(See step 2 below)
There are a lot of things that go into making an effective animated story that explains your product.
One of my tried and true techniques is to bounce between order and chaos until I have something that communicates effectively.
1) (Order) Once I have talked with you about your product, your audience, and your goals for the video, I create a rough storyboard.
2) (Chaos) Then I cut the storyboard into individual frames, and mix them all up.
3) (Order) Next I rebuild the story board by selecting frames out of the mix, leaving out superfluous frames, and making notes about where I need to add content.
By bouncing back between order and chaos, I end up with something good. I think this actually works with all kinds of communicative media—books, comics, music, movies, etc.
The photo above shows cut up panels for an animation I’m doing for a company in the Seattle area.
Bonus: Austin Kleon shows how he goes from chaos to order in this post.
(Notes of Tim O’Reilly’spresentation)
Last week, Jeff Pulver put on the 140 Characters Conference, AKA “The Davos of Twitter.” Great speakers, lively format, timely topic.
Jeff is an innovator–he’s always looking for new ways to add value to events. That means he’s open to new ideas. I was happy to be embodying one of those new ideas–the idea that visual notes add impact to a conference. Here are the notes.
So what was the impact of having a visual notes artist at the event? Many attendees told me that it gave them a whole different way to engage with the content of the speakers’ talks. Tim O’Reilly made a point of tracking me down and sharing my notes of his talk with his 600,000+ Twitter followers. So the in person reaction was very positive. How about the media reaction? I spent some time tracking down media mentions of the visual notes and this is a sample of what I found.
Reactions to the notes:
The Industry Standard-Venture capitalist Fred Wilson used my notes to clarify a point he made at the conference about the growing importance of passed links the web.
Die Welt Kompakt
A German paper with circulation of 200,000 used one of my drawings to illustrate an in depth article about the conference. Download the PDF of the article here (in German).
The Twitter Steam:
There were over 100 tweets referencing the notes, including from heavy hitters like Tim O’Reilly, Fred Wilson, Laura Fitton, and Jeff Pulver. These are a few of my favorites, collaged together.
Over 12,000 views of the notes so far, and this only includes what people viewed on Flickr. When people upload photos of the notes to their own sites, views of those images are not recorded in my Flickr stats.
Based on the reactions I got, visual notes provide the following benefits:
–Buzz. Visual notes are “talkable” they give people something to talk about during and after the conference. That adds up to word of mouth marketing for the next time you do your event.
–Reach. Posting the notes on the web on a social photo sharing site, like Flickr makes the visual notes available to a global audience.
–A fresh perspective. Several attendees of the conference told me that the visual notes gave them a whole other way to engage with the information provided by the speakers.
–Lasting impact. Images tend to stick in peoples’ minds. A vivid combination of images and key ideas.
This was an amazing conference, and I am delighted that so many people let me know that the visual notes I created added value to their conference experience. Thanks for having me Jeff.
If you would like to talk to me about creating custom visual notes of your conference or event, drop me line or pick up the phone and give me a call. Lets talk.
(Photo: Samurai Virtual Tours)
Dean Meyers asked me to post a recap of the mini-workshop I did at Refresh Philly last Monday, so here it is:
How it happened: Roz Duffy asked me if I would be willing to lead a hands on activity on taking visual notes at a special hands-on meeting of Refresh Philly.
The Refresh movement is a nationwide community of “of designers and developers working to refresh the creative, technical, and professional culture of New Media endeavors in their (local) areas. Promoting design, technology, usability, and standards.”
I gave a quick overview of what we were going to do:
1) We’d look at ways to represent what/who, how much/many, where, when, how, and why visually.
2) Second we would do a visual notetaking activity, where the participants would take visual notes while I gave a brief talk.
3) Third, we would do activities where they would make visual notes about their own thoughts.
Part 1: Drawing skills and frameworks
1) We went through frameworks to visually represent 6 kinds of information (what/who, how much/many, where, when, how, and why) very briefly. For example, a flow chart can be a useful way to show how something works, and a map might be a good way to show where something is.
Then I spent some time on the “what/who” kinds of drawings—basically, drawings that depict things as they are–as portraits. I started out teaching some simple drawing techniques out of the Dave Gray/Austin Kleon/Ed Emberley school of drawing—making images out of a few basic kinds of shapes and marks. We did an exercise where we drew nine faces, varying just one thing from face to face to come up with kindly, sad, evil, angry, drunk, crazy, faces. Then I showed them a technique for drawing a figure standing and at motion. I drew a running person and asked what should be chasing him. Someone said “Dog” so I created a dot out of two rectangles and a few lines.
Here are the notes from this part of the workshop, created by Anthony Ruiz of Samurai Virtual Tours.
(Photo: Samurai Virtual Tours)
I emphasized that with a few basic marks: point, line, triangle, circle, square, and squiggle we could draw pretty much anything. To prove it, I asked for things to draw from the audience. The first suggestion was a cactus. After I drew it on the whiteboard someone else suggested Philadelphia’s city hall. I demonstrated the concept of drawing from Large to small, starting with a big rectangle for the lower part of the building, and then constructing the main tower out of a rectangle which I capped with a semicircle. Then I moved to the smaller details.
I think if I were doing this again, I would allot more time to participants drawing items using the simple shape technique. Perhaps showing them photos and challenging them to simplify them into basic shapes.
Part 2: Visual Notetaking
We talked about why we might even want to take visual notes. I emphasized adding visuals made it so much more inviting to go back and review notes. And often a picture is the most efficient way to communicate an idea.
