Tag Archives: visualpractice

Cleaning Chart Images with ScanScribe

The instructions below come from David Sibbet of The Grove and were updated by Cynthia Derosier of Good Juju. I’ve just edited them a little and am reposting them for convenience. If you’re looking for another method of cleaning chart images, I have previously posted instructions for cleaning chart images with Photoshop

Cleaning Up Your Charts

Once you’ve taken photos of your charts, you can run them through a program called ScanScribe to drop out the shadows and the gray or yellowish background that results from photographing paper charts. It’s quick and easy, once you get ScanScribe set up. It’s not like most applications — it’s really a script, so you have to be prepared to fiddle a little bit, but once it’s working it’s a great tool for the job. Like David, I haven’t used it’s other features, but I know it’s capable of more than just whitening images. ScanScribe is available for Mac and Windows platforms.

David Sibbet says, “The best program [for cleaning chart images] is still ScanScribe, a never-released piece of software from Xerox [now Parc]. The interface isn’t very intuitive, but it does a great job keeping your yellows intact. You can change the exposure settings: 4 or 7 seem to work best. You can also correct for keystoning under the edit function. TIFF files work best. These are the only functions I’ve ever used and it seems to work very well.”

Using ScanScribe

  1. Download ScanScribe from the Parc site: http://www2.parc.com/isl/groups/pda/scanscribe/
  2. Save it to a spot on your computer where you will be able to find it (perhaps make a ScanScribe folder inside your Applications or Programs folder).
  3. Double click on the Scan app. This will launch a terminal program that then opens the software, so don’t be alarmed when the new program opens.
  4. Under EXECUTION, open “SCANSCRIBE.” 
  5. Go to “Options” set your Automatic FB/BG Color Processing on Image Load/ background sensitivity to 4 (or 7 — you can experiment).
  6. Under FILE open the folder where you have your chart pictures. It doesn’t have menus that open automatically so you have to go through each click manually.
  7. Open your file. It may take a little while to process, during which time it can look like nothing is happening. After a bit, your photo should open. When it opens, the photo will be magically whitened! (If not, see the notes below).
  8. To adjust for keystoning, go to Edit/Keystone Unwarp. This gives you a box that you can change by using your cursor on the corners. Drag corners to where you want them to be on the photos. Then click the button in the window frame that says “run Keystone” and the picture will unwarp.
  9. Save As a TIFF file if possible, or a JPG if you can’t work with TIFFs.


Cynthia reports that she had a very large TIFF file and had to reduce its file size in order for the program to work. If you load the photo and have done all the steps correctly but still see no change, you may need to reduce the file size. Cynthia noticed that the script at the bottom indicated the computer was out of memory for a TIFF file, but did not run out of memory for a JPG of the same size.

I have noticed that ScanScribe can have difficulty opening files if they are too deep in my computer’s file system — that is, if they are inside a lot of nested folders. I think this is because all the folder names get added to the path name for the image, and perhaps the long path name exceeds some limitation in ScanScribe, but that’s just a guess. To get around the issue, I created a folder inside my Pictures folder called “For ScanScribe,” and I just drop all the photos in there that I want to clean up. ScanScribe remembers the last folder it opened images from, so this is a handy way to avoid having to click through your folders to find your images. I just save the edited versions right back into that same folder, and then move everything to where I actually want it when I’m done to keep the folder clean.

If you have additional questions, please check the ScanScribe discussion forum


Last week, I gave a TEDx talk in Guatemala…

… and it was an awesome experience!

The event was TEDxUFM at the Universidad Francisco Marroquin in Guatemala City. The theme was to explore education and the new culture of learning, especially as it involves play, questioning, and imagination. I am over-the-moon thrilled that I had the opportunity to participate in a TEDx event, especially this one, as the topic is close to my heart. The organizers and staff who put on TEDxUFM 2012 did a fantastic job — just look at this year’s lineup of speakers!

It was an honor to be speaking alongside USC’s Douglas Thomas (co-author of A New Culture of Learning) and Khan Academy developer David Hu, as well as the spectacular group of speakers and performers from Guatemala.

My visual notes of @douglast's talk at #TEDxUFM last Saturday

My visual notes of Doug Thomas’ TED talk, TEDxUFM, August 19 2012

More of my visual notes are coming soon to Flickr… I have to finish them! Following my own advice, I got the key points down and left spaces for embellishments to be added later. TED talks go by fast, and almost all the points are key!

My talk, Drawing in Class, explored visual note taking — particularly the role of personal visual note taking for students. The video will be up in four to six weeks, but here is the full slide set (with notes), posted on Slideshare:

Related Materials and Links:

While I was preparing for the talk, I found Nancy Duarte’s 10 Ways to Prepare for a TED-Format Talk to be a wonderful resource. I started with the sticky note tip and wrote each example or point on a note. Then I moved them around until I was happy with them, trimming and re-ordering until I liked the story.

Using sticky notes to plan my presentation

Preparing for my talk using Nancy Duarte’s advice

Her suggestions helped me to focus on the “why,” and the advice about rehearsing with the clock first running up and then running down was invaluable.

