Creativity

Secrets Revealed: Tools of the Trade

Have you ever seen a graphic recorder holding approximately 15 markers at once while capturing content at an event?  Where did they even GET markers that big? And what are they doing with that crazy squeeze bottle thing?

Today I’d like to share some of my favorite tools of the trade for working on paper, whiteboards, or digital scribing. Curious about when and why to draw on paper vs. using a computer for creative work? Here’s a post with my thoughts for you!

conversketch-neuland-micron-markers

Paper or foam board: The surface I work on most is paper, and my go-to markers are the remarkable, re-fillable Neulands. They have wonderful chisel, brush, and round tips (which can be replaced when they get too soft), and come in regular and extra large sizes. They are water based and don’t smell, and even offer a black Outliner which won’t smear or blend with other colors. Very much my favorite markers!

When working on paper, I also really enjoy using chalk pastels to blend and add a soft, artistic swath of color.

When sketchnoting or working in a notebook, I love Micron pens in different sizes, which dry waterproof and are pleasing to write or draw with. While not refillable, they last a long time and are quality ink.

conversketch-markers-pilot

Whiteboards: A new find for me has been Pilot whiteboard markers. Also refillable, the colors are decent and the chisel tips are solid.

conversketch-microsoft-surface-pro-4-sketchbook

Digital: Most of the graphic recorders I know use an iPad Pro and the Procreate app to do quality digital work, but for now I’m enjoying using my Surface Pro 4 and the pen that comes with it using Autodesk’s Sketchbook Pro. The customizable brushes and colors are top-notch, and the tool isn’t as complicated as Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator, although the Surface has the edge over the iPad as it can run full Adobe programs smoothly. Using a tablet to scribe can be useful for studio jobs which end up with lots of changes, or for projecting large-scale on a screen for large groups at events.

What are your favorite tools to draw or create art? Let me know in the comments below!

Once again, thank you from my heart and soul for your support, great senses of humor, brilliant minds, collaboration and what you're each doing to make the world a better place.

Cheers, Karina

Want to see those tools in action for your project?

 

Where in the World is ConverSketch?

 Salt Lake City: Graphic facilitating a retreat for a team of researchers for a new series of illustrated videos. We did a scoping retreat to brainstorm and refine ideas for the stories we’ll translate into their videos in the coming months.

Salt Lake City: Graphic facilitating a retreat for a team of researchers for a new series of illustrated videos. We did a scoping retreat to brainstorm and refine ideas for the stories we’ll translate into their videos in the coming months.

 Fort Collins: With the Environmental Defense Fund, graphic recording a systems thinking retreat focused on habitat for Monarch Butterflies in the mid-west US.

Fort Collins: With the Environmental Defense Fund, graphic recording a systems thinking retreat focused on habitat for Monarch Butterflies in the mid-west US.

So You Think You Can't Draw. I beg to Differ.

It’s been a crackling fall here at ConverSketch HQ, but I can’t wait to share this with you…the 100th Piano has found it’s way to a final home for the winter in the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery! You can find it in the section displaying Fort Collins’ history, and perhaps play a little tune!

karina-branson-100th-piano-about-town-fort-collins

One of the things I often hear when I whip out my markers and start scribing is “I could never draw like that.” I typically fire back the following response: “When was the last time you practiced?”

In anything, talent is certainly a factor, but something I believe many of us write off is the importance of practicing consistently. Would you run a marathon without training? Probably not!

I have never found drawing people to be particularly easy to do, but this year I’ve set out to improve my speed and creativity when drawing more detailed people. I DO love squiggle and bean-shape people  and there’s an enormous amount of information you can convey with even a simple human figure.

And, if you’re interested in learning to draw other things, check out almost any of my blog posts to learn how to do a quick sketch of something new. Don’t see what you want to learn to draw? Shoot me a message to let me know what you’d like to see!

Once again, thank you from my heart and soul for your support, great senses of humor, brilliant minds, collaboration and what you're each doing to make the world a better place.

Cheers, Karina

Where in the World is ConverSketch?

