From the many graphic recording sessions we have done, the audience always seems awestruck by the visual summaries we create, seemingly out of thin air.  One of the most common questions they ask is, “how do you know what to draw and how to arrange it?” I just chuckle and then explain my methodology.

It may appear quite random but there are ways to do it and, in this article, I am going to show you how to capture and space your illustrations evenly across the page. That way, you can maximise your output and make it look appealing.

This is called composition, that is, the arrangement of different elements within a work of art. First things first, start with the heading or session title. Preparing a title beforehand will not only save you time but also help you visualize how the end product will look.

Different heading styles

How to arrange your canvas

Ideally, your graphic recording should provide a flow of information that is sensible to the audience. When planning your canvas, think of who the audience is, what the session’s objectives are, and how they typically interact with information. For example, English speakers will generally read from left to right, going top to bottom. Therefore, you want your illustrations to go with that general flow. But this doesn’t have to completely limit you, as you can apply your creative license by arranging your information in a way to maximise the aesthetic value. In such cases then, it becomes important to guide the eye of your audience so they know how the information flows on your canvas.

Let’s have a look at three different composition styles you can use to achieve this, shall we?

Composition 1: The Centerpiece

The centerpiece involves one large anchor image placed centrally on your canvas, and pockets of information flowing around that image, as in the picture below. Again, for English speakers, this information will flow like a semi-circle from the top left corner to the top right corner. This Composition is ideal to capture a keynote speech or a key discussion topic of impact at the conference.

Centerpiece layout for graphic recording

Composition 2: The Timeline

A second method is using timelines. They will ideally follow a charted path going from left to right. These are ideal for situations where you are capturing a journey or a road map. This can be combined with other composition styles to make it even more appealing and engaging.

Timeline layout for graphic recording

Composition 3: The Pillar

Another common composition style is the Pillar. Just as the name suggests, we arrange information starting with the title at the top, and the information flows downwards. This is mostly ideal if there are different topics, speakers, or sections being captured that are separate but related. See the example below.

Pillar layout for graphic recording

Conclusion

The beauty of graphic recording is that the sky is the limit. Do not feel confined to just these three compositions. Feel free to experiment and innovate with new compositions as you learn. Look at what other graphic recorders are doing. Try out their style or mix it with yours, and you will create something spectacular.

Which of the three pillars are you going to try out first? Share your doodle with us at hello@thinkillustrate.com or tag us on Twitter, LinkedIn, or Instagram.