I found this page after I had already given the talk, but if a TED-format talk is in your future, you might want to take a look: How to “Do” a TED Talk from Teaching with TED.

The whole experience was incredibly cool, but I think my favorite part was being called a conferencista. How fantastic is that?

UPDATED 24 August — added more related links.
UPDATED 29 February 2020 — added notes to links that are no longer available.

precision lettering in iPad drawing apps

I received a question today that many people have asked me: How do I make my lettering so neat and precise when I’m using drawing apps on the iPad? I’ve been asked if it’s a font, or if I use a special stylus or some other trick. Here’s my (perhaps disappointingly simple) answer.

My iPad notes of MK Haley's keynote at #IFVP2012

A recent piece. I’m still working on my lettering, by the way. Always.

I don’t use a stylus; I just use my finger. I zoom way way in so that I can only see a few words at a time, and then I scoot along as I write. The precise lettering is mostly due to practice — if you look at some of the earliest work I did, you’ll see that I’ve come a long way 🙂

Bryan Alexander's Keynote

The very first iPad graphic recording I ever did – May 8, 2010. For reference, the iPad I was using (wifi + 3G) became available on April 30, 2010 — about a week earlier. I leapt right in.

One trick I can share is to line up the baseline of whatever you’re writing so that it’s a little bit above the app border on the iPad. For instance, if you zoom way in, you can move the page around to put the words about half an inch above the bottom edge of the app, which of course is straight. Then use that as a guide while you write. In Brushes, you’d do this by using the two-finger-spread to zoom in, then use two fingers to move the page around until your text was just above the toolbar (or the bottom of the app if you’ve hidden the toolbar). Write a bit, use two fingers to move the page sideways, and continue.

zooming in with Brushes

Zooming in and lining up the baseline of text in Brushes.

That’s the main reason I don’t use a stylus, by the way — I’m always zooming and moving the screen, and if I had to hold a stylus while I did it, it would take way too long.

Happy zooming!



Quickly share those delicious iPad notes (how-to)

At the 2012 IFVP Conference last week, I took visual notes on my iPad during several sessions. Right after each session — and I mean right after — I posted the image to Flickr and tweeted the link with the conference tag. It took me about 15 seconds to post each one, and I didn’t even have to switch away from my drawing app. Here’s how I did it.

My iPad notes of MK Haley’s keynote at #IFVP2012

What You Need:

  • A Flickr account (I have a Pro account, not sure if you can do this without it, but Flickr’s awesome so you probably can)
  • A Twitter account
  • An iPad that can access the Internet and send email
  • A drawing app on the iPad (Brushes, Sketchbook Pro, whatever)
  • Something that you drew in your drawing app

What To Do:

1. Set up Flickr to do the heavy lifting.

Once you have a Flickr account, you can set it up so that you can email stuff to it and also so that it will tweet for you. To make the magic happen, log in to your Flickr account and go to Account (You menu > Account, or click on your name in the top right). You have two tasks here: To hook up your Twitter account to your Flickr account, and to get the address you will email stuff to.

To connect Twitter and Flickr, click on the Sharing & Extending tab. Click the Twitter icon or link, and then click “Authorize this App.” Follow the on-screen instructions until Flickr tells you it’s all set and you see Twitter in your Sharing list on Flickr with an “Edit” button next to it. (If you are freaked out by this, you can skip this step and do the automatic post-to-Flickr part below, and then just tweet manually.)

To find your special email address for Flickr, click the Emails & Notifications tab in your Flickr account. Scroll down to where it says “Your Flickr2Twitter upload email” and copy that address so you can paste it in a minute. (If you decided not to do the Twitter part, copy the address next to “Your Flickr upload email” instead.)

2. Create a contact with that email address.

Now go to your iPad and open the Contacts app that came with the iPad. Create a new contact (Click the plus sign at the bottom) and call it “Twitter and Flickr” or “Flickr” or something similar. Just make it something you can remember later. Then paste the email address you copied in step 1 into the email field, and save the contact.

My iPad notes of keynote by @LRDC1’s Chris Schunn at #IFVP2012

3. Find or create a drawing to share.

Open your favorite drawing app and either create a new drawing, or find one that you already did that you want to share. I use Brushes and Sketchbook Pro the most, and for both of these, you want to be in the Gallery, not in edit-image mode. When you are looking at the image you want, tap the Share button (in Sketchbook Pro, this looks like a flower with an arrow; in Brushes, it looks like a rectangle with an arrow). You might have to select the image in the gallery in some apps (like SBP) first. If you’re using a different app, look for a similar icon somewhere. Tap this icon.

4. Email the image, including the right text and tags.

When you tap the icon, you should see an option that says “Mail image” or something similar to that. Tap that, and a blank email appears with the image in it. (In some apps, you might have to choose an orientation for the image, so that it’s not upside down.) Here’s how to fill out the email:

To: Start to type the name of the “contact” you made earlier (Twitter, Flickr, etc) until that weird email address pops in.

