or communication (because we’re at hundreds of meetings!). This year, the questions are a little harder. Consider the work of visual practitioners we admire: how do they work? What are they doing differently? What do we notice? Secondly, what’s the one thing the field of visual practice needs to do next – but is avoiding?
Here’s why these questions are important.
When people see a beautiful graphic recording image, they’ll often say to us, “that’s so pretty”. Which is very kind, but at the same time – what if it’s a pretty picture of the wrong conversation?
The visual practice field has matured enough to look beyond the “pretty” in our work. It’s great to congratulate each other on a job well done, but we also need to make more room for the critical, the intangible, and the process behind our work – as a way for our industry to challenge itself and effectively grow. Making space for this conversation will help us meet our challenges head-on. Let’s talk about process and not just the end product.
This year’s questions were inspired by Julie Gieseke and Anthony Weeks, and I’m looking forward to hearing your additions in the comments.
CONSTANTLY ASSESS VALUE
“I admire practitioners who are working on bringing visual tools and methods to industries and fields that we don’t (yet) think of as visual to transform how work gets done.
“I see that the field needs to be less self congratulatory. Not all graphic Recording is helpful or “amazing”! We need to really ask how and where we can really bring value to clients.”
“I admire practitioners who are delving deeper into their practice, asking hard questions about the value of our work, what it means to partner effectively with our clients, how our work fits into large frameworks of complexity and systems thinking, and how we can truly serve organizational and social transformation. These are the questions that are working me right now, and I gain nourishment from others who are further along the road that I am.”
“Professionalism is important in our field — professionalism in how we position graphic facilitation / recording, in how we present ourselves at events, and in how we contract / license our work. Another layer to this is encouraging each other to develop expertise in certain industries, types of events, or formats.
“I admire colleagues who are carving out niches and exploring new ways of applying graphics rather than one-size-fits-all. This pushes our industry to innovate and evolve!”
“As the field expands I admire professionals who are strategic about what organizations they reduce rates for, particularly those thinking of what they want to do in their own future work. There should always be a rationale for a rate lower than the local average.
“I see that the field needs to really encourage creative new approaches, dialogic processes, methods, materials and facilitators from new places, so that distinctiveness of each of our works is a priority. We ourselves need to de-privilege the pretty and embrace the ugly so that our clients are more likely to.”
“I admire practitioners who put listening, service, synthesis, and clarity at the center of their work. Yes, I love beauty. Yes, I love imagination. Yes, I love technical proficiency in drawing…AND it’s NOT all about the beauty of the picture or image. It’s about the utility and meaning-making of the image. The field, as a whole, needs to get more honest about what we value.”
ENVISION NEW USES AND SETTINGS FOR GRAPHIC FACILITATION
“I admire practitioners who are delving into new areas that can benefit from graphic facilitation. For example, I’ve seen some interesting work with family mediation, mapping a personal journey, life coaching, and working with at-risk youth. There are so many ways that we can inject some creativity and connectedness within these conversations, and I think the opportunities are endless.”
“I admire the practitioners who have long-term relationships with trusted clients, and want to see the field grow in this direction. Not all visual practitioners are interchangeable – and we shouldn’t pretend we are, even if our handwriting matches. When we reach out for feedback about the images from the group and don’t hear anything – or if they just say things look ‘amazing’ – what we’re missing is trust. Everything changes for the better when it’s a two-way relationship.”
“I admire practitioners who are working on the legitimization for our profession. We provide a valuable service that clients are still learning to discern. Educating our clients about the value we bring to groups can be challenging and the more white papers, studies, and well-researched and thought out articles help justify why every meeting should include a visual practitioner. Developing the science and “academics” behind it is a step towards true legitimization and I am deeply grateful to those individuals.”
“I admire practitioners who engage in self reflection to deepen, stretch and improve their work on all levels. Not just drawing & lettering, but in their listening, in being present, in questioning their assumptions and biases. And in showing up authentically, being open to learning.”
“In our fast-paced, complex world, it’s no coincidence the field of visual practitioners has grown. Something we’re avoiding is finding our story as a collective visual field. What’s our vision? What values do we share? Should EUVIZ and IFVP join forces? As a Professional Coach, a similar conversation happened that resulted in the creation of the International Coaching Federation. I hope our visual field can find our collective vision too.”
