One of the real advantages of graphic recording (or drawing meeting conversations as they happen on large posters) is that participants have the opportunity to stand back and see what they have been talking about. It allows businesses and organisations to see how their ideas have evolved and the direction their conversations are going in. It’s a colourful and creative record of their group discussion (which, if not captured, may have otherwise been lost forever) and shows them ‘the bigger picture’.
A photo of me capturing the conversation at a leadership workshop
From my experience, I have found no matter what industry sector the business is in people respond to pictures. I think drawings and pictures strike an innate chord within us – we learn to speak with images first and then move onto letters and words. As we get older, we may put less emphasis on pictures but deep down I believe the connection always exists.
The icons I draw and scatter within my posters build on the key words, issues or ideas I hear while listening intently to the conversation in the room. And when people reflect on the posters, the icons or images seem to reignite this connection to pictures – and in doing so, they help spark conversations, kick-start more thinking or allow people to understand or share a key point within the context of their business.
The start of one of my posters from a business strategy workshop
I like to think of the icons I draw as little ‘doorways’ that allow people to step into new areas or as little ‘bridges’ that enable participants to meet half way and find common ground without getting stuck on words or corporate language. Here are a few of examples from recent business and leadership workshops. I hope you enjoy them.
Motivating our employees
Dream like you were a kid again
Entrepreneurs never sleep
Business can be challenging and tough
The fish bowl effect at work
Somethings aren't an overnight process
What big themes jump out at you?
Sharpen your story
And finally, here’s a good photo of participants at a business leadership planning workshop reviewing their ideas and ‘standing back to see the bigger picture’ of how their strategic discussion had evolved.
Partipicants review, reflect on and discuss the graphic recording posters
- Anittel uses graphic recording to draw out business ideas
- Shares its vision with key stakeholders using a company ‘Journey Map’
I’ve recently been working with Anittel, a national IT and Telecommunications company, using visual communication to help them create a common language and catalyst for both internal and external business communication.
Following a period of expansion and acquisitions, which brought together new team members, skills and cultures, Anittel’s CEO, Ilkka Tales, and senior management team were keen to visualise their collective thinking to help identify key opportunities, focus areas and ideas that could drive the business forward.
As a visual communication consultant, I was brought in to work on two specific phases.
- Phase one – graphic recording: firstly, to graphic record a senior leadership workshop where the new company leaders gathered to discuss ideas and thinking around the company priorities, opportunities and challenges.
My graphic recording posters in the background of the leadership team workshop
- Phase two – Journey Map creation: secondly, to use the most important ideas from the graphic recording content as the foundation for developing a Journey Map, which uses a themed picture (full of visual language, metaphors and images) to highlight the direction, priorities, values and vision of the company in a quick, engaging and compelling manner.
The Anittel Journey Map in full colour
An express train and journey theme was chosen as the creative concept for Anittel’s map. Key elements along the track and dotted throughout the landscape acted as visual metaphors for the most important elements that must be acted upon and remembered if the company is to achieve its objectives.
The Journey Map was coloured in phases, moving from B&W to full colour in stages, to help focus the map’s ‘story teller’ on key initiatives and in their order of importance. The coloured phasing also helped to ‘build’ the company story as the Journey Map was explained and re-told.
The Anittel Journey Map in simple black & white: the point where the storytelling starts
The first phase of colour appears on the Journey Map and sparks the story and picture into life
The second phase of colour appears and shifts focus to the next key company initiative
The story continues as the picture begins to fill with more colour and the story moves to a new section
The Journey Map picture and story continues to unfold, helping the viewer/audience get a visual snapshot of the organisation's priorities
The Journey Map's visual language helps to build a common communication platform for engagement, understanding and sharing the company vision
The Journey Map act as a daily reminder of the company vision and how to get there in a creative, easy-to-understand and engaging manner
How Anittel used the graphic recording posters:
- The posters were on display at a Board Meeting to build a better understanding among Board members of the senior team’s views on the company, key initiatives, issues and opportunities.
- The posters were digitally photographed and included in a Powerpoint presentation so that the ideas and discussion captured at the senior leadership workshop could ‘live on’ in the business well after the event.
Graphic recording helps capture conversations as they happen so people can stand back and 'see what they mean' as well as the discussion 'bigger picture'
How Anittel has been using the company Journey Map:
- The senior leadership team presented the Journey Maps to their teams nationally and shared the ‘story within the picture’ to introduce a common platform on the business’s main objectives, challenges, priorities and how they would navigate its future journey.
- All employees have been given the Journey Map either as a screen saver or as a desk-side poster to act as a daily reminder of the company vision and how to travel towards success.
