Monthly Archives: May 2011

Showcase: Visual Practice

Last week I invited visual practitioners to send me samples of their work, and I got such an amazing response that it took a couple of extra days to prepare the post about it. (Plus I have been locked in an epic battle with Posterous to get it to look the way I wanted.) Here it is!

I requested images representing each practitioner’s individual creative style, and as you’ll see, the range is very extensive even in this comparatively small sampling of work. I also asked folks to tell me why they picked the particular image they did. Let’s take a little tour of the beautiful pieces that were so generously shared. The list is alphabetical by the last name of the practitioner.

If you’re interested in contacting any of these folks about potential work, please follow up with them on the website listed with their name.

Claire Bronson

CSR Drives Business Innovation (large-scale recording on paper)

Claire chose this image because, in her words, “the content is near and dear to my heart.” Her chart records a talk by Kevin Hagen about sustainable business practices at REI, given for the Women’s Network for a Sustainable Future. I love the springtime colors she chose and the fun, funky lettering of the subtitles in this piece.

Michael Erickson

(Photo no longer available)

This complex and detailed chart illustrates real-life examples of systems thinking. Michael uses visual metaphors to describe and explain concepts in large-scale “learning maps.” Learn more about Michael’s work on his website.

Jonny Goldstein

Jay Coen Gilbert (large-scale recording on foamboard)

This is a graphic recording of a talk at TEDxPhilly on the topic of B-Corporations. Jonny notes, “I picked this example because I love doing graphic recording for people with world changing ideas. The speaker, Jay Coen Gilbert, has one of these world changing ideas. He has created a movement to create a new legal corporate entity, the B-Corporation, which is accountable to a broad range of stakeholders, beyond investors, to include suppliers, the local community, employees, and even the environment. This movement has the potential to radically change the ways that corporations shape our society and our planet.”

(photos from visual problem solving workshop)

Jonny teaches a visual problem solving workshop to masters-level students in the Industrial Design program at the University of Arts in Philadelphia. He gives the students tools they can use with their industry partners to develop and manage complex projects. (Jonny’s the one in the yellow shirt in the photos.) 

Sketchnotes (small-scale recording on paper)

In Jonny’s words, “Here is a sketchbook image from some notes I took at a talk by futurist and design thinker John Thackara. He talked about the contributions designers can have in addressing the massive and complex problem of how society handles caring for a tidal wave of seniors with dementia. Like Jay Coen Gilbert, John Thackara has world changing ideas that address big, gnarly, challenges.”

I really enjoy Jonny’s free and easy style and his beautiful line quality. It makes his work look like it’s breathing.

Jeannel King, Big Picture Solutions




Over Worked, Overwhelmed… and Over It! (large-scale recording on paper)

This graphic recording was of a 60-minute keynote presented inspirational catalyst and the founder of Madly In Love With Me Day, Christina Arylo. It measures 4′ x 8′, and was created on 20# Bond paper with a combination of Sharpie flip chart markers, Tombow dual-point brush pens, and some Copics thrown in for good measure.




Sketchnotes (small-scale recording on paper)

These visual notes are of a 30-minute keynote presented by Olympic gold medalist, Ruben Gonzalez. They were taken on a Canson Manga sketchpad with a Prismacolor chiselpoint pen and Tombow dual-point brush pens for the color.  

Jeannel says:

“These are both really representative of my style, philosophy, and work:  it’s fun, it’s colorful, it’s joyful/playful, it’s darn effective, and I typically work with clients who either are sharing inspiring messages, or are inspiring groups (others or themselves) to realize their fullest potential.  Neither of these were planned in advance (I never plan pieces in advance), and yet they both worked out exactly right…and that speaks to my belief that it all works out the way it needs to!  (While there were other pieces that represented how groups work through problems, etc., at the end of the day I chose these two because they make me happy to look at!)

“When I work, my process is really a zen practice: I check my Self at the door and remain absolutely present to what’s in the room.  In a way, it’s a bit like channeling the room’s experience onto the page.  I am so grateful to get to work with people who are passionate about their projects,  helping people do what they love…by doing what I love!”

I have to agree that Jeannel’s work is very joyful, but then so is Jeannel!

