Graphic Recording Process

I have heard many variations of what graphic recording is from long-time experts, amateurs and even some casual hobbyist, and all of them are correct in one form or another, yet when a prospect or a non-practitioner needs an answer, I thINK understanding how it works adds more clarity. Pictures do help or I wouldn’t be doing this!

the processShow your next prospect, supervisor or friend this sketch or one of your own, to illustrate how graphic recording works, then pull out a pen and show them.

Actions are far better than words. Heck, if you call yourself a visual thinker or graphic recorder, prove it by drawing it out. Literally. Okay, okay, stepping down off my soap box now.

I see the overall system as four primary steps:

Listen -> Process -> Sketch -> Share = Visual Recording

So, go with the flow and start recording in sketchbooks, back of napkins, notebooks, scrap pieces of paper, whatever, just do it. Today!

Until next time, keep with the flow (ink that is) and start out sketchy. They’ll understand.

Ideas Fly

I was told at a very young age, “Hang on to your ideas, they can help you fly.”

ideas can fly sm

Never was there a truer statement made to me that has guided my life and my dreams and what has become the inspiration for me to help others.

I want to share with you the source of this wisdom. Imagine this being spoken by a single mother of two children back in early 1940’s. A time when ideas where too costly to have and dreams were more about having food for her children and putting clothes on their backs then soaring with an idea. But she fought and held on to a simple idea of becoming more. She achieved a leader position in the fashion industry in a time when it was controlled by the old boys clubs and women toiled in the factories.

She was an inspiration back then as she is still to this day. Thank you Florence, my grandmother, for all the insanity and love that you taught your daughter and then me.

Dream big ideas and never let them go. You’ll be amazed at where they may take you.

The Importance of Visuals

In a recent conversation over coffee with a business consultant, an interesting point was made about the impact he has on his clients. “We provide excellent conversations as well as concise documentation, but I feel we are not connecting completely.” At that point we began discussing the visuals and sketchnotes I have created, both of recorded events and live discussions. He asked me why I thought they had such impact. Here’s my reply in a graphic.

3 languagesIn order to create a long-lasting impact, I feel very strongly that your message must have all three types of language blended together to create a clear and complete message. Even though some research may show that visuals or graphics are not a pure type of language, most can not deny this form still communicates information and ideas as well as add a sense of story. Story conveys context more than just content.

I have discussed this before in earlier blog posts that visuals are the oldest known language dating back before 40,000 B.C. Today, many people in business as well as everyday life, have forgotten the power that a visual can add to comprehension,  clarity and retention. This is why, I believe, the increasing interest and application of visual recording is bringing Graphic Recording, Graphic Facilitation, Sketchnoting, etc.. into the boardroom, group discussions, ideation and even education.

It is a proven fact that we all absorb and learn information differently and at different rates, so does it not make sense to deliver the message or information in various forms to ensure that everyone understands? My suggestion is always, if possible, to use all three language types to deliver your message, collaborate an idea or when seeking a solution. You may just be surprised at the level of involvement by all participants and the level of retention.

For those individuals seeking research, here is some links that may help:

HP’s “The Power of Visual Communication”

“Mapping the Spectrum: Techniques of Visual Representation in Research and Teaching” by Klaus Hentschel

“Why Visual Communication” by the Stephen Few

Defining Style

As the calendar moves from 2012 into 2013, I took a moment to reflect on all the changes in my life, work and achievements. Many things have changed over this last year, many that affected my view of communication. The biggest impact has been in my visual thinking style. Which events or interactions may have influenced my style is unclear, but I have noticed that my style has become more illustrative and storytelling in my canvases. I have migrated away from the more technical diagramming format and more to the graphic illustration of pen and ink. Possibly because of my background in art and architecture. Whatever the reason it has led to a question of style; what are the various formats and how do they differ?

Before we can define the various styles, a description of the key elements must be expressed. These two elements will define the framework that will help outline the various styles of recording. In any process of visual recording, graphic scribing and even graphic facilitation, the process focuses on two key elements at work; content capturing and presentation format.