   Graphic Facilitation    for the National Snow and Ice Data Center:  NSIDC is a repeat graphic facilitation client who I was delighted to hear has kept their strategic illustration from 2013 up on the walls to remind them of their shared vision, goals and the roadmap to get there.

Graphic Facilitation for the National Snow and Ice Data Center: NSIDC is a repeat graphic facilitation client who I was delighted to hear has kept their strategic illustration from 2013 up on the walls to remind them of their shared vision, goals and the roadmap to get there.



  Technology and Higher Education at Metro State:  Creating a Story Map of the outcomes of a Teaching and Learning with Technology Symposium where teams shared prototypes and offered feedback to leverage tech to enhance learning in higher education.

Technology and Higher Education at Metro State: Creating a Story Map of the outcomes of a Teaching and Learning with Technology Symposium where teams shared prototypes and offered feedback to leverage tech to enhance learning in higher education.



  Leadership Declarations in Virginia:  A curious challenge posed by this foundation client who wanted to give each participant the visual capture of their personal Leadership Declaration. The challenge? Fellows were leaving immediately following the session and needed to be able to travel with their drawings, so here’s what we came up with!

Leadership Declarations in Virginia: A curious challenge posed by this foundation client who wanted to give each participant the visual capture of their personal Leadership Declaration. The challenge? Fellows were leaving immediately following the session and needed to be able to travel with their drawings, so here’s what we came up with!

  Optics Innovation in Austin:  Thinking critically about what the future could hold and how the eye care industry will navigate a swiftly changing landscape.

Optics Innovation in Austin: Thinking critically about what the future could hold and how the eye care industry will navigate a swiftly changing landscape.

Here's What I've Noticed About Great Leaders Across Sectors

One thing I love about my job is getting a unique slice of trends and conversations across sectors. In the past two weeks, I’ve had the pleasure of graphic recording and facilitating with a county government, a national foundation, a private tech giant, and a non-profit conservation organization (yes, I slept for the entire long weekend afterwards).

Some of the conversations these groups had were difficult – that’s often the case when groups have the courage to move beyond the same old ideas they’ve always had. These conversations have potential to be transformative…or not.

What can make the difference?

I’ve noticed that when leaders approach the conversation in a defensive way, that shuts folks down. But if they come in with two ears wide open and a humble mind, the results can be remarkable!

Often people are frustrated or critical because they don’t feel heard, so when leaders and decision-makers put themselves in a space of listening, then thinking about solutions, tension and hostility shift to tenacity to find a path forward together.

If you want to read more about listening...I've written about how to improve here, storylistening here, and different levels of listening here.

Once again, thank you from my heart and soul for your support, great senses of humor, brilliant minds, collaboration and what you're each doing to make the world a better place.

Cheers, Karina

Where in the World is ConverSketch?

From Adams County Children and Family Services in Denver, to the Buffet Early Childhood Foundation in Omaha, to Adobe in San Jose, to the Environmental Defense Fund in Fort Collins, August was buzzing! Here are a few highlights:

And speaking of buzzing…we also harvested honey from our beehive this weekend. Labor Day, indeed, but the rewards are sweet!

What Every Event Organizer Wants to Hear & How to Make it Happen

No matter what your job is, there’s a good chance you’ve had to organize some sort of meeting. And if you haven’t, you probably will. Whether it’s a regular small-team meeting or a massive annual conference, there’s often a lot more work put into organizing a well-run event.

So, first of all, for all you event organizers out there, I raise a glass to you and all the work behind-the-scenes or otherwise un-thanked you do!

Next, if you’re organizing a meeting/gathering/convening/conference/event/show, I want to give you something. Have you ever heard someone at an event you organized say something like…

“This was unforgettable!”

“This was the BEST conference I’ve ever attended!”

“I got SO MUCH out of that meeting!”

“I can’t WAIT to use what I learned with the rest of my team!”

...or even a simple “THANK YOU!”

These are just a few things you, as an organizer may be yearning to hear or overhear. Why? Those things mean your participants felt valued, saw something from a new perspective, that they were present and engaged, and that you’ve helped them do their jobs or live their lives better. And while there are heaps of ways you can create an event that is meaningful and participants love, I’ve got one sure-fire way to get people fired up (in a good way).