Rebecca Lazenby, Paragrafix

(Photo no longer available)

I love the clean, crisp look of Rebecca’s work. This recording is a 2m x 1m chart on on paper, using Neuland markers. Rebecca photographed it with a panasonic Lumix, which she likes because of its wide lens, and cleaned it up using Whiteboard photo and good old paint. The client name has been removed for confidentiality.

Rebecca says:

“I chose this image because it was one of the first I did where I really was able to let go creatively whilst being so tuned into the material. I think it shows in the flow and I also had a lot of positive feedback about colour that day, so since then have been able to make more conscious choices about colour. This was the first chart I did where the client said they would use the image as ‘visual minutes’ — it’s easy to read back to people back in the office and that is very important to me in my practice. I try to encourage people to use the charts afterwards to share what they have done on the day.”

Irene Nelson, Irene Nelson Design




Business Communication in the Global Marketplace (large-scale recording on paper)

Like many visual practitioners, Irene notes that much of her work is proprietary or confidential to the client. This is one that she is free to share. It measures 8′ x 4′. I love her bright, bold color choices.

She says, “I believe this image conveys strong listening skills and my ability to organize information quickly. The 25 years of extensive and varied design expertise I have as a graphic designer is clearly an asset to my work in graphic recording. I had a lot of fun doing this. The energy in the room was contagious!”


Alexandra M. Pickett




SLN Online Course Models (digital illustration)

In Alexandra’s words, “This is a process illustration that helped me to articulate and define SLN online course design models. It is a digital illustration that I created in Photoshop.” Alexandra packed a huge amount of detail into this piece! She was an intern at Graphic Guides (The Grove’s forerunner) in the late 1980s and says that David Sibbet continues to inspire her and her work.


Emily Shepard




Storytelling & Ancient Greek Vases (large-scale recording on paper)

I was present when Emily made this epic recording, and I am still amazed and in awe of her ability to craft a unified work of art on the fly as she did. It’s an 8′ x 4′ recording of a talk given by Diane Cline at the IFVP Conference in Chicago in 2008. In Emily’s words:

“I chose this chart because I remember feeling ‘in the zone’ when I made it! I often think about how to contain the different chunks of information when I am recording, and in this case, as I set up my paper, and got ready, I realized I had an opportunity to create the perfect container for this talk – a large greek vessel! It is not often that I’ll draw a large image in advance when I am charting a speaker. I certainly do this when I am working with a faciitator, and we have designed a template to relate to a group process. But with a speaker, it can be a bigger risk, since I am not sure where they will go in their presentation. In this case, I feel that it worked out. I asked Diane for an image from one of her slides, which I used to make the central figure in the ‘porthole,’ and then the other information seemed to sort itself out across the chart. I was pleased when she talked about the roots of Greek innovation and society, and I had the bottom of the chart open – this seemed like a good place to put this foundational information. As usual, a good speaker makes my job much easier. Diane’s talk was well organized and clear, and hopefully that comes across in my chart.”



Martine Vanremoortele, Visual Harvesting

(large-scale recording on paper, English)

(large-scale recording on paper, Dutch)

Martine says she chose both pieces because of the theme: creativity and the power of the impossible. She feels that her best work is yet to come (I hope that’s true for all of us!)

(small-scale recording on paper)

These notes of a talk by Randi Zuckerberg was signed by the speaker! Martine reports that these were taken while sitting in the audience, in a position that was not exactly conducive to visual notetaking. She also notes that Randi was dressed in the same colors as the Facebook logo! I love the little details in her work.

You can browse more of Martine’s lovely and detailed visual work on Flickr.

Nitya Wakhlu, Nitya Wakhlu Innovations LLC

Designing Training Games and Activities (medium-scale recording on paper)

Nitya notes, “This is a live graphic recording of Thiagi’s session from the ASTD Cascadia conference in 2010. Wall space was limited and I had to move very quickly between sessions – which is why I’ve used flip chart sized paper for the capture. I love this capture because it had 2 big AHAs
for me: (1) The secret juice of facilitators is an extensive toolkit and an ability to be flexible (2)There are no disruptive participants – only feedback!”

