Scribing is everywhere. Surely you’ve seen evidence of this over the last few years in commercials, on shopping bags and packaging, and even in business, where scribe-style videos have been very popular for the last 5+ years.
So what is it about scribing that people find so appealing? Outside of the context of the business world, where you see examples of scribing unfolding in “real time” to illustrate conversations, presentations, or scripted stories, it exists as static images, too, used to fill spaces with a sense of whimsy and energy.
As a professional graphic facilitator, I believe one of the primary reasons for this fascination is that we are in an increasingly digital environment, where we are becoming further removed from writing with pen and paper, and where we type quickly with our fingers as our primary method of communicating. Scribing is analog creativity in a digital world. It is distinctly human. It’s a return in style to street art like Keith Haring’s, or even going way, way back, to hieroglyphics. We’ve always looked to pictures as a way to capture a thought or a feeling, and in a time when we are exposed to more data and information than ever before, pictures can help make it all a little bit easier to digest.
Participants at meetings and conferences often tell us that they are “mesmerized” by watching our illustrations materialize. There is something inherently fascinating about watching someone do something that you don’t know how to do. The fascination may be enhanced when what you are watching matches and reinforces the content you are hearing. That piece is an important part of the benefit of utilizing this art form during a meeting: it’s not only entertaining but it serves as a way to solidify what was previously only an auditory experience. We know that people have different learning styles, and by layering in a visual element during these conversations, we are expanding the reach of the content and hopefully improving the experience for everyone. Another remark we hear from our clients regularly: “You look like you are having fun! Do you love your work? You must have the coolest job ever!” (I am, I do, and yes, I may!)
When doing this work, we often hear the question: “What exactly do you call this?” Although many people use terms for this practice interchangeably, there are important distinctions.
Scribing, or Graphic Recording, is the art of capturing the key themes of a conversation, and representing them visually back to the group. The scribe seeks to summarize the discussion or presentation to provide a visual artifact that may be displayed or shared after a meeting or conference. Scribing may be used to visually summarize a rehearsed speech or TED Talk (see CN’s examples here!), which means that although the scribing is occurring in real-time, a lot of importance is placed on the visual appeal of the finished product.
Graphic Facilitation is the art of capturing the salient points from a discussion and modeling them visually, often in “real time”. The graphic facilitator organizes the group’s contributions, highlights and themes, and may create models or frameworks to help structure the work. This approach may be more interactive than scribing; the graphic facilitator may engage the group with the work they are doing on the wall, to help ensure that the end result best reflects the discussion and any agreements made. The primary goal of the graphic facilitator is to move group work forward, so the emphasis is on what the scribing enables the group to do.
Both graphic facilitation and scribing enhance the overall impact of a meeting, work group or conference by generating a dynamic and engaging visual representation of what is presented or discussed.
We believe that Graphic Facilitation skills can be learned, and have a place in the business world. Having these valuable creative skills can really help organizations be more effective in many contexts, from product development to sales to strategic planning, and beyond. Every company can benefit from having employees that are comfortable getting up out of their seats and grabbing the marker in the conference room. Not everyone will become an artist, but anyone can improve their effectiveness on a white board wall or flip chart with a little effort and some help learning the basics of legible handwriting, simple iconography, and ways to create visual frameworks and models.
As it turns out, many in the business world have already come to this conclusion as well. Several of our clients have asked us if we would help teach them how to do what we do. We are currently running small training sessions called “Graphic Facilitation Boot Camp.” These sessions have, by all accounts, been wildly successful.
We recently had an opportunity engage with our friends at Idea Paint—with whom we share a deep passion for collaboration and creativity—to bring our Graphic Facilitation Boot Camp to some of their customers. In partnership with Idea Paint, we spent a day exploring Graphic Facilitation concepts and techniques with a team of designers at Involution Studios, a Boston-area company specializing in UX and UI design with a focus on the healthcare industry.
Over the next several weeks, we’ll be showcasing our recent experiences helping some of our clients learn these critical creative skills. We’ll share some of what we learned and hear directly from our participants at Involution Studios, as well. Stay tuned for more!
- Keith Haring in the subway - http://theredlist.com/wiki-2-24-525-970-975-view-1980s-6-profile-keith-haring.html
- Gymboree shopping bag - http://www.gymboree.com
- H&M storefront display illustrations - Downtown Crossing, Boston, MA
- Canvas lunch bag - Oakland, CA
- Involution Studios Graphic Facilitation Boot Camp participants