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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/IndigenousXca 

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They’re Back: Community Scholar & Volunteer Spots at our Fall 2018 Visual Facilitation Workshop!

Community Scholar Spots (2)

Drawing Change believes in growing the field of visual practice and so TWO Community Scholar spots and 4 Volunteer Spots are back for our Fall 2018 Visual Facilitation Workshop!

*update in August: thanks for the amazing interest and the 2018 spots are full. Stay in touch for early notification for 2019 opportunities!*

We have 2 spaces open to support people working in community, grassroots, and social justice movements. So many professional development are expensive, and assume that participants are being sponsored by well-funded organizations. Instead, Drawing Change wants to spread the skills widely and with an equity lens. Priority will be given to self-identified Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour under 30(ish). To apply, email hello@drawingchange.com and tell us why you’re interested, a brief note about your facilitation experience, examples of your drawing skills, what organization/movement you’re a part of, and what your plans are to share these skills afterwards.

Cost: $200 as a deposit (versus $1500 regular rate)  + GST

How it works:

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2018 Graphic Recording and Facilitation Training in Vancouver, Canada


Update: sold out for 2018! Drop me a note to be added to the wait list for next year.

There’s no shortage of information anymore. Even when we have all the data and people in the room, it doesn’t always add up to a great meeting. What’s missing are people who can help groups make sense of information and tools to help people feel heard. This is the moment where graphic recording and graphic facilitation have impact.  

Invest in your meeting skills with this two-day foundational course in Graphic Recording and Graphic Facilitation – October 13 & 14, 2018. Register here. 

When we see visual process work in action, our eyes, ears, mind and heart begin to make connections. We listen more deeply. The seeds of action start to take root. When we see our words and thoughts expressed in front of us – live – we are rooted into what is happening in the room.

Graphic recorders and graphic facilitators use listening and drawing skills to help groups reach a deeper understanding, engage with each other, and solve problems. With this 2-day foundational workshop, you can make meaning and affect change at your next meeting.

graphic recording workshop vancouver
Graphic recording workshop with Fostering Change BC and Amanda Fenton | photo courtesy of Yumi and Vancouver Foundation team, 2017

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Growing your visual practice business – planning tools

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? 

I’m home from teaching “Beyond the Basics” of graphic facilitation with Sophia Liang, and the smart questions from participants inspired me to map out some new visuals about growing a creative business.

First up: Find your focus. Or foci.

The field of visual practice is huge.

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?visual practice what is your focus

  1. 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.
  2. Draw a circle and write down your work in the centre.

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graphic facilitation workshop

2018 Beyond the Basics: Graphic Facilitation Workshop in Portland, Oregon

Beyond the Basics with Graphic Facilitation

The graphic facilitation and graphic field is booming – are you getting the work you want?

Sophia Liang and Sam Bradd designed this course to teach what they wish someone had taught them when they started out as graphic facilitators.

Experts say, in order to scale or grow your business, practitioners need to do two things:  be better, or be different. We’ll help you explore what expanding and diversifying your offering looks like for you. We’ll also offer models and tools for deepening your practice. And throughout, we’ll share how we got paid to do the work we love.

Beyond the Basics: Graphic Facilitation Workshop for practitioners with 2+ years experience with Sophia Liang and Sam Bradd returns, this time in Portland, Oregon in February 2018.

  • Designed for visual practitioners with a firm grasp on fundamentals, and a desire to stretch your potential. This fast-paced and participatory workshop includes two days of training and an evening opening session.
  • Every workshop is customized to meet participants’ goals. We’ll use storytelling, presentations, hands-on practice, group dialogue, and peer learning environment.
  • Passionate about continuous improvement and learning, Sophia and Sam bring facilitation techniques, a balance of theory and practice, years of business experience, and new visual tools to take your career to the next level.

Details and Registration: Click here

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