Education: Current State (digital graphic recording)

Nitya created this image digitally using a tablet and Adobe Illustrator. It stems from a visioning session by Oregon state leaders around education reform. Nitya referred to her live visual recordings from the session to create consolidated concept pieces like this one afterwards; they were then used in a document outlining the new vision that was shared with state legislators.

Oregon State Leaders Summit (large-scale recording on paper)

This recording from the Aging Matters Summit in Portland was a very quick capture from a discussion of state leaders. Nitya’s work is bold and clean, and I love her consistent use of color. Her happy little striped people always make me smile.

You can browse more of Nitya’s visual work on Flickr.

Did I miss yours?

If you sent me something and it’s not here, I probably didn’t see the email. Please send it again and I’ll put it in a follow-up post!

Thank you to everyone who took the time to send in something — it’s all about you!


Samples from the visual practice community: stay tuned!

I’ve received nearly a dozen contributions from the wonderfully talented visual practice community, and I’m still working on putting them all together in a single post. Thank you to everyone who sent in images, links, and info! The variety of styles is really inspiring. I’ll finish writing it up over the weekend and post it bright and early Monday morning, so stay tuned!

Meanwhile, I’ve been exploring beautiful graphs for a project I’m doing. Take a look at this Google images hitlist for “beautiful graphs” — there’s some really neat stuff out there. (Of course, as we know, your Google search results may vary.)

Learn to be a rockstar scribe at Alphachimp University!


My colleagues Peter and Diane Durand of Alphachimp Studio are offering a special six-week, online, self-paced course in visual practice (scribing). Looking at the syllabus I have to say it looks fantastic! If you’ve been wondering how to learn more about visual practice, this would be a great way to dip your feet in the water and get started. Check it out at

Visual practitioners: showcase your work!

There is a wonderful depth and breadth of visual practice, and I’d love to showcase examples here from lots of practitioners. Interested in sharing your work?

What I’d really like is for you to share an image of something you’ve done that is particularly special to you, or that you feel you did really well, or that represents a challenge you’ve overcome or are working to overcome. So the whole piece doesn’t have to be your “best work” per se — it should be something that is creatively yours and shows off something you’re pleased with.

What to Send

I’m looking for images of work done on paper (large chart size or small notebook size) or digitally (iPad, graphics tablet, mouse… whatever). Please pick ONE image. If you have one large chart, one notebook sample, and one digital sample, you can send one of each. But please only send one of any one kind.

How to Get Me the Images

  1. Best way: Email me a link to a Flickr (or other online photo service) photo of the piece you want to share. I will include a thumbnail on the blog post and link to your larger image. Make sure the permissions are set for public view on your image.
  2. Next best way: Email me a copy of the picture, at least 600 pixels wide at 72 dpi. I’ll take care of the rest. The blog post will include a thumbnail linked to a larger copy of the image. 

What Else to Include

  1. I will only post images that can be properly attributed, so please be sure to send me your name (and the name of your practice if you want). 
  2. If you have a website, send me the link and I’ll link your name to your site in the post.
  3. Tell me why you picked this image — what does it say about your practice?
  4. Tell me what format it is — large chart on paper, notebook sized on paper, or digital. If digital, tell me what you used to create it (hardware/software).
  5. Anything else about the image or the process you used that you want to say.

Please note that by sending me a link or image you are giving me permission to post it on my blog, attributed totally to you of course. Please don’t send anything that’s client confidential (obviously!). This will be posted here on Your work doesn’t have to be digital to be included!

I’ll publish the post on Friday, May 20, so be sure to get me your work by Thursday, May 19 if you want to participate. Thanks!


Decisions, decisions: Bamboo vs Cintiq vs iPad

I just wrapped up a coaching session on digital facilitation techniques and best practices that started with an overview of some of the hardware choices available, how to hook them up, and how to decide which to use for different situations. To help myself (and my client) think about the big picture, I created this graphic that shows one poor laptop besieged by input devices:


The idea is to get a feel for how they all connect to the computer. Some examples of software that can be used are also there. Working from the middle out, we have the laptop itself. Above it are some software choices: Sketchbook Pro (SBP) or PowerPoint (PPT) for displaying templates like The Grove’s Digital Graphic Guides or custom ones you create yourself, and a web conferencing system (WebEx in this drawing) to connect with meeting participants. Then, around the laptop are three possible hardware/input device choices: The Wacom Cintiq LCD tablet, the Apple iPad, and the Wacom Bamboo tablet. As you can see, the iPad and the Cintiq have displays and can mirror what’s on the laptop, while the Bamboo does not.

