Each time I go out for a graphic recording assignment, the awe on the faces of the audience reminds me why I love this job. Their beaming smiles and amazement in their eyes when they see us translating their conversations into visual notes in real time make this job a dream come true. You might be wondering how we can do what we do. Some may call it magic, and some may call it talent. We call it a skill, and that is something that can be learnt.

In fact, our intern has been doing just that – learning graphic recording from scratch. Check out our series of social media posts to see his progress. For now, we’re going to pull the curtains aside and let you take a little peek into our world – in this post, we give you insights into our process from start to finish.

Start Here: Brainstorming

Before we tackle any new assignment, we have a brainstorming session with the client. This helps us understand what the assignment is about, the client’s preferences, their branding guidelines, etc. Once the assignment has been understood, we go on to the next step.

Step 2: Topic Research

More likely than not, if you are a professional graphic recorder, you will get assignments to cover events on topics you have never heard of. The topics can range widely, from gender justice, to agricultural sustainability, to social accountability, and many more. That means, you must do some research beforehand, at least to get a rough idea of the key terms and phrases to expect during the event. This helps you build your visual vocabulary in advance. See the sketch below for some examples of topic-relevant icons we have used in the past:

Example icons for graphic recording on topics agricultural sustainability and social accountability

Step 3: Prepare Your Canvas

Now, the key to graphic recording is speed – how fast you can capture the key points – because remember, the graphic needs to be done by the time the meeting is over. One good trick to achieve this is by preparing your canvas in advance. This means preparing the title, colour palette, and placing the logos before the meeting even starts. See the example below.

Step 4: D-Day

It’s time to go and do your magic. A good rule of thumb is to arrive an hour before the session starts for you to get a feel of the room and seating arrangement. This way, you can select a strategic seating position for yourself – where you can easily hear and follow the participants and facilitator. Pro tip: check whether there are power outlets to connect your devices (if you’re using a digital tablet for graphic recording, it’s good to ensure that it doesn’t run out of juice before the meeting is over!).

Once everything is all set, it’s always good to settle your nerves. I have been doing this for almost two years and I still get nervous. You can chat with the client to go over a few things such as the program and any expectations or issues you might have. One key thing that you must do is go to the washroom. You, unfortunately, do not have the luxury to walk out during a session lest you miss out on some important information you might need to capture. If you must go, make sure to have a plan that will enable you not to lose any information. One tip is to set up an audio recorder for you to listen to later and pick up any points you might have missed.

Conclusion: Bonus Tips

One key to graphic recording is the skill of listening. We do not draw everything that is spoken, rather we listen for key points about the conversation taking place. These key points are what we illustrate. The magic happens when we listen, synthesise, and illustrate.

We are able to do that in real time by using simple illustrations or doodles that represent the information we have captured. They can be as easy as drawing stick figures and as complex as drawing detailed cartoons. This all depends on how fast you can draw and how good your artistic skills are. Check out our portfolio to see the diverse styles in our great team.

If you are just starting out, focus more on listening than drawing. The key thing is to summarize what is happening you can’t do that if you are too busy drawing can you? Just like any other skill, to get good at it, you need to practise. You can do this by summarizing podcasts and YouTube documentaries. Once you are done, go relax and enjoy the rest of the day – you have done an amazing job!

There you have it, graphic recording the easy way. If you have found this helpful let us know your thoughts, share your illustrations and tag us on Twitter or LinkedIn. If you are  interested in learning this amazing skill, feel free to contact us!