- The senior leadership team has regularly used the Journey Map in meetings with external stakeholders to share the ‘big picture’ of Anittel’s vision in a quick, engaging and creative way.
“Guy has really helped us develop a common communication platform that lets us share our company story with all types of people. The Journey Map has been fantastic for employees to picture our approach and journey ahead. We also use the Map when talking to key external stakeholders, such as partners, investors, suppliers, to introduce them to the ‘who, what, how and why’ behind the company. The project has been invaluable for us as a communications tool for staff and customers.”
Ilkka Tales, CEO, Anittel
Before the brainstorm, blank graphic recording posters are ready to go
Working as a graphic recorder recently took me to the Clemenger Group building* in St. Leonard’s where I had been invited to capture a planning brainstorm for the Australian Chapter of the International Advertising Association (IAA).
The aim of this session was for the IAA board to discuss and brainstorm their vision and strategy for the next few years and explore opportunities for the association.
As a graphic recorder, my role was to distill the key ideas, conversation flow and the main themes during a three hour meeting onto large posters that filled one side of the boardroom wall. Using my technique of combining images, sketches, words and colour, my objective was to listen intently to the brainstorm and draw an engaging visual record of the discussion so that the IAA board could stand back and creatively see the “big picture” of what they had been talking about.
6 metres of conversation and ideas: the posters are near completion
My graphic recording posters provided a visual overview and creative record that the IAA board will now use as a reference point in future workshops and to help plan the association’s future direction and priorities.
The IAA is the only international organisation that brings together advertisers, agencies, the media and practitioners in all aspects of marketing communications into one professional body to promote matters of common interest. One of the association’s goals is to promote the critical role and benefits of advertising as the vital force behind all healthy economies and the foundation of diverse, independent media.
The IAA board in discussion and brainstorming ideas
*The Clemenger Group boardroom probably has one of the best views of Sydney from the lower north shore. Sadly, I didn’t take a picture…
Graphic recording at community events with school students is one of the most rewarding environments I get to work in. Being able to ‘draw their ideas’ is fantastic as students always have something to say and they say it with energy, passion and enthusiasm.
Graphic recording in action: me, listening intently and drawing furiously
I recently put my graphic recording skills to paper at the Bankstown Youth Summit where more than than 100 local young people met at the Town Hall to discuss ideas for the city’s future.
Illustrating ideas: the World Cafe poster
With almost 20 per cent of the local community aged between 12 and 24 years old, getting their views and voices heard is very important. By capturing all the ideas and key themes in colourful, large scale posters with a mixture of pictures, icons and words, my graphic recording was used to make sure ‘voices were heard’ and allowed the ideas to live on well after the event. In terms of return-on-investment, the Council has since been using my graphic recording posters to support their planning process for the Bankstown Community Plan.
My skills were also used to create poster templates that the students could populate with ideas and thoughts during breakout sessions and workshops during the day.
What will make the biggest difference?: a template for the students to fill with ideas on post-it notes
What is a quick or early win? Blank template poster. Notice the fork in the bottom right hand corner to show its actual size.
The ‘Youth Summit’ was organised by Bankstown City Council in collaboration with Straight Talk (a leading community engagement and strategic communications consultancy) as part of community consultation on the new Bankstown Community Plan. Bankstown City Council will be using the Plan as a long-term strategy document to guide the growth and development of the city.
Window of hope: blank template poster ready for the students coloured pictures
Window of hope poster: full with student names, pictures and brimming with colour
A full house: students brainstorm ideas in working groups
My graphic recording area: right next to the action
Start of Day 1: two graphic recording posters (3m x1m) are in position
- Graphic recording at an intimate two-day closed door event, titled ‘Innersphere’ – an ongoing programme of CEO-level retreats created solely for ING’s executives and key distributors across Australia
- Event experience created by experience dna – designers and deliverers of effective and transforming communications in the live event space
- CEO-level, senior government and high profile business and media guest speakers attended the event
- Event held at Hotel Realm and Old Parliament House, Canberra
- As the graphic recorder, I produced 11 large creative posters (each 3m X 1m) of all presentations and panel sessions, drawing them ‘live’ as the speakers were presenting
The main room on Day 1: immacutely designed and created by experience dna at Hotel Realm
Two high-impact days. Two impressive venues. 11 influential speakers. High-level topics covering financial, political, business and life matters. Over 20 senior financial services executives attending.
These are just a few of the key ingredients that created the setting for ING’s compelling and engaging ‘Innersphere’ – a top to bottom design delivery of an ongoing programme of CEO-level retreats seamlessly created by ING and experience dna.
Innersphere’s creates opportunities for ING senior management to build alignment and relationships with ING’s key client base and vice versa.