Bring in a graphic recorder.

Having someone visually scribing the content, listening for connections, or even for what’s not being said can catapult participants from looking at their phone screens under the table, to wondering how their ideas can be incorporated into the mural being created. Seeing visual summaries of conversations and discussions moves groups from “My idea” to “Our vision” and “Actions I can take”. It can give them tangible stepping stones to take what they learned and move forward, or help unravel a previously complex and mystifying topic.

So, the next time your team is starting to plan an important event, consider a graphic recorder, facilitator or scribe to support your participants, honor their time, and help them do the best thinking they can.

learn-to-draw-a-crowd-conversketch

Once again, thank you from my heart and soul for your support, great senses of humor, brilliant minds, collaboration and what you're each doing to make the world a better place.

Cheers, Karina

Want to hear “You’re the BEST organizer I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with!” from your clients? Let’s talk about blowing their minds!

Where in the World is ConverSketch?

  Turning Dull Trainings into Delightful Drawings:  The US Forest Service has to deal with a lot of challenging situations; if you live in the Western US, you probably know about the prolific wildfires this year. But did you also know the USFS is responsible for hazardous waste spills and clean up? I’m working to help explain the complexity of Spill Response Coordinators and how they work with other agencies when things get leaky. Here's a chart from the initial brainstorming session I facilitated.

Turning Dull Trainings into Delightful Drawings: The US Forest Service has to deal with a lot of challenging situations; if you live in the Western US, you probably know about the prolific wildfires this year. But did you also know the USFS is responsible for hazardous waste spills and clean up? I’m working to help explain the complexity of Spill Response Coordinators and how they work with other agencies when things get leaky. Here's a chart from the initial brainstorming session I facilitated.

  Digital Scribing for ShapingEDU : Last spring I attended the ASU UnConference for on the future of higher education, technology, and meaningful learning for students. I'm in awe of how the organizers have carried the incredible energy of the 100+ participants forward into monthly video calls with participants from around the world on topics from the in-person event. The engagement was astounding, and I got to do live digital scribing while screen-sharing!

Digital Scribing for ShapingEDU: Last spring I attended the ASU UnConference for on the future of higher education, technology, and meaningful learning for students. I'm in awe of how the organizers have carried the incredible energy of the 100+ participants forward into monthly video calls with participants from around the world on topics from the in-person event. The engagement was astounding, and I got to do live digital scribing while screen-sharing!

  Editing Cave:  Working on the final video for the Wildfire Risk Management Science Team, who use advanced mapping tools to help managers and responders make safer and more effective decisions about when and where to mitigate a wildfire.

Editing Cave: Working on the final video for the Wildfire Risk Management Science Team, who use advanced mapping tools to help managers and responders make safer and more effective decisions about when and where to mitigate a wildfire.

How do You Paint what Makes A Community Unique?

You’ve probably seen some cryptic emails from me over the past few weeks about a surprise project I was working on. I’m delighted now to share it with you all, along with a special behind-the-scenes look at what went into the design.

On August 2nd, to the sweet sounds of the Hazel Miller Band, the 100th Piano About Town was officially unveiled as a part of our community! And yep, you guessed it, I was the lucky artist to get to paint it!

100th-piano-fort-collins

The typical piano process includes a request for proposals from artists sketched out, which are then reviewed and selected for painting outside where passers by can watch the piano unfolding and sometimes even play while it’s being painted.

For the 100th Piano, the Bohemian Foundation wanted to do something a little different and include voices across the community. Enter: a graphic facilitator to conduct and capture focus groups to gather ideas for the piano content.

I listened to people answering the question “What makes Fort Collins unique?”: from seniors to second graders at summer camp to young professionals to those who represent diverse groups at university to musicians. I listened, captured, asked questions, and scribed each group’s conversations.

100th Piano Fort Collins BaseCamp Kids Graphic Facilitation Chart

Then, I took all the charts and began looking for themes. What places did each group bring up? What characteristics make our community special? Then, I sketched out a concept design to gather feedback and refine before painting the piano itself.