I had the following suggestions: Don’t try to capture every word—listen for the important ideas and see if you can get them down on paper as images. The images can be very cursory. You can always go back and tweak it if you want. Another suggestion: find out in advance what the speaker will be talking about. I mentioned I would present a particular model for learning, using my own childhood experience of learning tongue percussion.
I did the talk while people took notes. After, I encouraged them to share their notes with their neighbors. I walked around and checked out their notes and saw vivid, and often inventive depictions of my talk.
(Photo by Robert Francis)
Part 3: Visual representing our own thoughts
Next we did a few activities to practice making images out of our own thoughts in the form of thought maps. First we did all verbal thought maps. We put a single word in the middle of a page and drew lines radiating from it. Then I asked people to add a single word to each line that they associated with the central word. When people compared with their neighbors they had almost no words in common. This is in keeping with other times I have done this activity. Someone challenged me to do another word, and to limit the associations to adjectives only. We chose the word “banana.” Again, people (except for one pair) got very few associations in common. I do this exercise to show how unique we are in our mental associations and to introduce text to their visual notes.
Next we moved to doing all-image thought-maps. Someone suggested “sponge” as the central image. Again people drew lines radiating from the center (where they drew their sponge), and in this case they added images to each line. As usually happens with this activity, people got very absorbed (no pun intended). When they finished they shared their work with their neighbors. Some of the associations were mundane (a bottle of detergent, the sink) but some made associations to interesting backstories (how their spouse was obsessed with reusing sponges so as not to add to the waste stream, sponge divers in Greece, etc). So even the most mundane object, like a sponge, can be a stepping stone to all kinds of interesting stuff.
(Photo: Samurai Virtual Tours)
Finally, I had them do a similar activity with the topic of planning a vacation. This time, I let people use key words AND images. It was interesting that some people went back to creating thought-maps entirely out of words. I guess there’s a comfort level with words that makes it easy to revert to them.
(Photo: Samurai Virtual Tours)
What I hope people got out of the event
-Anybody can draw. Often times a simple drawing communicates as well or better than a detailed “realistic” drawing. There are tried and true methods to getting better at drawing.
-Color adds a lot of additional impact to your images
-There are different ways of visually representing answers to different kinds of questions (e.g a map for a “where” question or a flow chart for a “how” question.
-Visual note taking can be more engaging and can result in more memorable and powerful notes
-We all have a unique set of associations to things. A thought-map is a useful way to show those associations and to make new connections between things.
-Sharing a drawing is a powerful way to communicate, especially when you augment the drawing with an in person explanation. Translation: Show-and-Tell works.
What did people actually got out out of it? I think everyone enjoyed the drawing with simple visual elements. I got these tweets from Chris Bartlett:
“Great session & an inspiring tool. I’m one of those people who thinks he can’t draw, so the basic vocab of visual is great!”
“Drawing simply sometimes communicates more effectively than drawing realisticly.”
Anthony Ruiz summarized his take on the session on his blog. There’s an excerpt below. For more of his thoughts (and amazing 360 degree photos) check out the Samurai Virtual Tours blog.
During his session, Jonny showed us how using simple shapes and techniques could produce drawings that are capable of explaining or expressing emotion, quantity, time, and more. We learned how to use dots, lines, triangles, circles, squares and squiggly lines to communicate ideas to others. But we also learned how visual sketching could help us communicate to oursleves by encouraging our minds to better consider ideas and think of new ones. Visual sketching and note taking can be helpful if you are taking notes at a business seminar, making plans for your next vacation or brainstorming ideas for your next big idea.
About 15 people attended and stayed the full 2.5 hours, so that indicates to me that they were engaged. Half of the attendees signed up on my mailing list to stay posted for when I do a full day workshop. In these days of email overload, that shows deep interest.
Final Thoughts. This was a lot of information to tackle in 2.5 hours. I think this was a useful workshop, but it was necessarily an overview. We could have spent the whole time focusing deeply on any one of the sub-components. It was more of a survey of visual thinking than an intensive focus on any one aspect.
Subject matter aside, I would have definitely done these things differently, just to get more data for myself so I can improve the next one of these I do.
1) At the beginning: Go around the room and get everyone’s name, what they did, and what their interest in visual thinking was.
2) At the end: give people a form to write their feedback in about what was useful, what wasn’t, and what they would have liked more of. I find I get a lot of useful information this way, and I wish I had done this.
All in all, I was delighted with the workshop. I’d like to do more of these, more in depth. This was a great warmup.
I would love to get more feedback from participants about what worked, what didn’t and what you would like to explore further, so feel free to leave comments, or email me at jonny(dot)goldstein(at)gmail.com
(Photo: Samurai Virtual Tours)
(large image: click here)
I am delighted to be the official Visual Notes Artist at the upcoming 140 Characters Conference in NYC. The conference will explore the disruptive nature of twitter on fields as diverse as sports, publishing, music, and business.
Jeff Pulver is the producer of the conference which is billed as “The Davos of Twitter.”
The folks featured on this image are just a few of the confirmed attendees.
If you are interested in exploring the new age of connectivity ushered in by twitter, come join the cast of characters this june.
You can learn more and register at the 140 Characters site.
This image is installment 29 of 100 Days Envizualized, a project where I upload my visual notes that I create on 100 consecutive days. To check out the other notes, go here
I will be making an eBook available of all 100 days worth of notes, with annotation, once the 100 days are over.
Keep it visual.