Connecting To the Computer

These instructions assume that you have the hardware and you’ve followed the packaged instructions for installing the software drivers that come with them. Don’t try to use the tablet without the drivers. It will only make you unhappy.

The Bamboo is the easiest to connect: just plug in the USB cable and you’re good to go.

The Cintiq and the iPad are tied for second, depending on whether you have a greater fear of cables or of configuring software. The Cintiq comes with a “black box” that has one cable on one side that attaches to the tablet itself. On the other side of the box are 3 cables: one is the power cord, one is a USB cable that plugs into the computer, and the third is the DVI (digital video) cable that plugs into (most likely) an adapter and then into your computer, unless you’re using a computer that has a DVI out already. Your Macbook Pro doesn’t so you need one of those little dongle thingies (mini display port to DVI for the newer ones). If you’re not picky about how it looks you can get a cheaper, non-Apple one from Amazon. I have one of each and can’t tell the difference once they’re hooked up. Switch on the power on the tablet and you’re good to go. Don’t forget to calibrate it to the pen EVERY SINGLE TIME you turn it on, switch from mirroring to not mirroring your display, or hook it back up again. Bleh. You do this in preferences and it only takes a second, but still! Every time.

The iPad takes a little prep, but then it’s easy as long as you’ve got a wireless connection or a computer-to-computer network set up and the technology gods aren’t particularly pissed at you for any reason. What makes it work is a little app by Avatron Software called Air Dsiplay. Air Display turns your iPad into another monitor for your computer, as well as an input device. It’s so incredibly cool. Download the app on your iPad and follow the on-screen instructions (for Mac or Win) to install the desktop application and establish your iPad as connectable. Then, as long as the iPad and the computer are on the same wireless network (or ad hoc network, which means your computer creates a network that your iPad can connect to, but you won’t have Internet access while this is going on), the iPad can be selected in the Air Display drop down on the computer. Once you do that, the iPad becomes a second monitor. You’ll see your computer desktop and applications in miniature on the iPad, and you can control them with taps and swipes. No joke. It’s really freaky and really cool all at once.

When to Use Which?

Use the Cintiq if you possibly can. I realize that’s a little oversimplified, but I stand behind it. However, since sometimes you can’t:

The Bamboo is good for situations where you need to be portable. For instance, if you need to facilitate a virtual meeting while on a business trip, it’s much easier to pack and carry than the Cintiq and much more reliable than the network-dependent iPad. Drawbacks include the difficulty of writing legibly with it — you’ll have to practice a lot and get used to zooming and panning — and the awkwardness of writing on one surface while watching another.

The iPad is not yet good for web facilitation, despite the indisputable coolness of Air Display. I’m hoping that it’s going in that direction, though. Right now the tracking (the time between drawing a line and seeing it appear) is too slow, and I’ve had it not work on some wireless networks depending on how the network is configured. For now, I’m sticking to using the iPad for in-person digital recording only.

The Cintiq is the easiest to use (once it’s hooked up) but taking it on the road is a lot like traveling with an octopus: cables and stuff everywhere. Because you can look where you’re writing, you get much better fidelity for text and drawings. It works really well for visually facilitating web-based meetings.

If you really want to freak your computer out, and I don’t recommend this although I did try it myself, hook it up to the Cintiq, then hook that up to a projector (you’ll need a switcher to make this work). Once you have that set up, turn on Air Display and add your iPad as, technically, the fourth monitor (laptop screen, Cintiq, projector, and iPad). Then watch the poor computer cycle through them trying to get a fix on what on earth you want it to do, and at what resolution. It kind of makes your eyeballs hurt in sympathy. Poor thing.

Disclaimer: I do work for The Grove, but I’d have linked to the Digital Graphic Guides anyway because I think they’re fantastic for web-based facilitation.

Exercises in iPad visual note taking | Flickr – Photo Sharing!


Lori Lum‘s refreshing visual notes, drawn on her iPad. I just love the bright, clean look of her drawings!

