Friday, 18 April 2014

Graphic Facilitation & Recording Skills for Absolute Beginners Part 4

In Part 3, I covered “interpreting” what you hear in meetings, etc., into a readable visual format, giving the ideas and thoughts expressed some meaning and, ultimately, enhancing that meaning for the people you are working with. Then I introduced a practical exercise in “learning to see”.

The point about learning to see is so that you can develop the ability to draw simple images from your imagination to match the discussions you are recording. Each time you do you can add the image to the vocabulary of images that you use. However, it is worth developing, at least a small vocabulary of things to draw before you first start. I have found it useful to carry a little notebook or sketchpad of these to refer to. You can arrange these however you like depending on what works for you; it could be alphabetical or grouped in subjects, etc. Note though that everything you draw subsequently may need to be modified in line with what you hear from the people you are working with – it’s their images you need to listen for and draw, not yours.

Let’s have a look at some basic images you might need:
Firstly, some iconography and organising shapes; these are the images you use to highlight the pieces of information you distil from the conversation and to make connections. The classic source for these, and used in many different areas of graphic design, is the world of comics.

Here’s an example of how a conversation might develop and be recorded using some of these shapes:

This is just one example of the many formats that may be used to record a discussion or talk.

Now let’s have a look at drawing people. Almost every discussion you facilitate or record will be about or involve people. Inevitably you will need to include imagery of people. Some clever (and fast working) artists may be able to draw likenesses or cartoons of specific individuals, but most of the time all that’s needed is to be able to represent people simply and succinctly. A stick man and a label can be all that’s required to identify an individual.

‘Star-people’ and other simple images can be useful to give the graphic more impact and you can create your own versions as your style develops.

Faces and expressions can enhance the work in many situations:

Circle faces can be used to characterize specific individuals. Here’s a fun exercise to do to practice this.

In Pairs: Personalising a face – Observe your partner’s face; pick out character features and draw onto a circle face. THIS IS NOT PORTRAITURE....getting a likeness is not important; just record some things that identify the person.

Objects and buildings - Here are some common images that can be your starting point (I’ve used clipart for these):

Before we have a look at lettering, a word or two about colour. Colour can be used to connect ideas, give meaning, represent identity and express moods and emotions. Multi-coloured charts can look terrific, but often it’s a good idea to plan ahead and restrict your palette to just a few colours. This is especially true if you have an idea beforehand what the meeting will be about. You can then make some design decisions before you start about, for example, what type of idea/subject/level of importance each colour may represent.

Deep colours that can easily be seen are best for imagery and writing; light colours are best for highlighting, for tone, shading and fills, and for shadows.

Each colour can represent a different mood or feeling; colours towards the red end of the spectrum tend to enhance ideas of heat, passion and excitement, while those towards the blue end are calmer and cooler. You might like to think about all the colours you will be using and identify the moods they could represent for yourself.

Be careful about how you use the colour BLACK. It’s fine for outlines and basic drawing, but if it’s used as a fill or shading, it can give the graphic a dark, somber or depressive feel.

And now, Words and Lettering; this isn’t just writing. For one thing, you will be ‘drawing’ words quite a lot larger than you are normally used to. Like the imagery, the words you write have to communicate the ideas arising in the discussion and must be legible. At the same time you have to work fast to keep up with the discussion. So there is a play off between writing as fast as you can while making your writing as legible as possible. It also needs to engage the participants.

Keep it legible! 
                    Make it exciting!
      Work fast!!

There are many different styles of lettering you could use, so long as you choose ones that you can execute clearly and quickly. You may want to create a distinctive style for yourself, but this must not overpower the graphic and is, perhaps, best restricted to headings and titles. The more you practice, the more you will learn how to keep everything balanced.

Use colour in lettering creatively and sensitively, keeping to the guidelines I mentioned above. Most of the writing will be like this, so a single black or deep colour pen is all that’s needed. I prefer ones with a bullet shaped nib for this. Usually you will only use styled lettering for emphasis, headings, titles, etc. Here you can use more colour and create artistic lettering. Those that need the most emphasis probably need to be in capital letters; others can be mixed upper and lower case lettering. Mostly you will be writing and drawing directly as a record of the event – you will need to write clearly (printing is best) and quickly – try to draw images as much as you can rather than just writing words, but you will need both.
These are a few examples of lettering styles often seen in graffiti, chalkboard signs and cartoons. It includes 3D effects such as dropped shadows and block 3D letters which follow the same principles as drawing 3D objects; shading, shadows and surface reflections. We didn’t look at surface reflections in the ‘learning to see’ section, but I challenge you to discover how these appear for yourself. Take time to study examples of graffiti and cartoon art to see how the artists create these effects and try copying them.

In the next part I’ll cover putting together all that you have learned so far. I’ll also talk about templates designed for specific types of meetings. In the meantime, try to find opportunities to practice; doodle in meetings or do some graphic recordings of videos such as TED talks or lectures.

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