Drawing the conversation 'live': poster #1 is complete and filled with ideas, topics and questions from the first presentation
As the event’s ‘live’ graphic recorder, my role over the two days was to:
- visually capture all the presentations and panel sessions onto large posters using a mixture of hand-drawn pictures, words and images
- draw a creative record of the conversations and key themes that would capture imagination during the retreat and ‘live on’ after the event.
Why else was I there?
- to inject a level of creativity, colour and innovation during the proceedings;
- to reflect the event’s objective of doing things differently; and
- to work with experience dna and ING to create template posters on the day that could be used to capture critical information generated from discussions and team workshops.
Colour, images, words: a shot of one of my graphic recording posters from Day 2 at Old Parliament House
The presentations, Q&A’s and panel sessions involved ING executives, former politicians, financial executives, treasury officials, CEOs and media guest speakers.
Speakers included senior executives from ING, Bernard Salt (KPMG), Nigel Marsh (CEO, Y&R Brands and author of ‘Fat, Forty and Fired’), Bernie Ripoll (Ripoll Report), John Brogden and Terry Bell (Business Health Check) among others.
As the graphic recorder, I produced 11 large creative posters (each 3m X 1m) of all presentations and panel sessions, drawing them ‘live’ as the speakers were presenting.
Commenting on my work and involvement, Roger Dowling, Managing Director, and Ian MacIntosh, Creative Director, experience dna Live Events, said: “ING Innersphere is a CEO-level, intimate and bespoke event and one of the key objectives behind the two day gathering is to do things differently. Experience DNA brought Guy on board to help achieve exactly this. By using his graphic recording, art and communication skills, Guy ‘drew’ the conversation, ideas, challenges and opportunities as they were being discussed onto large scale and panoramic-style posters. Guy has the unique ability of being able to distil and humanise complex topics into creative and eye-catching posters (without losing any of the core messages). Guy’s work has also delivered ING a memorable creative record of the event that they can reference for future purposes”.
Coffee break at Old Parliament House: my posters create a backdrop to the conversation during coffee and throughout the presentations, Q&A and panel sessions
Here are some snap shots of the posters and one template I created for a workshop session:
The ING logo: quickly and colourfully sketched at the top of each poster
An icon example from one of my posters to symbolise 'alignment'
Examples of icons, images, words and colour
A template poster used by teams in a workshop to identify industry hot topics
The view on departure from ING Innersphere
Providing people with the opportunity to stand back and see their collective ideas during a conference workshop is important. One way to achieve this is by using creative posters that are drawn beforehand as templates. They are then used as a recording tool during the session allowing participants to capture their critical thinking.
Mirella Di Genua (a facilitator, stakeholder engagement and change management specialist), with whom I work regularly and highly recommend, recently facilitated a preconference workshop to explore how to better integrate community/stakeholder engagement in policy development. The conference was called ‘Community Engagement in Policy Development’ held in Melbourne in late February. Mirella tasked me with preparing some posters that she could use during her workshop.
The aim of the facilitation process was to identify with the participants:
- the edgy and top of mind questions that brought them to the conference;
- their views around community engagement in Policy Development;
- ways to explore the barriers and opportunities for engagement; and
- a vision and preliminary framework for greater community engagement.
As the workshop was highly participatory it provided the participants with a heightened focus for conference learning and facilitated the creation of relationships through the sharing experiences in the workshop.
Here are some of my posters beforehand and in use during the workshop (with some close ups to show some creative detail).
The Outcomes/Agenda/Roles (OAR) poster - beforehand
The OAR poster: full with workshop thoughts and ideas
A large poster to capture workshop questions
Afterwards: the poster full with questions using coloured post-it notes
Blank poster to capture ideas on vision integration
Completed vision integration poster full of ideas and colour
Poster detail: outcomes
Poster detail: outcomes, roles, working together
Visioning poster detail: image to represent 'setting the course'
Visioning poster detail: image for leadership/direction
Questioning poster: image to show people in a Q&A process
Increasing ROI for participants by charting ideas as they are said
In mid December, I spent a day graphic recording The Nous Group’s company strategy day at the Arts Centre, Melbourne. The Nous Group is one of Australia’s fastest growing management consultancies with expertise in strategy and public policy, leadership and management development, organisational and information driven change and information management and knowledge sharing.
My role was to capture the conversation from the day’s sessions on large-scale posters using images, sketches, words and colour so that the team could ‘stand back’ and ‘see’ what they had been talking about – and therefore start to visualise business ideas, opportunities and challenges for the year ahead.