“I admire people who are thought partners for their clients and consider themselves designers that deliver an experience, as opposed to a vendor that delivers a service. I also admire people who are looking at the outer edges of our practice and thinking about what’s next for us as a field, particularly with the rapid advent of tech tools (Jamboard by Google, hand drawn sketch animation software, drag and drop apps, etc.) that will inevitably “replace” some of the work we do.
“I would like to see our field place equal collective value on work that demonstrates deep listening in service to a group and its process as it does on highly illustrative drawing.”
Let’s continue these conversations into 2018, not just online but also in real life! Two ways we can do this are: meet up with me at the EuViz conference in Denmark this July 31 – August 2, 2018, or consider joining Sophia Liang and I for the Beyond the Basics workshop February 11 – 13, 2018 in Portland.
In the meantime, a happy and healthy holiday time to you and yours!
Hello! We’re Jennifer Shepherd and Sam Bradd. We’re visual practitioners, educators and facilitators. We live across the country from each other in Canada, and have collaborated on a range of writing projects about visual practice in the last few years. This tool below is an excerpt from a chapter you’ll find in our co-edited anthology Drawn Together Through Visual Practice, published in 2016.
We hope you’ll put it in your visual practice kit and pull it out many times as you choose to reflect in mini moments that transform how well you draw.
We’re both committed to reflection as an integral part of our visual practice. As we make time to reflect, our active curiosity calls us to explore:
What more can we know about ourselves?
What new possibilities for action do we see?
How can we share what we’ve learned with others?
We’d love to learn from you, too.
How ready are you to draw?
How does the way you show up impact the quality and sensitivity of the drawings you make?
Picture it: there’s a clean slate of white space in front of you. You’ve got your markers or tablet all juiced up and the meeting is about to begin. You take a breath, look around, and ask: where am I in this picture?
Wherever you find yourself, we invite you to ask a second question,
What deep and careful reflection could I choose now to listen and draw at my best?
This small moment to pause has the potential to make a big difference – in our creativity, in our relationship with our clients and participants, and how we expand the field of visual practice.
We believe that taking mini moments to pause and reflect can transform how we draw and radically improve the value of what we do as visual practitioners.
And that is the premise of this Question Well tool. When we reflect in the moment, or on a moment from the past, we extend our awareness and care and create openings to expand our competence. This is true regardless of whether we hold a ready pen, offer input or bear witness to another’s creatives process or interpret a completed work.
We invite you – our colleagues, clients, and facilitation partners – to notice areas for reflection in your own practice, wherever that might be. When you’re ready to take a mini moment, dive with us into this rich well of questions and see what emerges!
What you’ll find in the Question Well tool:
We introduce a new model for reflection that is unique to graphic facilitation and visual practitioners. What other models come to mind?
We share the Question Well with 64 questions and 9 areas of focus. What new questions would you add?
We intersperse anecdotes from our story as practitioners into the Question Well, and invite you to think about your story.
We suggest ways to use the questions.
Let’s jump in.
Introducing a New Model for Reflection
There are many dynamics and relationships that are worthy of reflection during visual facilitation. Here’s a diagram that illustrates what we mean.
In this mini book, you’ll see questions in the Question Well organized into 9 areas of focus – one for each of the connections shown in the diagram.
We have crafted 64 questions to support your reflection. We’ve organize them in 9 areas of focus to help you navigate your way through the Question Well.
We offer these questions for how to use this chapter as a kind of personal workbook:
Reflect on your own, or gather with peers, clients, and others
Read the questions aloud, pause, and notice what answers arise
Phone a colleague and have a conversation
Write a journal entry and see what emerges
Bring your thoughts forward to the field of visual practice online or at a conference
We offer these methods as wisdom from our shared experience as a gift to the visual practice field. We’ve tried them all, and they work! These are only a start. Now, it’s your turn. We invite you to share your own questions on the Drawn Together Through Visual Practice website, too.
About the Authors
Jennifer Shepherd inspires well-intentioned and overwhelmed leaders to gain the clarity they need to create insightful connections and make their next move. She has oodles of facilitation and collaborative change experience working with local communities, regional networks and national networks from housing to hockey. She is known for asking questions that prompt us to ask more questions, draw together, and solve the complex puzzles of our time. Jennifer is an IAF Certified Professional Facilitator who loves to drum and walk the world in wonder. Contact her at www.livingtapestries.ca
Sam Bradd is a graphic facilitator and specialist in information design. He uses visuals for people that want to engage, solve problems, and lead. Together, we’re Drawing Change. In the last 15 years, Sam has collaborated with the World Health Organization, Google, Indigenous organizations, and researchers on four continents. In 2016, his side project the award-winning Graphic History Collective published a book of comics because how we tell histories can change the world. He has a Masters in Educational Studies (University of British Columbia). Contact him at www.drawingchange.com.
