Monday, 6 January 2014

Graphic Facilitation & Recording Skills for Absolute Beginners - PART 2

Hello and welcome to the second part of my workshop-blog, ‘Graphic Facilitation for Absolute Beginners’. At the end of Part 1, I asked you to think of something that has inspired or motivated you. Perhaps you would like to share this in the comments below; if it has a visual element I’d be interested to see it.

For my part I’d like to share something that inspired me many years ago when I was a design student and still continues to influence me today. This is a diagram / graphic created in the early 1970’s by Victor Papanek for his famous book, ‘Design for the Real World’.
Designer and educator Victor Papanek (1927-1999) was a strong advocate of the socially and ecologically responsible design of products and tools. He disapproved of manufactured products that were unsafe, showy, maladapted, or essentially useless. His products, writings, and lectures were considered an example and spur by many designers, and he was an untiring eloquent promoter of social and ecological design. (Wikipedia)

I have a large poster sized version of the graphic copied from an original poster using a blueprinting machine (an early photocopying system). As students, we were encouraged to add to the original with our own thoughts and with quotes that we had read. My copy has been covered in ideas and links over the years. For me, the style and process embodied in the graphic is the source of my approach to graphic facilitation and recording.

So what are graphic facilitation and recording? Facilitation is enabling others to plan, take responsibility and assume leadership. Recording and facilitation can be used closely together or stand apart as separate activities. But let’s start with some simpler questions: What are graphics? Where do we see them? How are they used?

I’m sure you have lots of answers. In live workshops I ask participants to call out their answers and I record them on a flip-chart like this:

As I said in part 1, graphics are all around us. Many of them are sophisticated designs, others are simple line drawings. The common factor in all of them is that one way or another they are being used to communicate something. In graphic facilitation and recording it is exactly the same; written words and simple images combined to communicate ideas being discussed, explained or promoted – a graphic language.

Graphic language is a powerful tool when used to facilitate or record meetings. Participation, creativity, understanding and focus are stimulated as key ideas are captured directly in words and pictures.

The display provides a visual record and group memory that can help to clarify differences, misunderstandings, aspirations and dreams, and encourage the group to define goals.

Graphic recording can be a helpful tool to support and facilitate the work of all sorts of groups working on all types of projects or problems. Examples include business meetings, events, project planning, conferences, person-centred planning, teaching and training.

The Key Skills

Anyone can learn to be a graphic facilitator / recorder. The biggest block that people have is the fear of drawing – the belief that you can’t do it; that it won’t be good enough.

IT DOESN’T MATTER – It doesn’t have to be “good”. And you can do it!

Drawing Basic Shapes
This is an exercise that is best done using a large sheet of paper, taped to a wall, and a marker pen. Make sure the pen will not bleed through onto the wall; if necessary, double up the paper.

Before doing the exercise it’s a good idea to limber up – do a few simple warm-up exercises – move around a bit and do some stretches. I’d recommend doing this before starting any scribing work.

Now stand, relaxed, facing square on to the paper and, using your whole body (not just your hand and arm) make some large vertical lines.

 Draw BIG, bend your knees, flex your spine – BE BOLD!

Now, draw horizontal lines like this;

Don’t worry that your lines are not very straight. Do some wavy ones, if you want. Just keep practicing drawing BIG.

Draw some diagonal lines: 

Next I want you to draw squares and rectangles – lots of them, all different sizes…..

And now some triangles….

Finally, some circles, ovals and perhaps spirals….

Everything you need to draw consists of these lines and shapes:

The greatest proportion of what you do when you are scribing is writing. You need all these lines and shapes for lettering. You will need to practice writing larger than you are normally used to and very legibly.

As you progress you will learn to draw specific images which at this time, if you have seen some graphic facilitators’ work, you might think consist of much more sophisticated shapes. In reality, they all consist of modifications and combinations of these simple lines and shapes. When you are scribing there isn’t time for anything more complex and it isn’t necessary. You have to be able to work quickly. To be able to do this you will need to practice, but we’ll come back to that later.

The most important skill to learn is how to LISTEN.
Listening includes understanding all the ways people communicate; the way they speak, their tone of voice, use of eye contact, gestures, signs, facial expressions and body language.
Listening also includes checking out what you have heard; making sure you understand and can interpret it.

When you are facilitating you need to let people see that you are listening – use your body language; make eye contact, have an open posture, lean towards people, respond by nodding, etc. – then….

Draw the words and images

Check it out – ASK if it’s right –

This builds trust within the group you are working with and confidence in your role.
BE PRESENT – Listen – Draw – Don’t Judge – BE THERE for everyone.

In the next part of ‘Graphic Facilitation and Recording Skills for Absolute Beginners’ we will delve a bit deeper into the key skills and do some more exercises. In the meantime, if you have any questions, please feel free to ask them in the comments box below. I will get back to you as soon as I can.



  1. Nice piece, like the shading in your work. Great to see some Graphic Facilitation focused on being present in the meeting and listening to people.

    1. Hello Pete. Thanks for the positive comments.

  2. Hi! Nice work. :)
    How can I subscribe to this blog?

    1. Hi April, Thanks for the positive comment. I've added the subscription link in now (top right).