Second IFVP Online Graphic Jam!

Today’s IFVP Online Graphic Jam met via WebEx, hosted by me. It was a bit of a mixed bag; at least four people were unable to connect because WebEx either didn’t work with their (admittedly older) OS, or because even though they had updated Java, WebEx insisted that they hadn’t and wouldn’t open. Bummer #1.

The whiteboard isn’t nearly as smooth as Elluminate’s, either, as you can see from the images here. Even those who were using tablets and pens had shaky lines. Bummer #2.

I logged in from my iPad as well, thinking it would be perfect for drawing on the whiteboard. Alas, the iPad can watch, but can’t join in. No tools at all except chat. Bummer #3.

And when I saved out the whiteboards, they were all stretched and weird, like this:


What’s up with that, WebEx?

On the plus side, once we figured out how to give everyone control of the pen so they could share the whiteboard (not very intuitive), we had some fun graphically jammin’!

The Graphic Jam, for those who don’t know, is where a bunch of people quickly draw a symbol or illustration of a particular concept. We tried to limit ourselves to 30 seconds per topic, but our timekeeper was lousy and kept getting distracted watching all the other drawings unfold! (Yes, that would be me.) It was fun to have that immediate opportunity to review everyone’s work — it’s a little more delayed in a paper-based jam.

Naturally, our lousy timekeeper also forgot to hit “record” on the session, but at least I did manage to save out the drawings that we made:


 The first is the initial warm-up free for all, when everyone played with the tools to see what they were like, all at once, with no particular aim in mind. Next we each drew how we felt just then in a grid — you can see a couple of folks who were sleepy (it was very early or late in the day for them) and me with my hair all standing on end as I coped with the technology. I was still recovering from having to wade through obscure menus to enable drawing for everyone on the shared whiteboard. We also noted what we were drawing with (tablet, mouse, etc.).

The next few drawings are the graphic jam. The concepts we selected were, in the order they’re shown in the gallery: quality, speed, travel, and information overload. We tried to keep it to 30 seconds, but like I said, our timekeeper shouldn’t quit her day job.

The last drawing is one that we did all together, without speaking or writing any words. The task was to illustrate collaboration, collaboratively. It was interesting to try to jump in and be helpful and build on what others were doing.

Finally, we had a very brief discussion/Q&A about different tools for digital storytelling. 

The next jam isn’t scheduled. We’re looking for people who have access to other meeting tools, like Adobe Connect, or who are willing to host a group using one of the free collaborative tools available. If you’re interested, let me know!

Elluminate as a platform for digital recording

Yesterday, Nancy White (@nancywhite) organized a little jam session for IFVP folks who wanted to try out Elluminate to test out its visual recording chops. Five or six of us got together for an hour and tried collaborative whiteboarding, screen sharing, video conferencing, and media sharing. 

I used three different input methods to draw on the whiteboard: a mouse, a Wacom Bamboo tablet, and a Wacom Cintiq tablet. I definitely got the best results with the Cintiq; the Bamboo was okay, and would work for a meeting that didn’t move very fast. The mouse isn’t suitable for digital visual recording, but I think we all knew that already.

Nancy did a little series of exercises with us. The first one was for everyone to draw simultaneously on the whiteboard with no direction: just pick up the pen and draw. It was very chaotic, and even when we started out with a specific aim in mind, it quickly degenerated to doodling because the space was too crowded with other people’s work. The second thing we did was to work in a divided space, in which we each took a square and drew what we liked inside it. This was more organized, but it wasn’t really interactive. The last thing we did was to all illustrate a specific concept — “frustration,” for instance. We did this on a blank undivided canvas, but it worked better than the first one, although there was a little bit of overlap in some drawings. 

Tomorrow I’m hosting something similar in WebEx so that we can see how it compares. If you’re interested, drop me a note and I’ll get you an invite to the meeting. You don’t need a tablet to participate!


Hi! Welcome to This is a spot to collect information, examples, links to tools, and tips for using technology in visual practice. It’ll build up over time. Special thanks to Fred Lakin for the twin gifts of the idea and the domain name. For starters, here’s a collection of links that I keep meaning to gather in one place:

If you’re into digital visual practice and you’d like to be a contributor here, please drop me a note!