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Three Easy Steps to Graphic Recording Success

The number one question I get when I’m engaged in graphic recording or visual note-taking is:

“OMG, how do you do that!?”

(Usually with that “OMG” at the start of the question.)
So, for all of those curious folks out there… this is a short-and-sweet description of how I do it!
I listen deeply. Whether it’s large- or small-scale work, the biggest component is listening. Not just to what’s going on–the information being shared–but to everything. How is the group reacting to what’s being said? What are they laughing and clapping at? What comments really get their attention? What’s just fluff, and what’s the real meat? Listen for the content, listen for the emotions and reactions, listen for what’s important to remember from the experience.
I translate into visual language. I’m not just drawing what I hear, I’m translating: translating the words and emotions into visuals on the paper. Content has to come first, and visuals make that content stick in the viewer’s brain. Instead of spelling out a concept, I draw images that speak to the concept. Ideas are light bulbs. Movement is an arrow. Energy is sparks and swirls. Passion is a heart on fire. Whatever speaks to you for a particular concept or idea, use that image! You already have a visual language in your head. Just like speaking a foreign language, the more you use your visual language the more robust it will become. (And if you need help thinking of a visual for something, Google Images is a great online resource!)
I fire my inner critic and do it anyway. The biggest roadblock for being able to do this work is not one’s belief that they can or can’t draw: it’s fear. Fear of being imperfect. (Which leads to fear of making a mistake, which translates into making a fool of myself, then people will think that what I do is lame, and they’ll laugh at me and won’t play with me at recess or something.) Well, guess what? Even if your drawing skills are Pablo like Picasso, your visual recording is not going to be perfect… and that’s the beauty of it! It’s the imperfections that humanize your work, that make it something people can relate to… something people can see themselves in. Can’t draw like an amazing artist? Great! Do it anyway… because what you do is good enough.
I’m going to say that again. What you do is good enough.
Heck, my sister and mom have always been the “artists” in our family… not me. My background is in management and emerging leadership practices, not art. Despite this, people are not just blown away by what I create… they LOVE it. Why? Because my drawings are perfect? Not a chance! (I just e-mailed illustrated instructions to a client, and actually included the comment that if they drew a beak on the hand I drew, it would look like a Thanksgiving turkey! It was awesome!)
So why do people love this kind of work? Sounds like a topic for another blog post!

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