Our mission was to visualize stories told by development workers who had recently returned to Germany from abroad. While most of these stories originated in places like rural Kenya or Colombia, they inevitably dealt with the changes in perspective experienced by the development workers when they returned home, and their struggles to reconcile their views with those who had stayed behind.
I found some of those stories deeply moving, some where funny, and some were quite sad – but in all cases I was impressed by the narrators’ dedication to make the world a better place. I hope, we also made a small contribution to that goal by our graphic recordings.
In March, I worked at the Federal Ministry for Education and Research‘s booth at Wasser Berlin International for four days. My task was to collect and visualize the visitors’ visions for the future of water management. The minister, Johanna Wanka, stopped by to talk to students from Albert-Einstein-Gymnasium (Ulm). You can see me do my thing in some of the pictures:
In January, I cooperated with seven other graphic recorders (Anne Lehmann, Ka Schmitz, Susanne Asheuer, Imke Schmidt, Magdalena Wiegner, Tobias Solcher, and Jonas Möhring) on a project focused on bringing young people from other European countries to Germany for vocational training.
The project, called MobiProEU, or more to the point, The Job of My Life, is supported by a large number of German training organizations. Each of these organizations presented their contribution at a conference in Berlin, which was attended by illustrious guests such as the German Federal Minister for Labour and Social Affairs, Andrea Nahles, and the Spanish Ambassador to Germany, Juan Pablo Garcià-Berdoy Ceresco.
Our task was to visualize each of the 150+ project contributions within about an hour and a half, so the pictures could be scanned, framed, and given to the attendees as a souvenir. I am happy to report that the images have popped up in many different places, so the concept seems to have worked.
One of my last gigs in 2014 was for the German charity Aktion Mensch, in collaboration with Gabriele Heinzel, Marie Jacobi, Susanne Asheuer, Daniel Freymüller and Imke Schmidt. The conference under the heading “Inclusion 2025” discussed topics such as Inclusion at Work and Education, Social Responsibility, Public Space and Relationships, Technology and Digital Communication, and Innovation in Life Sciences. Below are the images I contributed:
Our images were also featured in the video documentation of the event:
At last year’s Forum Solarpraxis, I had the honor of recording Dr. Klaus Töpfer, former federal minister for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety, and former executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme. In his talk, he outlined a vision for the future of energy and climate policy, stressing the fact that the Western model of energy consumption cannot be exported to the rest of the world, without irrevocably damaging the planet. Transcript (in German).
Last November, I did the graphic recording of the “Zugang Gestalten! / Shaping Access!” conference at Hamburger Bahnhof, organized by iRights.info, Wikimedia, the Open Knowledge Foundation and a bunch of other organizations. The result was a 5m x 1m scroll, featuring topics such as Cultural Heritage 3.0, Audiovisual Heritage, Jewish Cultural Heritage, and Knowledge and Language in the Digital Realm (click image for a larger version).
Hans-Georg Schöner took some great pictures of me and my work, below is my favorite shot, taken as I was approaching the end of the scroll:
Last year, I was asked to do the graphic recording at the Excellence in iGaming congress. I was thrilled about the job, because I love both digital and analog games, and I love drawing 8-bit video game characters and gambling paraphernalia such as poker chips, slot machines, and playing cards. My welcome message to the attendants features both in abundance:
Each of us visualized a workshop at the German Federal Government’s CSR Award, which is “ is awarded to exemplary and innovative companies that systematically and continuously integrate social, environmental and economic sustainability into their business operations.”
Nowadays, everyone’s afraid of being replaced by a robot. But I figure as a graphic recorder my job is fairly safe, and here’s why: There’s no innovation without imagination. I participate in a lot of innovation processes, at companies like BMW, Bayer, and BASF, and what I’ve come to realize is that people need pictures to understand what the future might hold for them. Images spur the imagination, and make the road to the future seem more feasible.
The Grants4Apps program at Bayer is a case in point. From the start, they worked with graphic recorders, initially with my esteemed colleague and mentor Marie Jacobi, whom you can see above, working on a chart for Grants4Apps, and then, more recently, with me.
My job at the Grants4Apps launch event was to put into images the ideas that the five start-up teams had developed, and thus enable people to see the potential of their proposed products. At the same time, it was important to show how this would fit into Bayer’s corporate architecture, and into Berlin’s vibrant startup scene.
If you look closely, you might spot a robot in the picture below, but mostly it celebrates the deeply human ability to keep inventing and re-inventing ourselves. So as long as there is a need for innovation, there will be a need for imagination. Fortunately, that’s one thing robots are particularly bad at.