Graphic recording doesn’t have to be complex, and you certainly do NOT need to be an artist. I often refer to it as “doodle notes” just to reiterate that anyone can do it! It’s all about trying things out and seeing what works best for you and the people you are with. And having fun, of course! Here are some of the tips and tricks I’ve picked up as a graphic facilitator and recorder.
It’s going to get messy. Creating, while usually fun and almost always productive, can be very messy actually and metaphorically. When I know I’ll have a bit of time to finish a graphic after the conversation itself is finished, I love to add some shading and extra pops of color using soft pastels. However, this can be messy and it’s a good idea to lay some paper on the floor as pastel dust is hard to clean up off carpet.
To help with potential figurative messes, I like to frame out portions of my large paper with some basic outlines using yellow marker. Yellow is tough to see from a distance, but it helps me to plan ahead and make sure I won’t run out of space. 99% of the time someone from the audience will speak up, worried that they are unable to make out what I have in yellow – I always reassure them that those are just my “cheat lines” and that I will use dark colors to make sure everything needed ends up visible. I also like to keep a blank sheet of flipchart on the wall nearby to make quick sketches of ideas if I am unsure if I want to use them or not, just to not lose the idea as conversations tend to move quickly.
Simpler is better and less is more. The idea is to capture what is being discussed, and all that is being shared. That means oftentimes you have to work fast, and come up with images that convey the message to everyone who is there. To do this, stick to what you know how to sketch quickly. It is better to draw less complex images well that people relate to, than to risk drawing something too abstract that the group may forget what they meant by it.
Use colors wisely. Colors have a way of communicating all on their own. Certain hues conjure specific feelings or associations for people. For example, greens often communicate nature, growth, or money while reds convey danger, passion, or something prohibited. Use dark colors for text, and brighter light colors for shading and highlighting to pull eyes to something important. Deciding and sticking to a color theme will help organize the graphic and make it easier for people to understand or share the conversation afterwards.
Record things as they were intended. Sometimes, a person will use a lengthy description of their thought or use a story to illustrate what they mean. At these times, it is my challenge to capture the accurate essence and meaning of what they are conveying. This can be tricky – avoid making generalizations if possible, and always check back with the person if you’re unsure that you’ve captured what they said and what they meant. Integrity is critical to trust-building as a graphic facilitator or recorder.
Try YOUR hand at graphics by taking “doodle notes” at your next meeting!