Graphic facilitation: capturing words in the air

Now more than ever before, with a constant flow of inputs, we need to record information that concerns us. Organisations face a tough challenge in the current work environment. And all it takes is an open window (Slack, Zoom, Teams, etc.) to pull our attention in a different direction.

One method to address this issue (in addition to filtering and closing parasitic channels) is known as 'graphic facilitation', or notes augmented with drawings. It seems suspiciously simple.

However, there is no doubting the results: drawings can be memorised three times more rapidly than text. Producing drawings yourself also increases this effect and they do not need to be "well executed" (see Ref. #1). By using the channels that our brains respond to best, you can capture people's attention.    

Graphic facilitation covers several areas  

It can be divided into the following: 

  • Scribing, or visual recording, captures oral content by recording it live through writing and drawings;


  • Sketchnoting means augmenting text notes with drawings, in an individual manner;
  • Modelling aims to take data that is already known and structure it into a written and drawn document
  • Talking and drawing involves making an oral presentation and sketchnoting at the same time. 


OK, but what is it for?  

We already have many tools at our disposal, including meetings, workshops, presentations, conferences and more.  But using graphic facilitation is something different. The complexity of ideas to be expressed means we need to invent something new, while getting back to basics. We have all endured meetings that seem to go on forever, with too many details provided at the wrong time. Or workshops where, under the guise of encouraging participation, entire pads of post-its are stuck to the walls, or where the tedious reading of painstakingly written reports could have been avoided. None of the people trying to get this information across wanted these results. 

Graphic facilitation offers an approach that is both fun and provides structure. It enables us to engage the channels our brains respond to best, capture attention and provoke thought. Participation and the memorisation of information presented will naturally follow.   

The universality of this practice is also its strength: you do not need to be a Da Vinci to do it. The drawing ability of a five-year-old is easily enough. I have met very few facilitators (if none at all!) who are designers as I am. They are agile coaches, project managers, developers or UX designers, for example. Actually doing it can be scary though. For me, as a graphic designer, the main barriers I had to overcome were to let go of my work and avoid being too demanding of myself. The rest is all about training and structure: once you have learnt how to write legibly, draw shapes that are simple and provide structure, and listen actively, the hard work is done.    

One of the essential parts of graphic facilitation is the ability to tell stories and, as you do it, you realise that anything can be used to do this: a story has a beginning, a middle and an end. The way in which we structure our words, our speeches and our presentations is no different. Once you identify the underlying hierarchy in any structured speech, applying simple images to it is child's play. The resulting physical material becomes valuable, fun, organic and inspiring again (and it can be shared and re-explained).   (Tempted? So why not come and try! A caring community) 

(And now/Some references/Visual food and entertainment)    (see Ref. #2 #3 #4 #5 #6).    References  #1?Association for Psychological Science (APS). (2018). For Learning, Drawing a Picture May Really Be Worth a Thousand Words. Found online, on the APS website at  #2 @romaincouturier  #3 @Jan_Gunter  #4 @UnPictoParJour  #5 playability_de  #6