I completed three large posters (5m x 1.25m) that provided a ‘big picture’ overview of ‘what was said as it was said and how it was said’ which The Nous Group team will use as one tool to help plan their future direction and priorities in 2010.
I also spent time roving and listening to their break-out workshops to capture the key points from each session.
In terms of ROI, my graphic recording posters (and subsequent report with digital photos) delivered participants a record of the sessions that they could interact and engage with on the day and in future. The posters will be used as a reference point at the next The Nous Group strategy day and currently hang on the walls of The Nous Group offices to act as a ‘daily reminder’ of the ground covered in the session.
What I really liked about the day (and company) was the high-level of engagement from The Nous Group team, the flow of ideas and conversation as well as the ability to speak openly about themselves as an organisation. This created a rich flow of information which I could convert into images, colour and visuals in my graphic recording posters.
Standing back to see the bigger picture: poster size (5m long)
The Nous Group team review & discuss content captured on the posters
Graphic recording uses sketches, images and colour to capture and share critical business ideas
Capturing the conversation as it happens
After about eight hours, working in three rooms, creating five massive posters and listening intently non-stop, I recently wrapped up a great day’s graphic recording at the ‘SPICE it UP!: activities programming for 9-12s’ conference in South West Sydney. SPICE stands for ‘social, physical, intellectual, creativity and emotional’.
‘The 9 – 12’s Project’ is an initiative to enhance activities programming for 9 – 12’s in the Metro South West Sydney Region. A key goal is to improve access to activities that promote positive development for children aged 9 – 12 and I recently created the logo for this fantastic initiative: http://guydownes.com.au/2009/12/logo-design-for-9-12s-kids-activities-programming/
Ideas, themes, thoughts captured in colour - as it happens!
The conference covered topics such as social inclusion and healthy communities, approaches to creative play, innovative approaches to working with 9-12s and plans for 2010. Lots of great content to visually capture.
Largest poster: about 8m long!
My posters are being used in future planning reports as well as being laminated to act as internal communication tools to remind people of the detailed content and conversation on the day.
Poster section in detail: colour, ideas, energy!
Ogilvy PR Central team: brainstorm output posters...before
The success of many communication businesses is also due to the critical people that work behind the scenes. External clients may never see them — but a successful business can’t do without them. For me, this encapsulates the Ogilvy PR Central team in Sydney, which looks after financial strategy, finance, accounts, HR and talent. (disclaimer: I worked at Ogilvy PR for 6 years).
I recently helped the Ogilvy PR Central team, led by Emma Cartwright, to convert key ideas captured from an internal brainstorm on being ‘a trusted advsior’ into a visual poster and framework that the team could see and use everyday in their office.
Ogilvy PR Central team: brainstorm poster template...after
The aim was to create a poster to help the team ‘live and breathe’ the outcomes from that brainstorm on a daily basis – as well as creating something more visually compelling than messy old sheets of butchers paper. The final poster was full of visual metaphors and acted as a framework so the team could populate it with ideas and thoughts on a daily basis using post-it notes.
Here’s what Emma said:
“One of the key goals in my department is for each of us to be a “trusted advisor” to our clients – Guy helped to bring this to life for us, turning a bunch of words on some messy documents into a colourful wall poster that captures the spirit of what it takes to be a trusted advisor, and is used every day to celebrate examples of success. He listened so carefully to what it meant to me before translating this into an impactful visual that has pride of place on our wall, with the flexibility to evolve the content over time. Thank you!”
Emma Cartwright, Director, Talent & Finance, Ogilvy PR Australia
Ogilvy PR Central team: poster detail
Ogilvy PR Central team: poster on the wall
Allan Hall graphic recording session: before
A few weeks ago, I was brought in by the team at Allan Hall Business Advisors to run two separate graphic recording/facilitation sessions to help them in the planning stages of a) a new service offering they were considering and b) looking at how to grow and differentiate their general insurance practice. Each session lasted 2-3 hours and my role was to ‘panoramically’ capture the team’s thoughts and ideas around building their business and service using graphic recording techniques of colour, words and images. The process helped them engage, step back from day-to-day business and see the ‘journey’ of their ideas, thoughts and conversation. It also offered the opportunity to see linkage between several key ideas and helped the team get clarity on immediate next steps and actions.
Allan Hall graphic recording session: after
My client identifying key ideas and opportunities during the session
Allan Hall is also my accountant and from where I stand (as a business owner myself, albeit a small one) they’re a great north shore success story – they have been in business for half a century and I can see why. Whenever I go in, the service is professional, attentive yet relaxed. I guess the surf board in their smart reception area sums up this approach nicely.
Allan Hall graphic recording session in full flow
Allan Hall graphic recording: poster detail