graphic illustrator

Crossing the Divide – How to Find Common Ground Among Diverse Perspectives

Whether it’s national politics or internal to your organization, we all hear stories about polarized viewpoints, and the challenge of working across silos.

At the same time, we know that diversity is not only healthy, but also builds resilience when things don’t go as planned.

So how do you harness the inherent tension that bringing diverse perspectives, and potentially combative ones, together to build a strong, shared path forward?

Here are four suggestions for finding common ground from my experience as a graphic facilitator:

-          Create space for context setting and relationship building. Often overlooked or dismissed as “wasting time”, building in time at the beginning of the event, as well as throughout, to clearly outline the “why” of the meeting and for participants to get to know one another allows for more ease when conversations get difficult.

-          Put more time than you think into developing questions to surface shared values, such as “What is important about the work we do?” can provide a window into the group. Having a few open-ended questions like “What should we do about __________?” provide space for participants to surface concerns or solutions the planning team might have missed, but are integral to moving forward successfully.

-          Build in less structured time. This is another piece that often feels like a “waste” of time, but is vitally important to cultivating trust and creativity. This is especially true if much of the agenda will be presentations or panels – you’ve invested in bringing all these important people together to work toward a goal, now give them the freedom to use those brains and hearts to do the work!

-          Draw it out with the intent of surfacing shared ground. Graphic facilitation or recording is a tool to leverage to literally show the group where they’re in agreement. Partnering with a graphic facilitator who can work with you to listen and capture through a particular “lens” to help surface shared values or tensions helps the group keep track of complex, moving parts to build a shared picture of what’s important.

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Have you been looking for common ground on an issue? Click that button to explore how we can leverage visual tools for lasting success.

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 Signature_100.png



Where in the World is ConverSketch?

The Colorado Front Range:  Working with a public health team and their partners as they evaluate an assessment to use the data to support the community, and hospital managers to think more deeply about building trust in their teams.

The Colorado Front Range: Working with a public health team and their partners as they evaluate an assessment to use the data to support the community, and hospital managers to think more deeply about building trust in their teams.

In the Studio: Painting up another explainer video for the US Forest Service’s Rocky Mountain Research Station (RMRS). This video will be available in October, but for now, here’s another look at a video created for the RMRS last year.

One Easy Strategy to Increase Authentic Inclusion at Your Next Conference

The past few weeks, a few conversations have had me taking a step back and seriously consider and appreciate a lot of things I take for granted. As you can imagine, that list is long, but the one thing I want to write about today is inclusion and accessibility – particularly for people with differing abilities (thanks Melwood for the lingo!).

A few weeks ago when I was at ASU, I met someone who has been part of the ShapingEDU community, and they told me something that stunned me. We’ve been doing webinars on the various ShapingEDU themes, aka neighborhoods, which I’ve been digitally graphic recording and screensharing during the conversations.

As we chatted, he explained he used hearing aids, and the webinars were sometimes difficult to hear or follow. He then told me this:

Karina’s graphic facilitation of meeting notes, a-has, and conversation during our ShapingEDU webinars, and our in-person Empower IT conference helps me to not only follow these lively and important discussions occurring, but also in processing the information which flows rapidly.  As a hearing impaired individual, these pieces of art...yes, they are art...continue to be instrumental in assisting me in processing the information.  These pieces are more engaging, more accurate, and more impactful that closed captioning could ever imagine, or hope to be.  Karina is a consummate communicator.  She has identified the universal language to us all, pictures.  I look forward now to any meeting which Karina will be communicating visually with the participants.  Simply put, she does amazing work!
— Casey Davis, Arizona State University

(I asked him to kindly write it down so I’d capture his eloquence, thus the shift from first to third person.)

This totally shook up my frame of reference and made me reconsider what and how I capture and being sure the context is clear for those who may not be able to hear everything that’s being said. And was a great excuse to take a step back and consider what I take for granted.

Are you considering the abilities of all your participants when designing an event or webinar? Let’s talk about creating a more inclusive environment with some visuals.

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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 Signature_100.png




Where in the World is ConverSketch?

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Boulder Colorado: At the second annual Optical Innovation Summit with leaders in the vision and eye care industry discussing innovation and offering advice for startups in the room.

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Colorado Springs, Colorado: At the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research Symposium (awwwww yeah!) learning tons about women’s reproductive health, thinking about how we talk about periods, and learning that pads and tampons are taxed as luxury items (seriously, things half the global population needs every month).