This was, to me, the most challenging part of the whole process. How do you distill over five hours of stories, memories, and connections into a single illustration? That’s where the scribe training of listening for themes, distillation and synthesis really shone in this process. It was important to me to make sure all the ideas were included, that key words emerged throughout the imagery, and most of all, that when anyone from the community looks at the piano, they see themselves somewhere in it.

100th piano draft sketch_conversketch

The painting took place inside so it would be a fun, beautiful surprise when it was unveiled at a free concert series last week. Over 12 days, the landscape, people, and stories emerged!

day-1-piano-ready-karina
karina-branson-100th-piano-fort-collins-painting-artist

Want to tickle the ivories and see it for yourself? The 100th Piano will be in Old Town Square for a couple more weeks, then will live in the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery for the winter.

100th-piano-old-town-square-fort-collins-colorado

For more musings on pianos and creativity, check out this post.

Once again, thank you from my heart and soul for your support, great senses of humor, brilliant minds, collaboration and what you're each doing to make the world a better place.

Cheers, Karina

Where in the World is ConverSketch?

 

  On My Way to New York, New York!  This week is the first of three meetings between multiple academic groups and the Mayor of NYC to create models and plans for storm water management and sea level rise in the City of New York. Stay tuned, or check out my  Instagram  profile and story for real-time videos and pictures.

On My Way to New York, New York! This week is the first of three meetings between multiple academic groups and the Mayor of NYC to create models and plans for storm water management and sea level rise in the City of New York. Stay tuned, or check out my Instagram profile and story for real-time videos and pictures.

  In the Studio:   Working on the third Wildfire Risk Management Science Team illustrated video. This third video focuses on challenges of fires that cross management boundaries, and mapping tools the Team uses to make recommendations for safer and more effective fire management.

In the Studio: Working on the third Wildfire Risk Management Science Team illustrated video. This third video focuses on challenges of fires that cross management boundaries, and mapping tools the Team uses to make recommendations for safer and more effective fire management.

I'm Up to Something.

I’m up to something. And I really can’t tell you about it yet, because it’s top secret. But I CAN tell you about it in August, and if you’re in Northern Colorado, I’ll be sharing some details later this summer.

And although I can’t say much this week, here are a few things my graphic recording clients are saying:

Your work brought an element of clarity and action that I haven’t seen with this group in 10 years.
— Michael Wade Smith, University of Kansas
We have the chart you made two years ago and we hang it up at every quarterly meeting to remind us of our goals and where we want to go!
— CSU College of Liberal Arts
Your work helped transform a group of people who did not know how to talk to each other, or even really hear each other, into a plan for collaborative action. Thank you so much!
— Kate Brown, Ph.D.
The day was a success and we have you to thank! Your work was all anybody talked about the entire 30-minute bus ride.
— JBA Communications
You aren’t just an artist, you are a designer of stories.
— Tonya Malik-Carson, Colorado State University
conversketch-learn-to-draw-secrets-graphic-recording-scribe

Want more secrets? Try this on business from the desert, these from visual thought leaders, and this one for creativity.

Once again, thank you from my heart and soul for your support, great senses of humor, brilliant minds, collaboration and what you're each doing to make the world a better place.

Cheers, Karina

Want people to be saying these kinds of things at your next event or meeting?

Where in the World is ConverSketch?

Detroit: Last week I headed up north and was pleasantly surprised by my first trip to Detroit. Working with Together for Safer Roads for their annual meeting, I learned about the science and partnerships that save lives on the road.

Fort Collins: Celebrating achievements and looking to the future of Liberal Arts at Colorado State University.

How to Explain the Value of the Graphic Recorder to the Folks Making the $$$ Decisions

Are you planning an event that you think could use some graphic recording, but the decision isn’t up to just you? Here’s a few ways you can help your team or leadership understand why it’s a great idea to get visual.

Start Planning Early: We all know there’s a million ways to spend an event budget. Make sure to reach out to your visual partner early on so you can be sure to have engaging, thought-provoking visuals to support your group!

