Had a great time leading this workshop along with Jonas Milder at University of the Arts in Philadelphia for Sophomore Industrial Design students. Great enthusiasm, observations, and externalized thought from our participants. The students have been observing documenting people’s routines in everyday settings. In the process, students have identified unmet needs. Now they are going to start designing and fabricating things to address those unmet needs. Can’t wait to see what they come up with!
I run an unusual, but very fun business. I go to conferences and high stakes meetings and draw illustrated notes capturing the key ideas from those meetings. The resulting visuals help people remember and process ideas from that event. Usually, I create the visual notes on big sheets of paper that everyone can see. Then I take photos of the visuals and provide those to my clients. Below is a pic of someone looking at some of those large sized content visualizations from an event called the the Future of Storytelling which I supported a few weeks ago:
The above image is created in an extremely low tech manner: markers and pastel on paper.
I love working without a clunky computer interface—just my hands, drawing tools, and paper. I kept looking for digital tools that would provide something close to an analog drawing experience on my iPad. After much disappointment, I finally something that balanced versatility with simplicity–Paper, created by the startup FiftyThree.
Here are some examples of content visualizations using Paper. These are from an event where Eric Schmidt (Executive Chairman of Google) was discussing how he saw technology developing over the next 10-20 years:
There are some obvious differences with how I work with Paper App and how I work on anolog paper. 1) With the app, I don’t cram as much information into a single “sheet” as on actual paper. 2) The app’s output is digital, so I don’t need to photograph the visual notes to share digital copies. 3) Using the Paper App, it’s possible to send a set of drawings to FifyThree, and they will send you a full color printed Molekskine sketchbook of your drawings! Yes! I have not ordered one of these yet, but I am really excited about this idea as a kind of premium takeway for conference attendees. They call this offering Book.
So, next time someone contacts me about capturing the ideas swirling around their conference with visual notes, I am going to let them know they have options: on analog paper, or using Paper, the digital app with an analog feel. Let me know if you would like to learn more about how I can help the ideas at your conference or meeting have a more powerful impact by capturing them visually.
Here are some notes, resources, pictures and links for my University of the Arts workshop participants. We had a bunch of Masters of Industrial Design/Design for Social Impact students, one Industrial Design faculty member, one undergraduate I.D. student, and two Museum Exhibit Planning and Design MFA students. Everyone brought their own project, or projects, to work on.
Here are some highlights:
6 visual frameworks
Think of these six ways of visually representing anything as 6 cards. You can play them singly, or combine them any combination depending on what you want to explore or communicate.
What/Who—what: simple shapes to build anything, simple perspective who: faces, bodies in action
How much—-using size (e.g. bar charts, pie charts) or actual units (e.g. tally marks)
Why—multiple visual frameworks combined. Plus some explaining. Before and after visualizations often helpful.
Visual metaphors: We think in metaphors, both verbal and visual. Finding the right visual metaphor can be helpful for channeling thinking in a productive way. Some examples: a bridge, a garden, a tree, a vehicle.
Push (speaking) vs. Pull (listening) with graphics: when you present your idea to someone else using graphics, you are pushing that idea out to them. When you ask them questions and then visually represent those ideas, you are pulling their ideas out from them.
All things being equal, people tend to remember beginnings and ends more than middle parts of events. There are many implications to this. One of them is that it’s a good idea to give people frequent breaks if you are leading a workshop, so they have more beginnings and ends, and thus higher recall of the learning experience.
Story. Our brains love stories. For maximum impact, incorporate story into your communication. There are many definitions of story, but here is a simple one: There is a character, in a setting, who encounters a challenge, deals with that challenge, and is changed, or has changed others by the end of the story as a result of having dealt with that challenge. This simple story formula can be expanded with multiple characters, settings, and challenges.
Partner work: It’s great to serve as a visual listener for a partner, listening to them and visually representing your understanding of what they are saying. It’s also helpful to visually present your ideas to them to get their feedback, as well as to convey your idea.
Visually capturing for groups: similar to working with a partner, but make sure you work big enough for everyone to be able to see and read clearly.
Dot voting: A quick way to gather information about what people in group think is most important. Each person gets a fixed amount of dots which they place by whatever choice(s) they prioritize.
Feedback: I like getting written feedback at different points during a workshop. Then I use this to influence how the rest of the workshop proceeds. I like it to be written because this way, people are not influenced by what other people say, and also so that quiet people also get heard.
Photos from our workshop. If you upload any photos you took to flickr, please give them the tag:
Back of the Napkin, Dan Roam—goes in depth into visual frameworks.
GameStorming, James Mancufo, Sunni Brown, Dave Gray, lots of great group activities.
Graphic Facilitation (with DVD), The Grove, these folks use visual thinking to help groups have better meetings.
Make a World, Ed Emberley, simple approach to drawing iconically, using basic shapes.
Graphic Facilitators Guide, Brandy Agerbeck, a thoughtful book about listening to groups and turning what you hear into meaningful graphics as the group conversation unfolds.
Facebook “Graphic Facilitation” group. Free.
IFVP.org (International Forum of Visual Practitioners), has an annual conference.
Sketch Camp—These events occur in cities around North America (maybe around the world?). They explore sketching as it relates to work.
IAF-International Association of Facilitators, a resource if you are interested in learning more about facilitation.
My site: http://envizualize.com and http://envizualize.com/blog
Feel free to be in touch if you have any questions or thoughts, or if you want to update me on how your project is going. One of the 2nd year MID students showed me a visual she created about her hopes for the future of her project from last year, and told me it was all unfolding as she has visually represented! It was fun to hear that. Whether your project goes as visualized or not, I love hearing how things evolve, so keep me posted. Please let me know if I forgot anything significant and I’ll update this post with the missing info.
I lead mini-sessions on visualizing your strengths and visualizing your project. At the end I captured the concluding conversation visually. I work out of New Work City, so it’s great to come into the space and see my work hanging over one of the couches!