One Simple Question You Can Use to Train Your Brain to Apply Systems Thinking to Any Challenge

I’m on a learning-about-systems-thinking-kick. Why? Because the challenges and questions I’m seeing across sectors with the clients I partner with are more complex, more dynamic, and require solutions that address root causes.

And I want you to have the skills to recognize systems at play and know how to look for creative solutions that lift your team to the next level.

My last post covered the basics of systems thinking and a few everyday places to observe systems in action.

Okay, so it’s easy to see how stocks and flows apply to a bathtub, or feedback loops are seen in bank account interest.  

But what about starting from scratch? Where to begin?

Here’s a gem from Thinking in Systems by Donella Meadows. Ask yourself:

If A causes B, is it also possible that B causes A?

Alright Karina, bring it back down. What does that actually look like?

If perceived lack of control causes low employee engagement, is it also possible that low employee engagement causes perceived lack of control?

Or…If not having a shared vision causes a siloed organization, is it also possible that a siloed organization causes not having a shared vision?

And if you want to get even more cerebral, she also challenges readers to “Try to think of a human decision that occurs without a feedback loop.”

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 Do you have a persistent challenge your organization keeps coming back to? If you think some visual strategizing could illuminate a new solution…

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-branson-signature

Where in the World is ConverSketch?

In the Studio:  Filming a new  illustrated video  for the National Park Service Climate Change Response Program, creating digital illustrations, and prepping for a lot of travel next week.

In the Studio: Filming a new illustrated video for the National Park Service Climate Change Response Program, creating digital illustrations, and prepping for a lot of travel next week.

It's been a month since we've been back from rafting the Grand Canyon and I'm stoked to share this shot taken by my husband - that's me in the light blue rowing through a rapid called Upset! Click on the photo to see a larger version! Photo: Spencer Branson

Hello from a Natural Wonder of the World!

Howdy!

As you may have seen, this month I’m rowing a raft down the Mighty Colorado River through the Grand Canyon with a group of 15 other folks. For 21 days, we’re camping on the river’s edge, exploring side canyons, and completely disconnected from phone or internet service from March 25th through April 15th.

You’ve probably deduced by this point that while I’ll be blissfully unplugged, unfortunately I cannot work with phenomenal clients like you during this time. As an entrepreneur, finding balance between work and spending time in nature is important to me, and I feel ridiculously lucky to be a part of this trip.

Curious to explore the Grand? Google Street View allows you to take a virtual tour of this spectacular wild place, even exploring a few side hikes!

Here’s a link to one of the most iconic views – Nankoweep Overlook. Go ahead, click your way down the trail from the ruins of ancient granaries then downriver (or upriver, you do you) to see what it looks like to run the rapids!

Thanks for tuning in. I’ll look forward to connecting when we’re back in a couple of weeks!

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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-branson-signature

Here’s a couple of photos my partner Spencer took during our last trip in 2014. For more of his astounding photography, check out www.spencerbphotography.com.

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Digital, Paper, or Foam Board, Oh My! How to Decide Which Medium is Right for Your Event

Hey folks!

Have you ever organized an event for your organization? If you have, you know there’s a LOT more that goes into planning and pulling off a successful gathering than meets the eye.

If you’ve put weeks into organizing an event, you want it to go as perfectly as possible. So, naturally, you’ve hired a graphic recorder to visually capture notes in real-time. High five, you have got this on lock. Then, the graphic recorder throws this curveball at you:

“So, would you like me to work on paper or digitally?

As digital scribing has become more reliable and attainable, deciding whether to use paper, foam board, or projecting a tablet screen can feel complicated.

With all the other variables you’re managing, I’m here to help this decision to be an easy and fun one!

I often get the same question from clients: What are the pros and cons of each option? So, I’ve decided to pull inspiration from some other graphic facilitators, and create a tool to help you swiftly make a decision based on your needs.

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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 Signature_100.png





Where in the World is ConverSketch?

Phoenix, Arizona:  Back at Arizona State University for the second ShapingEDU Unconference where Dreamers, Doers and Drivers got together to share ideas and strategies to better leverage technology for learning in higher education.

Phoenix, Arizona: Back at Arizona State University for the second ShapingEDU Unconference where Dreamers, Doers and Drivers got together to share ideas and strategies to better leverage technology for learning in higher education.



Houston, Texas:  With Houston Methodist Center for Neuroregeneration capturing presentations and discussions from a global group of neuroscientists and spinal researchers. We even witnessed  Mutton Bustin’  at the Houston Rodeo! Needless to say, my mind is blown after working with them (heh heh).

