At a recent conference on ICTs and democracy promotion at Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik (German Development Institute), I decided to try something new, and alternate between a fat and a skinny marker. At first, I wasn’t comfortable with it at all, but I kept going anyway. After a while, it started to feel natural. Looking at the complete set, I am actually very happy with the result.
A few years ago, I heard this great word: tentaclism, which describes the increasing tendency towards multi-tasking and dabbling in all kinds of professions, doing one thing, as it were, with one of your multiple arms. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a term which captures what I do so well. That’s what was at the back of my mind when I made this sketch of myself as part of a conversation with Berlin-based startup Somewhere.
One challenge I frequently face as a graphic recorder, is how to draw faces. If the people are present, they might be insulted by an unflattering portrayal, if they aren’t present, their names are usually all I have to go on. Some people use smartphones or tablets to do quick google searches while they’re doodling, but I’m usually so focused on my drawing, I can’t imagine switching between notebook and tablet. For better or worse, that’s what the result typically looks like:
If icons are the graphic facilitator’s bread and butter, visual metaphors are the peanut butter and jelly. I started building up a repertoire of visual metaphors that I can use in a variety of contexts. This example is from a meeting about the Media&Makers: Juba conference in South Sudan.
Almost every budding graphic recorder practices by taking visual notes of TED talks. A particularly fun one was this talk by Will Wright, pictured below.
Brainstorming meetings about a print edition of correspondents.org, with stories from Tunisia, Libya and Egypt, proved to be particularly inspiring for my visual imagination.
When I discovered the power of visual notetaking, I started doodling at every meeting I attended, slowly refining my style, and building up my icon library.
After participating in my first workshop, I quickly found an opportunity to use my rediscovered skills. At a meeting about a conference in South Sudan, I whipped out my notebook and some markers, and started doodling away.