Thought Partner: Find a visual practitioner who can help you understand your options about what’s possible and will help you craft custom elements and even processes that will make the most of your time together.

Science Rules: Graphic recording and facilitation isn’t just mesmerizing and fun, there’s a heap of science behind why it works! For example, did you know that the brain processes a visual 60,000 times faster than text (Semetko & Scammell, 2012)? Here’s a blog I wrote about the science behind graphic recording. And here’s a list of my favorite resources online and published, and if you want to geek out even more, ask me about my master’s thesis work around using graphic recording to help communicate complex science.

Money Matters: …and not just the operating budget for the event. Think of the value of the time (and salary!) of each person in the room. Why WOULDN’T you pull in someone who can help you make the most of your participants’ time? Bringing in a graphic facilitator to design a custom-tailored process or capture content visually can support your people as they make connections more quickly, think big, and collaboratively!

learn-to-draw-cash-money-graphic-recording-conversketch

Once again, thank you from my heart and soul for your support, great senses of humor, brilliant minds, collaboration and what you're each doing to make the world a better place.

Cheers, Karina

Now you’ve got ‘em all convinced, let’s talk about your event!

Where in the World is ConverSketch?

  Boulder:  Working with startups and seasoned executives in the optics business to co-create and brainstorm ways to foster success on the leading edge of the industry. Thanks to  Sanitas Advisors  for the photo!

Boulder: Working with startups and seasoned executives in the optics business to co-create and brainstorm ways to foster success on the leading edge of the industry. Thanks to Sanitas Advisors for the photo!

  Windsor:  Supporting the Town Board and municipal leadership as they envision and plan for their future!

Windsor: Supporting the Town Board and municipal leadership as they envision and plan for their future!

We Had A Kickass Retreat. Now What Do We Do with Those Drawings?

You pulled it off.

The right people in the room, excellent process design, a location that stimulated creativity and collaboration, excellent food. You even had a graphic recorder visually capture the conversations for you, which captivated participants and helped them see connections and build ownership of the ideas generated. The retreat. Was. Amazing. Everyone left feeling energized, with clear direction and shared understanding about where you’re headed and why.

Now what?

Aside from a cold beverage to celebrate pulling off such a stellar event, you know that you’ve got to figure out a way to keep participants motivated and energized after the retreat. How can you make sure they don’t get distracted with the day-to-day urgency of their work, and are able to keep the clear vision and energy front-of-mind?

Lucky for you, when the retreat is over, my job isn’t. The visual charts that are created are incredibly useful during, and also after the event. That’s why I create a custom list of suggestions to use the charts after the event, tailored to each of my clients’ needs and goals.  

And today I’m going to give you a sneak peek into what goes into them. A huge shout out to Lisa Arora for the framework I’m about to share.

4 P's of using a graphic recording chart after the event

Once again, thank you from my heart and soul for your support, great senses of humor, brilliant minds, collaboration and what you're each doing to make the world a better place.

Cheers, Karina

Want to get more ideas for how to use your charts after an event? Let’s put your visual meeting notes into action for your organization!

Cheers!

Where in the World is ConverSketch?

 In the Studio: Filming videos for the National Park Service and US Forest Service about climate change and wildfire risk planning. Things are heating up around here!

In the Studio: Filming videos for the National Park Service and US Forest Service about climate change and wildfire risk planning. Things are heating up around here!

 Albuquerque: To graphic record for a women’s health mentorship program. Looking forward to  cactus  and desert vibes.

Albuquerque: To graphic record for a women’s health mentorship program. Looking forward to cactus and desert vibes.

How to Get People So Excited to Participate in Your Event They’ll Be Talking About It for Weeks

There’s this thing I’ve noticed about people: we love ourselves. Now, wait a minute, just hear me out on this one, okay?

Even if you’re the most generous, self-aware, kind and thoughtful person, you will almost certainly get a kick out of seeing yourself as a little roughly drawn character, especially if you get to watch while it’s drawn. And if we get to see how our experiences and stories compare to those around us, we get even more interested.