Content Capturing:

Content is that which is communicated or presented within a session. It is the conversations and ideas that are shared by participants and facilitator. As the recorder, one must decide which content will be capture and to what level of detail to create the best impact and convey the best idea or ideas. Capturing can be as simple as high level ideas or as detailed as verbatim. At this point, it is the role of the recorder to decide how accurately content is recorded. Is it to be precise or interpreted?

Presentation Format:

Format of presenting is the manner of how the recorder chooses to convey the content. As the conduit from conversation to document, the recorder chooses a format that best compliments the content. This presentation format can range from very technical in design to that of a highly creative or artsy in nature.

Pure technical conveys information in predefined formats with less fluidity in the imagery, rather uses consistent images patterns such as flow charts, spreadsheets, graphs and diagrams. In most cases, technical presentations rely on common accepted frameworks to create structure and rigidity in the delivery.

Creative or artsy allows for full freedom of imagery and use of canvas. No limitations or expectations guide the hand of the recorder. As implied by the name, the artsy format can be abstract, simple, elaborate or many other possible methods. As an example, I prefer the more artistic imagery of pen and ink as seen in many of my works.

Along the Axis:

We now have two elements to define our axis; content capturing and format of presentation. With each of the elements we have introduced a range of variables. For content capturing two variables have been defined, that of precision and interpretation. With format of presentation a set of variables has be established; technical and artsy. Combining these elements with their variables to the axis, it expands from an axis into a basic 2×2 grid. This grid offers a guide to the various methods recorders may use when creating their canvases. Yes, the grid can even be broke down into smaller regions since the variables are graduating in endless variations. But to keep it somewhat simple, I rely on the basic 2×2 grid for simpler explanation.

On the Grid:

On the grid, there are four basic regions defined which I labelled; Creative Canvas, Idea Flow Chart,  Conversational Wall and the Note Taking Sheet. Each region has graduating levels and offers many possibilities within its framework as you migrate from one region to the next. Each region in the grid is merely a description, never meant to be a definition.

To better understand the grid and where your style or the style of a recorder may reside, allow me some examples of extremes. In the region of Creative Canvas which resides in the upper left hand quadrant, the variables of artsy presentation and interpreted content exist. This can be conveyed as more graphic in format and less about transcription of words or text.

In this quadrant, if we located a pin in the further most upper left corner one could imagine a cave wall where Neanderthal man drew his stories of great hunts, battles fought or unusual animals encountered. No words only images are used, but the story is still told. These stories have remained understandable across time and the barriers of language.

In the opposite, lower right hand quadrant exists the Note Taking Sheet. This quadrant combines the rigid control of technical with precise content capturing. Here one could see boxes of text defining ideas. In the extreme case down into the very lower right hand corner one could imagine a transcript from a conversation such as court case or a secretary’s dictation. In this quadrant frameworks and text reside predominant as the method of recording.

I could continue on with multiple variations with subtle changes and nuances, but I think you get the picture. If not, allow me to present in a method of Interpretive Artsy style which would exist in the Creative Canvas quadrant.

Defining Styles Grid


I hope this post helps the recorder discover their style as well as those who seek the talents of a recorder to better understand the multiple formats of content creation and delivery.

As a side note, I see my style bordering along the line between interpret and precise, but always in the artsy columns. I have drawn a pin to illustrate this on the canvas above.

What’s your style? Where would you stick your pin?

Until next post, keep your ideas visible so that others may see and share.

Draw 4 Santa

Being a graphic professional, I tend to lean towards the graphic form of communication. Instead of text notes I doodle, graphic record and even create mock characters to spark unconscious thinking processes. Graphic images have been our main stay in communications since the earliest man and cave walls. So I decided, instead of a Christmas Wish List to Santa, I would draw for Santa, what I wish for.


This idea sparked another idea. (The always do.) I decided to challenge the graphic facilitation and visual thinkers of the world to draw their list for Santa. If we are truly visual communicators, this should be an easy task. So Tweet your list with hash-tag #Draw4Santa and let’s see what you are wishing for.

