Lunch & Learn: How to Graphic Record

Nikky Manfredi

Nikky Manfredi

Communications & Content Specialist

Put away your excel spreadsheets and get out your pencil crayons. This week, we’re learning how to translate those stuffy meeting notes into beautiful animations you’ll actually want to review six months from now. 

CSI Member Laura Hanek of Swoop Media is a freelance graphic recorder, visual designer, and illustrator. She deep dived on her craft, giving a beginner’s level guide to graphic recording. If you couldn’t make our online Lunch and Learn, here’s a peek into some of what she taught us. 

Laura standing beside a large graphic recording

What is Graphic Recording? 

Graphic recording (also known as scribing or visual note taking) is “the use of large scale imagery to lead groups and individuals towards a goal. The method is used in meetings, workshops and conferences.” (Think mind maps but better). The practice has its roots in 1970’s San Francisco. Since then, the practice has only increased in popularity. Organizations often hire Laura to live record conferences or meetings as a way to visualize key concepts, ideas, and conversations. 

laura drawing on poster boardThe Benefits of Graphic Recording 

Visualizing key concepts helps us remember them better. It’s also great for connecting the dots. Seeing ideas on a page in a non-linear fashion can help people relate concepts and goals together in a way they may not have before. That’s why so many researchers, educators, and organizers incorporate graphic recording into their work. The recording captures the process as much as it captures the results of, say, a strategy meeting. Laura says a live recording also improves collaboration and decision-making. Coworkers can refer to the board in real time when talking about next steps. 

How to Start Graphic Recording 

Laura broke graphic recording down into three major steps. 

1. Actively listen

Laura says this is the most difficult part. What are they saying? What is the context of what you need to put on your page? Really listen to what matters to the group.

2. Think (and analyze) 

Practice discernment. How can you best translate the information? Why are you choosing to make the dog yellow? Think about your choices! “There’s a lot of brainwork before you even get to paper. It is exhausting and that’s why I have spelled my name wrong after graphic recordings,” Laura said, laughing. 

Laura’s advice for beginners: Start slow. You don’t have to live record a meeting to be a graphic recorder. Write notes first and then sit down, read through your notes, and plan out your drawing. 

3. Draw (or distill) 

Remember: Functionality is key. Beauty comes second and perfection is not the point. Anyone can draw! Basic elements get the point across (stick figures will do!) and getting the point across IS the point. 

Laura’s advice: Join a Graphic Jam! Graphic jams are informal drawing sessions. Grab a few friends, a piece of paper, and something to draw with and then, almost like charades, decide on a subject for everyone to draw. A couple rounds of jammin’ will get the wheels turning on how many ways information can be represented on the page. 

Elements of Graphic Recording 

Title 

Laura says, “it can be super fancy or just the biggest words on the page.”

Flow 

Flow lines, like arrows or borders, help direct the eye along the graphic recording. Laura mentioned other attributes like lettering, people, shadows and colour can help structure the narrative of a piece. 

Colour 

“Colour can bring attention to certain things on a document,” Laura explained. In the example she gave, she had coloured in one of three drawn houses because the topic it represented was most important of the three.  

Hierarchy 

Visual hierarchy, such as having some text be larger than others, can provide clarity and order to the piece. Laura also mentioned the importance of creating relationships between concepts through symbols, such as a heart to indicate support or side by side comparisons to show growth over time.  

Thank you to Laura for sharing her expertise! If you want to check out more of her work, including her graphic recording, design and illustration services, head here. With that, it’s time to draw!

Interested in CSI’s Bi-weekly lunch and Learns? 

The next Lunch and Learn is September 27, 2021. CSI Member Marc Goldgrub of Green Economy Law will explore both the history and recent developments in Canadian psychedelic law. 

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