Read more in Drawn Together Through Visual Practice
This Question Well tool is part of a larger book, Drawn Together Through Visual Practice. It is edited by Brandy Agerbeck, Kelvy Bird, Sam Bradd and Jennifer Shepherd and was published in 2016. This anthology demonstrates the power of visuals as a sensemaking device in an age of unprecedented complexity. It is available on Amazon.com in book and Kindle formats.
It was a great phone call to receive: would Drawing Change like to coordinate a team of 8 graphic recorders, to capture 54 sessions over 2 days with 2,500 business leaders from more than 100 countries. Absolutely! If you ever get a call like this, – or are hiring a large graphic recording team – here’s what you need to know.
To pull this off, the team consisted of 8 graphic recorders, 1 photographer, 2 graphic designers, and 1 project manager.
Most graphic recorders work alone, so when we get to work as part of teams it’s truly inspiring. Our drawings and lettering influence each other, we push each other to excel, and we also share in collective success. It’s an arena like no other.
We learned a great deal from this event. We learned what it takes to run a successful large-scale graphic recording team. We learned how to cultivate high performing team relationships. And most importantly, we got the team to give us their take on what made it successful. Here’s what you need to know.
Pre-event organization and planning are key
You might think you can graphic record while coordinating a team, but having a project manager was crucial to this event’s success. The project manager effortlessly ensured the pre-planning, on-site organization, and the team support was in place – something that was crucial to a smooth and successful event.
“Having [someone to] manage all the advance communication is helpful. It gives a chance for everyone to get to know the coordinator prior to the event and give the right amount of info at the right time in the friendliest way.” – Lisa Arora
The project manager “quickly became an indispensable part of the team, event before we arrived onsite. Having her manage the many moving parts allowed Sam to work more closely with the client and with the logistics crew.” – Anthony Weeks
Avril Orloff says, “all the background maneuverings … make a big event like this successful!”
Phone people. Give your team information weeks ahead of time. By creating an opportunity to create dialogue and answer any questions that come up, it will help define the purpose and scope of the project. Photographers, graphic designers and even graphic recorders may not have done a project like this before.
Book a green room for the team. We needed room to finalize and colour posters, shoot the photos, and for the graphic designers to share a desk. Make sure the client puts the green room close to the stage – and not in the hotel across the street.
Space and easels: Some logistics we learned on the fly include factoring how long it will take to cross a big convention centre. Also, make sure each breakout session has its own easels set up the morning of the event, instead of carrying easels back and forth. We learned this one the hard way.
Shipping is more complicated to a convention centre than hotels or other venues. Convention centre delivery is expensive – you’ll be charged labour fees to move boxes, and it will be handled by a third party with their own cut-off delivery deadlines. Get on top of this early. Make friends with the account manager by phone and be clear about how the final posters/boards are going to be shipped home. Figuring this stuff out before the event will make everything so much smoother! We promise!
Be clear on what time teams should arrive. With a high pressure agenda, we all arrived 2 hours early the first day, and Sam and the project manager stayed at the hotel so there would be no travel issues.
Create space for team development
“Treating the team to dinner the night before was such an unexpected treat and a classy move. Also a great chance to deal with questions so you weren’t overloaded with them the next morning.” –Lisa Arora
Organize a team dinner the night before to introduce the members of the team and create space to answer questions. It will support team cohesion, communication, and will resolve any conflicts before the day of the event. There will always be way more questions – the more people, the more questions!
Approach the day like a team, not solo artists.It’s a balance of letting talented graphic recorders work their magic, and also giving some constraints on creativity. This project needed final files back by 8pm the day of the session. The team approach meant people prepped titles for each other, helped with colouring and “polishing” the charts – instead of it being a race to who would finish first.
For out of town graphic recorders, make sure their needs are met.
Include the non-graphic recorders in your team building! This way when the graphic recorder asks the photographer to boost the contrasts, it will be a friendly request.
