I’m a writer who’s fallen for pictures

Posted by A. Smith on Apr-16-2011
Graphic Facilitation

Image by danielroseca via Flickr

I am the kind of person who very quickly gets sucked into things. For example, the first time a friend e-mailed me a TED Talk (John Wooden on Success), I became an instant fan and added “Attend TED” to my bucket list on the spot. I fall fast and I fall hard.

This was the case nearly a decade ago when I attended an International Conference on Appreciative Inquiry in Miami. Granted I was there to learn about this strength-based methodology, but more than anything I walked away captivated by a process called graphic recording – a visual way of mapping information using words and pictures that are both informative and emotionally engaging.

Graphic recorders are scribes who listen, synthesize, and transcribe information generated in different kinds of group settings such as strategic planning, world café, group dialogue, meetings, etc. It is a way to capture the moment, connect people, organize complex ideas, and uncover themes, among other benefits.

My fascination grew when I attended a three-day branding summit at Green Mountain Coffee Roasters in 2006 and had the opportunity to watch the masterful Diana Arsenian work her visual magic once again. This time, I also had the pleasure of sharing in conversation with Diana over dinner and learned firsthand the power of graphic recording, which is used all over the world and in major corporations.

I have shared my passion for visual recording with many people over the years. And, I have reaffirmed my belief in it, and in using pictures, many times. For example, last year, at SXSW, I attended two sessions that reinforced for me the importance and value of visual thinking. Both are worth sharing:

The reality is, in work and in life, we underuse pictures. Yes, this from a writer. But, this because I think writing and drawing are actually quite similar: both are about listening, distilling, and communicating stories in meaningful ways.

Visual learning engages people, enhances creativity, stimulates emotion, connects ideas, improves decision making, and so forth – and, it’s fun.

So, if you were to peek at my bucket list today, you’d see that along with “Attend TED,” I’ve also added, “Learn graphic facilitation,” to the mix. Picture that.


Here are a couple of fun websites I discovered in writing this post:






I also have to plug my friend Jessica Esch, a fellow Mainer, who uses sketch notes and who is delving into graphic recording:



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  1. Mark Oakes Said,

    Great post, Angela

    I’m currently reading Daniel Pink’s book, ‘Drive’. The book really came alive, however, when a Twitter acquaintence shared the RSA-Animate visual of the book ( http://vimeo.com/13677854 ), the concepts came alive.

    Keep up the good work


  2. Amy Said,

    I love this, Angela. I often literally “draw up” a strategic communications plan using rudimentary boxes and circles and arrows, to make sure all the connections are in place. How fun it would be to learn how to really do it.

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