Practical tips for live graphic recording

When I started out with graphic recording, I worried about how to plan for recording a session or a talk when you have no idea what to expect.  With patience and practise things do get easier – but there are a couple of rules and tips that I’d like to share with you.

1.  Start with the heading

In this example, before the conference started, I created a heading.  I included the logo of the conference (and be sure to get it right – owners feel very emotional about their logos!) and the heading of the session next to it.  I knew that the session was 2,5 hours and experience has taught me that I can cover about 1.5×1.5 meters of space in that time.  Therefore, I added a banner at the top of the page with a tag line, which I checked with the presenters.  I used a “futuristic” font with block characters and framed it with a bright greenish-yellow.

2.  Create a big first picture

As the session started, the presenter mentioned keeping an open mind and I created a big stickman with his head “open” linking into the banner.  They also mentioned “taking a moon shot” and I added that.  From there I started on the left side of the page and added some insights and content in the thought clouds.  I used thought clouds because the meaning is that whatever we think about, we can make.  From there I went down the left of the page and started filling up the space like that.

3. Leave some white space

One of the mistakes I made at the beginning of my career as a visual recorder was to fill up ALL available space as I worked.  That meant that I ran out of space to add additional details later as they emerged from the session.

From the discussion about the colonisation of Mars, the conversation flowed that we need to teach new skills.  I added a school on Mars and captured the ideas that came from the group.  That meant that I added the content to the right of the Mars picture which left me with a white space in the middle of the paper.  This was a good thing because it allowed me to later add a picture of a photograph, which captured a key point.

4. Think about it in sections

The client had told me beforehand that they’d planned to use the graphic in marketing material afterwards.  That meant that I had to plan it carefully so that the final product would be in a shape that could be easily photographed (a rectangle).  It also helps if the various sections are clearly contained so that they can be “cut and pasted” as they are needed.

I ensured that I planned the graphic in 3 “columns”.  In the middle I captured a list of elements and issues that they used as a handout.  At that stage the groups were busy with group work and there was nothing happening that I could capture.  However, seeing that the purpose of the graphic was to market a similar session, I thought it would add value to capture some of the content in the handouts.  It also filled the space nicely.

During the last 30 minutes, they wrapped up the discussion.  Here I focused on creating two big sections to fill up the space and so that the finished graphic would be in a rectangular shape.  A little bit of white space also allowed me to capture the additional content that the presenters shared with me afterwards.