Make time for 1:1 conversations with each team member during the day.
Happy teams are well fed and caffeinated.Have a plan for where staff eat lunches, snacks, and coffee. Don’t assume staff or vendors can help themselves to the attendees’ buffet – no matter how convenient it is outside the door.
By ensuring each person on the team is well connected, well fed, and generally well taken care of, you’ll have the right conditions for success.
Consider having a “backup listener”
When there is so much happening, it’s easy to lose track of the information coming from the stage. With so many graphic recorders on hand, we could have added a backup listener to each session. In hindsight, having a backup listener would have been extra helpful for such large event. This is especially useful when any posters have incomplete content.
With something of this scale, it is normal to not know what we don’t know. We learned having an extra set of ears to take notes and add content in the polishing stage can be extra helpful. (Thanks to Lisa Arora for the tip!)
There was no possible gift we could have bought this client to say thank you – so instead, we made something priceless: a summary poster for Day 1 and a summary poster for Day 2.
When the graphic recording team had a few seconds during the day, we added quick highlights from the 54 keynote presentations into a summary poster. We presented the first poster at the end of day 1, and the client spontaneously burst into happy tears. It really inspired us to up our skills for the Day 2 poster, too. Her gratitude was a huge gift back to us.
Be someone your client wants to work with by bringing delight.
Leadership qualities on the day of the event
Leadership involves many qualities, and every leader will be nuanced in their style. That said, here’s a few things that helped.
Don’t be a micro-manager. Don’t tell professionals what to draw, but do tell them what you need. ”This took off a lot of tension from us (at least me) because we were all a bit nervous. It basically said “I trust you, I know you’ll do your best, I’m not going to try and control that.” You rolled with it and that made us roll with it too, and I loved how everyone pitched in.” –Yolanda Liman
Be calm. I’m not sure I was calm, but I fake it. “I was impressed most by your calmness under pressure and trusting all of us to be where we’re meant to be on time. By no means an “easy” task with an ever-changing schedule in the mix!” –Tanya Gadsby
Be professional and authentic when people need to step up to a challenge.“I loved it when you said “I need all of you to move about 50% faster starting now”. You called us to bring our best game and I feel like we all did, in our own ways. We all behave differently under pressure.” – Stina Brown
“The required quick turnaround of the charts for digitization made us more disciplined about chart clean-up and finishing. While some of us lingered over our charts longer than others, we had just enough time to apply the finishing touches before handing them off. This made for a more streamlined work flow.” – Anthony Weeks
Be clear on what you need, and ask directly. Lisa Arora said, “ In the morning, you announced what you were most focused on, “I care about timing and…” I think that really helped the team understand what to pay attention to. It was comforting to people to know exactly what you wanted. And from there on, there was no micromanaging.” This helped the whole team move in a unified direction.
Let things go. Define the problem, be open to solutions, then make a decision and let it go.
At some point, you have to go with the flow.This works when things are well organized first, generally. Butas much as structured planning and organization are necessary, so too is the ability to let go and allow the event naturally unfold.
Be mindful of your presence on stage
We alternated sides of the stage, so the 2500-person audience could see the work happening. This added a layer of complexity navigating backstage. We also had one person waiting in the wings ready to go at all times.
“Have the team be aware of their visibility to the audience when waiting in the wings. It runs the risk of being distracting and is less of a “seamless” transition from back-stage to on-stage presence if we’re visible with big white boards and non-black clothing. Of course I know it was necessary to take a peek every now and then in order to hear the speakers and know where things were at!” – Tanya Gadsby
Last Hot Tip!
This was the first event where we were tipped! And what a classy move. Since most clients do not tip, so consider building this cost into your project proposal and contract so you can then pay it forward to the team. It’s a great idea that goes a long way.
What we’ve learned
We hope you’ve enjoyed reading about how we pulled off capturing 54 sessions in 2 days. It was a sincere privilege to be a part of such a large event and to share the work of graphic recording with such a large audience.
When an event is to this scale, you can never know and plan for everything. With the dream team of 8 graphic recorders, photographer and graphic designers, we were able to deliver an outstanding product for the client.
We are deeply thankful to the team and appreciate the generosity of graphic recorders who shared their feedback.
We do this work because we love it. While logistics, planning, and on-site professionalism are important, equally so is reminding ourselves of why we do this in the first place. So be present, have fun, and enjoy!