sketchnotes on graphic recording visual thinking IFVP 2015 conference

Sketchnotes – asking good questions after a Visual Thinking conference

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part of the giant group photo!

I’m home from the annual International Forum of Visual Practitioners conference, this year in Austin Texas. Part IFVP family reunion, part professional development and definitely part fun.

I saw a beautiful theme of ethics weaving through the conference. To me, ethics isn’t about “one way to do things”, or making rules. It’s about reflecting on how we do things, and why, and then individually acting in a good way. It might be what feels right in your gut, or what part of your conscious you’re bringing to the work. We all do our work differently, and I love hearing about the choices different people make.

It makes for great WHY questions. Ask yourself good questions about your work.

kelvy bird- panel presentation

I made a Flipagram to capture the opening IFVP2015 questions, and my sketchnotes are below.

The short version: Ask yourself good questions about your work. Everyone’s doing this differently. Get into the head of a graphic recorder. Look to the future (Joel Garreau). Draw like the world needs you (Dan Roam). 

 

I followed the Experienced Practitioner track. Like most people, I was scribbling away in a notebook (or ipad), so I thought I’d share part of my sketchbook.

The short version: Ask yourself good questions about your work. Everyone’s doing this differently. Get into the head of a graphic recorder. Look to the future (Joel Garreau). Draw like the world needs you (Dan Roam). 

Last year at EuViz in Berlin, we spent a lot of time asking and then answering questions about the field of visual thinking/ graphic facilitation/ graphic recording, using a World Cafe. I preferred this year’s format: we individually wrote questions, some people shared them at the microphones, and all questions were posted on a big board. We were encouraged to write our name with it, and then find each other (using the program) if we had an answer or wanted to talk more. They’re interesting because our annual conference marks a moment of reflection for the field. We see some repeat questions from last year (what tech do you prefer?) but also some new ones (what cross-cultural approaches do you use? how can we push the edges of the field?).

Kelvy Bird, Liisa Sorsa and Anthony Weeks were a panel on the Ethics and Aesthetics of Storytelling. Each has an absolutely unique style, and are influencers in this field.

liisa sorsa and anthony weeks panel
This is a sketchnote, meant to help me focus while listening and remember info later. Not an example of finished work. It’s done with watercolour and pen.
kelvy bird- panel presentation
This is a sketchnote, meant to help me focus while listening and remember info later. Not an example of finished work. It’s done with watercolour and pen.

That was the other thread for me through IFVP2015: there are as many styles to do this work as there are practitioners. Anthony’s influenced by storytelling, for example. Don’t ask him to do a report out. But do ask him to help a scientist transform a dissertation into a story about bacterial poop in oceans. The ethics is about HOW we show up: bring your humility, curiosity, competence, authenticity, and kindness, he said. Otherwise you’re a “conversation beautician”. Liisa talked about capturing the content first, then reflect it back. The linking of the content is crucial because “words are how we think, stories are how we link,” quoting one of her posters. Kelvy shared how our visible work is only the tip of an iceberg of what’s unfolding in the group process. There’s a container beyond the poster that we can draw from. I captured only a few brief notes to remind myself of all the ways to serve the group.

Get into the head of the graphic recorder…five times in one session.

IMG_1231I joined fellow Canadian Sara Heppner-Waldston who invited 4 graphic recorders to each record the same TED talk. I captured a panel about the process. They each drew the talk one at a time and with the others out of the room, so the 150 participants could watch and see different approaches. Brilliant idea for a crash course in styles and process.

My approach was to use the left side of my chart to capture each “issue” each recorder identified (pace, drawings, content, tone, etc) and the right hand side was how they addressed it (limited palette, icons, motion, etc). I created a column of key verbs down the centre about the HOW. Hold. Pause. Anchor. Serve. Like most people found, it’s tougher than usual doing this job in front of a roomful of peers, so my column needs some alignment in Photoshop  – but you get the idea!

The important part is that I was able to share with the room, along with the others, the How and Why behind the picture. Because it’s more than the picture, it’s about how we serve the group.

Ethics also showed up in the Futures keynote by Joel Garreau.

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You have to imagine a whole conference drawing at the same time. #sketchnote

 

Part of what I love about my work in graphic recording/ graphic facilitation is that I listen and engage with some of the smartest people I’ve ever met. My brain goes home pinging with ideas after a day with scientists, researchers, and designers. Joel Garreau is a futurist who says working in this way comes with a level of trust and responsibility. He talked about the radical evolution of GRIN technologies: genetics, information technologies, robotics, and nanotechnology. We could evolve these technologies to be terrible (wiping our life on earth), amazing (conquering pain and death), or we could prevail in new ways. So we have a choice about how we respond: how can we contribute visually to what it means to being human? what can we contribute to how teams work? How can we be moral and wise in our work? He asked us to imagine what it means to be human and what is our role as practitioners in shaping this new future. Our role is of connecting people, and reflecting ideas. But how are they approaching humanity’s biggest questions: that’s a perspective we may bring with our outside eyes. How can we bridge their work to others? Helping humans make these connections, he says, can accelerate the curve in how we collectively respond to a faster, changing world.

I appreciated this outside perspective, and I’d love to see a future IFVP panel on creativity in other fields. How do opera singers use their presence and connect their body to performance. I heard about a dance troupe that synthesizes TED talk presentations. What about architects who do charrettes (we don’t have an exclusive license on live drawing!)… well, maybe the conference would need a week.

sketchnote - Dan Roam 5 rules of making picturessketchnote pictures by dan roamDan Roam says draw like the world depends on it.

The closing keynote was by Dan Roam. There are some fantastic sketchnotes going around about his talk, so I’ll just share these two standout ideas of his. First, you need to draw like the world depends on it. You might end up on Fox News talking about your 43 small drawings about health care reform, distilled from 1500 legal pages. And two, images make it stick in your brain. If you’re stuck about what type of thing to draw, look at the visual pathway diagram he shared. Maybe it’s a map, flowchart, an equation or a portrait. The point is, just scribble it out.

I was also happy to hear him mention that the statistic of x% of people are visual learners isn’t true, because I agree that research hasn’t backed it up.


This year the conference was held in Austin, Texas, It brought together 150 visual practitioners from 17 countries, and the organization is growing by 40% a year.

See you next year in Washington, DC.

 Oh boy. I had so much fun with my #ifvp2015 family that I had to lie down. On a pile of planets.
Oh boy. I had so much fun with my #ifvp2015 family that I had to lie down. On a pile of planets.

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