Last week I created a Story Wall for the Arizona State University Unconference on the future of learning in a digital age. During happy hour, I talked with about 100 people about when they first became involved with digital learning and drew their stories for them while they watched. It was rapid-fire with people clustered around, waiting to have their story captured and perhaps a picture drawn. It was messy and unfiltered.

Everybody loved it.

I heard things like “You learned that software program too?! Do you remember…” Old friends and new friends were standing shoulder to shoulder, watching and chatting.  And it wasn’t just during that first happy hour – for the rest of the two day Unconference, people were continuously gathering around the Story Wall and talking with each other.

These Walls lead to direct opportunities to connect face-to-face in an authentic way, something we seem to be craving more and more in this increasingly technological world.

As a graphic recorder, I am always trying to improve how I listen, how I draw, how I make marks to capture not only content, but the energy of the room. Which sometimes leads me into the Art/Design Rabbit Hole of Continuous Creative Improvement, and I forget the most important thing about what I do: It’s not about me or how “pretty” the drawing is. It’s about helping my clients see and understand their stories.

Once again, thank you from my heart and soul for your support, great senses of humor, brilliant minds, collaboration and what you're each doing to make the world a better place.

Cheers, Karina

Want to boost engagement and creativity at your next event?

Where in the World is ConverSketch?

 Arizona State University: Unconference for Dreamers, Doers and Drivers around the future of digital learning in higher education.

Arizona State University: Unconference for Dreamers, Doers and Drivers around the future of digital learning in higher education.

 Colorado State University: Last week CSU hosted a University-wide, then community-wide event around how to cultivate compassion in the workplace. After a presentation from researcher and thought leader Leah Weiss on the power of purpose and compassion in the workplace, the participants discussed what they wanted to see and what they can do where they work.

Colorado State University: Last week CSU hosted a University-wide, then community-wide event around how to cultivate compassion in the workplace. After a presentation from researcher and thought leader Leah Weiss on the power of purpose and compassion in the workplace, the participants discussed what they wanted to see and what they can do where they work.

Who Can Help Your Team Surface Shared Values?

I love getting to collaborate with a lot of different groups of people working toward many different goals. Most of these groups contain people who have different worldviews, perspectives, ways of thinking.

Sometimes it's challenging to do meaningful work together if you think differently. That’s what leads to the most powerful teams and solutions.

But it can also be beyond frustrating. What if you can’t come to consensus? What if consensus isn’t actually a tool that will serve this group and their goals? What if your team stays surface-level because they don’t feel comfortable disagreeing? (Hint: I wrote a post about the benefits of disagreement here).

This is why groups choose to work with a graphic facilitator.

I can help you design processes to build on your team’s differences to use them as a strength, then draw out the conversation to surface shared ideas or values, then co-create and illustrate a plan that everyone can see themselves in. Get ready for action and riding the wave of momentum!

conversketch-surfacing-ideas-and-flowers-graphic-facilitator

Once again, thank you from my heart and soul for your support, great senses of humor, brilliant minds, collaboration and what you're each doing to make the world a better place.

Cheers, Karina

Have the seed of an idea? Let’s design something to help your team surface shared values.

Where in the World is ConverSketch?

 Vail: At the annual DigiDay Publishing Summit where I captured trends and solutions for the ever-changing world of publishers like the Daily Beast, HuffPost and Gizmodo.

Vail: At the annual DigiDay Publishing Summit where I captured trends and solutions for the ever-changing world of publishers like the Daily Beast, HuffPost and Gizmodo.

 Fort Collins: Working with the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences as they create a Research Strategy for the next five years.

Fort Collins: Working with the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences as they create a Research Strategy for the next five years.

 Rafting: As those of you who have subscribed for a while know, I enjoy playing outside and floating on rivers. This week I’m out of the office on a spring float down the Ruby/Horsethief/Westwater stretch of the Colorado River. This photo was taken by the incredibly talented  Spencer Branson .

Rafting: As those of you who have subscribed for a while know, I enjoy playing outside and floating on rivers. This week I’m out of the office on a spring float down the Ruby/Horsethief/Westwater stretch of the Colorado River. This photo was taken by the incredibly talented Spencer Branson.