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Making the most of your graphic recordings: Three Tips

Serendipity. Recently, I spotted one of our largest murals remixed by our client to fit onto one canteen wall. Of course, I had to take a photograph and share that! 😃

The original (measuring 18m x 2m) looked very different and had to be dismantled at the end of the two-day event where it was created. [Stay till the end of this post to find out what that looked like!]

However, it was heartening to see that the client was continuing the memory and conversation with their own reinterpretation of the visual.

In this article, we answer two questions:

  • If you are a client who has hired a graphic recorder to “draw out” ideas at a live meeting, what are some ways you can make the most of having a graphic recorder?
  • As a graphic recorder, what would you need to do to support your client with making the most of graphic recording?

Tip #1: Make sure you have the visual output in high-resolution.

Clients, always request for the visual output to digitised in high resolution

Graphic recorders, always digitise the visual output in high resolution for the client or direct them to options for doing so.

When I say “high resolution,” I mean HIGH resolution. At Picture People Plan, we make sure to provide a digital copy that’s good enough for printing to-scale if the client wants to (and we’re the only visual practitioners who dare make this promise).

Why do we do so? As much as we would like to preserve the originals, sometimes practical logistic considerations don’t allow that, as you can see in the case of the epic 18m x 2m wall, created on wood structures that had to be torn down post-event.

Even if you can keep smaller charts created on more portable surfaces (e.g. paper that you can roll up, A1/A2/A3-size foam boards etc.), it would be unrealistic to expect the condition of the charts to stay mint over time, especially if you continue to use or display them.

Common factors that affect chart conditions include:

  • Damage from handling
  • Colours fading from exposure to harsh lights
  • Chart surface warping or discolouration from harsh lights and/or atmospheric conditions

In an extreme example of damage from handling (#truestory, I assure you), a Client’s videographer accidentally swung his equipment onto a chart while moving his camera set up around what was ample space. There was a permanent crater (and may I add, an accompanying hole) left on the original foam board chart which unfortunately couldn’t be restored perfectly. Thankfully we had good photographs taken of the chart before tragicomedy struck!

Some might consider literally “keeping the originals under wraps” and in storage as a safe alternative. However, that would really defeat the purpose of retaining the originals in the first place, right? Graphic recordings are memories — visual reminders meant to be seen.

Because of this, I consider high-resolution digitisation of charts to be non-negotiable, a must-have — especially if the original charts were created as physical artefacts.

With a good high-res digital copy,

  • You can now digitally share and hashtag your ideas for continued conversations too! Just make sure you save the high-res images as web-resolution before sharing online.
  • You can use the visuals in collaterals and alternative displays like our client had
  • You can incorporate digital edits to the visuals if there’s a need to
  • You can reproduce (e.g. reprint) the visuals in various sizes and formats, as desired. We have had clients miniaturise the visual output into notebook inserts and all that jazz.
In this example, it’s obvious that post-processing makes a HUGE difference to the visual you will be sharing digitally.

Tip #2: The PROCESS of creating the visual output is just as valuable as (if not more valuable than) the visual output itself.

Clients, don’t treat graphic recording as a “live” alternative to studio-based design and illustration work.

Graphic recorders, suggest and show your client-specific ways they can get massive value out of the graphic recording process for their group.

When it comes to in-person, on-site graphic recording work, clients frequently ask, “Where is the best place to place you in the room?” Occasionally, clients even surprise (or shock) the graphic recorder on the event day with changes to where he/she would be stationed. [In one extreme instance, the client tried to get me to move while I was still working on an ongoing session that was at best halfway through… 😱] The latter often betrays an assumption that “graphic recorders are just there to produce the visual output — as long as the work gets done, it doesn’t matter where they are.”

Granted, we may not always have the luxury of physical space at events, which may mean needing to position us at corners of the room where not everyone gets to see what we are doing, as we are doing it. However, the Client and participants will be missing out seriously, if they don’t at least get to observe the process of graphic recording. Yes, even if it’s on the side or from a distance.

We are in the room not just to produce the visual output. We are also there to model active listening and sense-making of the conversations. And these are vital when the conversation gets complex. More than anyone in the room, we live the paradox of being fully involved, yet mostly neutral processors of the conversation.

For clients, if you bothered to invest in a graphic recorder, the last you’d want the participants to think of “the big reveal” is that “that visual must have been created in advance.”

Tip #3: If you can, preserve the ORIGINAL anyway.

Clients, keep the graphic recordings intact as long as you can, for memory’s sake.

Graphic recorders, help clients to best preserve the originals that carry your fingerprint.

In the world of art prints, the original is always worth more than its licensed prints. There can only be one original.

When it comes to graphic recordings, most people apply a similar value system, prizing the original works much higher.

If you can preserve the original graphic recordings, by all means, do it. This may apply more obviously to analogue work done on physical surfaces but can also apply to the working files (“source files”) of digital graphic recordings.

For physical originals, I would still strongly advise that you digitise the visual output (see Tip #1). However, there are many things you can do with the physical originals. Related to Tip #2 about process, you can find the freedom to shape the conversation space at the event, by moving the graphic recordings around for display. That creates an instant water cooler conversation spot!

One Client chose to frame up the original. It did fade after some time because they placed it under (literal) spotlight at their office entrance. But that’s quite easily solved with regular touch-ups, or a quick reprint from the digital file.

For digital source files, it is a good idea to keep them as you’ll never know when you might need to revisit them. A client asked for graphic recordings he had lost from some years back and I managed to get them re-processed for him.

However, while I would keep digital files for myself as a graphic recorder, I would not share the source (working) files with the client. One, the files can be large and complex, requiring specialised software to view. Second, there are questions of whether the client also owns rights to your work processes, and potential abuse of the artwork files (and hence your “authorship”). Although you are not a graphic designer, do like good graphic designers do and keep the source files to yourself, unless the client decides to purchase the source files from you at a reasonable price.

There is nothing quite like owning an original that has soaked in the atmosphere and dynamics of the conversation it captured.

p.s. As promised, here’s how the original mural looked like! Shown is a section of the 18m x 2m wall.

Men and matron in black
[From L to R: Favian Ee from My Fav Art, Huang Kailin from Picture People Plan, and David “Wolfe” Liew from The Sleeping Iron Foundry.]