Until next time, keep drawing conclusions and wishing you the very best this holiday season where ever you are.

Recap: Peaking Behind The Curtain

You hopefully have seen all 4 canvases created from Jim Gilmore’s event. If not go back and read all 4 earlier postings. Four panels covering 1 day and 24 books which lead to the creation of “The Experience Economy: Work is Theatre and Every Business is a Stage” by B. Joseph Pine II & James H. Gilmore. (if you haven’t read this, you should.)

I present the last canvas to recap the day’s event to share some highlights of the interactions and content. Enjoy.


Peaking Behind the Curtain

On November 13th, 2012 13 people and myself participated in an intimate event hosted by James Gilmore, co-author of “The Experience Economy; Work is Theatre & Every Business a Stage”.

With a bit of word play in the title, this event was a day long peek at the history that guided two authors to produce, to this reader, a land mark biography of economic offerings from commodities to experiences just as the “Service Economy” was peaking. We were given an inside look behind the scenes of the development and inspiration to the creation of this publication.

Jim shared with the group 24 publications which he felt had the most impact into the birth of the “The Experience Economy”. Without going into great detail which would never do the event justice nor cover the many threads of logic and thinking that was woven throughout the book from his collection of 24. I can only give a visual map that follows the procession of information, exercises and conversations of the event.

Below I offer 1 of 4 panels from my sketchbook as I recorded the event between activities. One new panel will be presented with each post. The panels’ recordings may seem disjointed, but as you will come to discover through viewing of all the panels together, the sketches show the conversations as they moved about from book to book striking up rich debates on key elements and provocative inquiries which eventual revealed even more of the thinking behind the curtain of publication.

Until the next post, enjoy and discover a glimpse inside the logic of one of the co-authors.

Reflections of TEE

For those in the know, this past September in San Francisco, Pine and Gilmore held their annual thinkAbout. An event that embraces the concepts and principles that drive or evolve economic offerings into an experience. Unfortunately, my attendance was hampered this year by many issues, too many to bore you with.

Instead of sulking in my pity and sorrow of not attending or participating, as Joe Pine would clarify, I dove back into the books (TEE and TEE2) and began my visual thinking exercises. My focus was to look at the models presented by Pine & Gilmore with a fresh perspective. How else could I interpret the concept?

It is always a challenge to take a well communicated concept and give it a new spin. We are conditioned that once we accept an idea we rarely attempt to change our thinking to expand or challenge the concept, yet that is what visual thinking helps us do. So I set a pen to paper and mind into investigation mode. My query for this visual mapping was to reinterpret how the idea could be represented to illustrate the challenges or downfalls of the attempt or avoidance of evolving an offering to the next level. My direction was to look at the concept from an opportunity aspect and here is what manifested.


That was not the only idea I decided to attempt, I took two other ideas and applied the same idea as visualizing them into visual pieces which could convey more meaning with less written language to define them. The first is the elements of authenticity know as N.O.E.R.I (Natural, Original, Exceptional, Referential and Influential).

The last concept or principle was that of polarity. Polarity plays a strong part in the process of creating an experience. It is not always about pairing up opposites, it could be simply how opposites can work together or in succession. Las Vegas is a wonderful exemplar of polarity. From tourist trap by day to Sin City by night. Las Vegas never sleeps nor do the people who fill the casinos, bars, nightclubs and theaters. It draws revenue from both sides of the 24 hour cycle.

There are offerings that do play the polarity card very openly to create a new experience. Build-A-Bear reverses the role of the consumer to become the worker. By employing the act of customization, the consumer builds their own product. There are consumer paid experiences where you, the consumer, pay to experience a day in the life of a farmer, weaver, pottery maker, etc.. Role reversal is a growing part of those movement.

So how does this concept create new ideas or experiences? Take a look below:

Now, these were some quick, off the wall concepts, but you can see how the concept could spark some interesting events and experiences. Who knows, maybe these will spark an idea for you and your business offering. What could you do to your product or service that can have polarity applied to create an experience?
Let’s visually thinkAbout it and see.