Subject: This will become the text of your tweet AND the title of the image on Flickr. If you’re at a gathering, this is the place to include the hashtag (like #IFVP2012) so that it will show up in Twitter searches. It’s also nice to go find the Twitter handle of the speaker and include that, too. That way, the speaker sees your notes later, and sometimes retweets you. Just keep the subject short, because the tweet will also include a shortened URL to your Flickr page.

Body: The image is in the body. In addition, any text in the body (including your email signature, so delete that!) will become the photo description in Flickr. I use this space to give more detail about the speaker, the event, or anything special about the notes.

5. Send it!

When you’re satisfied with the text, hit send! Then go peek at Flickr and Twitter to see what happened. You can adjust your next subject and body based on what you see from this first experiment.

Screen Shot of Twitter Posts

That’s it! After you’ve set it up, all you need to do is draw, tap the email button, type in the contact name, add a subject and body, and off it goes! Quick as anything.


Visual Note-taking on the iPad

I did it! I spoke at Macworld|iWorld 2012! Here are my slides, available on Slideshare.net. I had a wonderful and enthusiastic audience who gamely dove in and practiced drawing little icons with me — thank you all! I had a blast.


Online Workshop on Digital Tools for Graphic Recording (from The Grove)


I’m at it again! Tune in for a free, one-hour workshop on digital tools for graphic recording, offered by The Grove Consultants on December 9, 2011, from 12:00-1:00 pm Pacific Time. See original news post on The Grove’s site for more details or to register.

Playing with Doceri

You know how I’m often the one with the nifty new gadget, app, or techie thing? Well, a lot of those come to me from other people. One of the folks that I rely on to have the geekiest new stuff is John Ittelson, and he recently put me on to an iPad app that gets us one step closer to being able to draw in web meetings using our iPads. (Not quite there… but closer.)

The app is called Doceri, and has a partner desktop application (Doceri Desktop) that runs on the computer. Doceri on the iPad talks to Doceri on the computer, and turns the iPad into a remote control for the computer (like Air Display, which I need to revisit again too). You can also switch on annotation mode and draw over any screen — a web page, your email, what have you. Then you can play back your annotations in order.




This is a screen capture of my iPad, showing an annotation that I drew over digitalfacilitation.net. (Killer, I know!)

Doceri’s website has several videos showing some of what the app can do. It’s designed for use by teachers, so a lot of the examples are educational (cool). I’m still in the early stages of playing with it and I haven’t discovered all it can do, yet.

Naturally, one of the first things I tried to do was use it in a way it’s not intended to be used. (I’m either one of the best beta testers in the world, or one of the worst.) I noticed that Doceri had two icons for different monitors, because my laptop was hooked up to an external monitor at the time, so I tapped the icon for the other monitor. Then I opened Sketchbook Pro over there (this is the desktop version, not the iPad version) and tried drawing.




Let’s be clear: I was drawing with my finger, on my iPad, and it was controlling Sketchbook Pro on my Mac laptop. Imagine if I were also in a web conference, sharing my screen. Then I would be drawing in the web conference, using my iPad.

Totally cool.

Of course, it’s not all smooth sailing. If you zoom in to do detail work, you lose track of the palettes, because you’re zooming the whole screen and they get cut off. Also, Doceri’s not made for this kind of work; it has a magnifier so that you can click accurately on small screen bits, and the magnifier partially obscures what you’re drawing as you draw it. I know Doceri makes a special stylus that connects to the iPad, but I don’t have one so I can’t say whether it makes it easier to draw detail work or not.

The next thing I want to try is using the annotation feature to see if it’s easier to do graphic-recording type work with that, rather than through a drawing application. There are different brushes and different colors, and you can zoom (though I don’t know if there are layers), so a lot of my basic must-have features are there.

More research is needed. But I feel that progress has been made toward my quest to graphically record a web meeting using an iPad. Hurrah!

Going to Macworld | iWorld 2012!

Not only am I going, I’m going to be speaking! I’m thrilled to be presenting a Tech Talk about visual recording on the iPad. How awesome is that? Here’s the session description:

Visual Note-Taking on the iPad

The iPad is the perfect tool for digital visual note-taking. Rachel pioneered this practice at Northern Voice, a Canadian blogging conference, just after the first iPad was released, and her visual notes were an instant hit among conference attendees. Bring your iPad loaded with your favorite drawing tool (Rachel prefers Autodesk Sketchbook Pro) to learn how to create beautiful records of meetings, conference sessions, conversations, and ideas that strike while you’re on the train. No prior drawing experience is required — anybody can learn to take visual notes!

Who Should Attend?

Anyone who wants to learn to use an iPad to take visual notes. All you need is an iPad, a drawing app, and a finger.

Attendees Will Learn:

Basic graphic recording techniques on the iPad, including lettering and drawing simple shapes; how to use brush tools, colors, and layers effectively to make note-taking quicker and easier; how to listen for key ideas and record them using text and imagery. If there is time, Rachel will also explain how to record the strokes and create a video of the drawing (a digital Chalk Talk).

So… coming to Macworld | iWorld 2012?

PS – Bigtime thanks to Lynn Kearny for the little prod that made me fill out the submission form!

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!


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 learntoscribe.com.