Houston, Texas: With Houston Methodist Center for Neuroregeneration capturing presentations and discussions from a global group of neuroscientists and spinal researchers. We even witnessed Mutton Bustin’ at the Houston Rodeo! Needless to say, my mind is blown after working with them (heh heh).

Out of the Studio: This new digitally illustrated video for local Northern Colorado business Streamside Solutions explains how their HVAC system software can save you energy, time and money…fast!

Washington, DC:   This week I’m back in DC working with the Environmental Defense Fund on the last in a series of systems thinking workshops on sustainable agriculture and pollinator habitat.

Washington, DC: This week I’m back in DC working with the Environmental Defense Fund on the last in a series of systems thinking workshops on sustainable agriculture and pollinator habitat.

And Nearly…In the Grand Canyon!  As a reminder, my next big adventure has been in the books for the past year – from  March 24-April 15  I will be rafting the Grand Canyon! Fortunately, I’ll be completely disconnected from phone and email during that time rolling on a river. Unfortunately, I won’t be available to partner with any clients during that time, but will look forward to opportunities to collaborate when I return. If you do have an event during this window, I can connect you with some highly qualified colleagues who can take care of you and your group!

And Nearly…In the Grand Canyon! As a reminder, my next big adventure has been in the books for the past year – from March 24-April 15 I will be rafting the Grand Canyon! Fortunately, I’ll be completely disconnected from phone and email during that time rolling on a river. Unfortunately, I won’t be available to partner with any clients during that time, but will look forward to opportunities to collaborate when I return. If you do have an event during this window, I can connect you with some highly qualified colleagues who can take care of you and your group!

Lucky Number 7 – Happy Birthday ConverSketch!

Holy moly party people, it’s time to celebrate!

That’s right, it’s been seven years since ConverSketch officially launched into this world, and I’m proud and grateful to get to be a visual thought partner for my clients.

In some cultures, seven is considered a lucky number and, while entrepreneurship definitely not completely about luck, it certainly plays a role. Luck, kismet, fate, intuition, divine guidance…call it what you want to call it. There is something beyond pure logic that comes into play as a business founder.

And, you know me, I love to appreciate! So, here are a few of the things I feel lucky about at ConverSketch:

-          I’m lucky to work with the amazing groups and organizations I do. My clients have missions that drive them and always have passionate employees who make the world a better place.

-          I’m lucky to have the privilege to do this work. To have an education and the support to pursue what simply felt like what I should be doing. That I can work hard and that hustle can pay off is a gift that’s easy to forget.

-          I’m lucky to get perspective from the micro to macro scale and to work across sectors allowing observations of larger patterns and trends and that I can learn something new pretty much every day.

-          I’m lucky to share my skills and energy with my clients in an authentic way to support them to do the best possible work they can. I can experiment, infuse goofy humor, make mistakes, and depict my clients as small woodland creatures if I feel like that needs to happen.

-          I’m lucky to have kickass readers like you who doodle along with my emails and write notes of encouragement or questions after reading a newsletter.

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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

Do you have an idea we should chat about? Perhaps how to help your team understand, engage, and remember information and ideas?

Where in the World is ConverSketch?

Getting digital in the STUDIO. Feeling very modern working on a strategic illustration and an animated video tablet-style.

Getting digital in the STUDIO. Feeling very modern working on a strategic illustration and an animated video tablet-style.

Updates from the Field

The past two weeks have been filled with graphic facilitation, studio work, and graphic recording across Colorado. I wanted to share a few of my favorite parts of this recent work with you all!

Graphic Facilitation for the newly formed Colorado Project Learning Tree Council. Check out that huge garage door window! Too bad it was below freezing over the two day retreat.

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Graphic recording at a public outreach meeting in Custer County, Colorado, to help them capturing the complexity and make tangible their vision of the future!

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Graphic recording for a client working on a collaborative around the Colorado River Basin in the western US.

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Authenticity? Let’s be Real.

Buzzwords. They can make us roll our eyes, especially if it feels like the context they’re brought up in isn’t genuine.

Earlier this week I was graphic recording for a company that’s had to do some soul searching this year, and as a result, is focusing on infusing integrity into the day-to-day culture. During a brainstorming session on culture and values, someone said “…unscripted feels more authentic.”  

Although it was made almost in passing in the conversation, it really resonated with the group after the formal conversation ended as they were revisiting the content on my recording.

For leaders or team members who feel stuck when seeking to have authentic conversations with their teams at work, I recommend taking a chance on “going unscripted”.

Now, this may not mean just winging it every time -- there’s certainly wisdom in practicing what you want to say (authentic ≠ excuse to be callous and blunt). Rather, think about how you can use the power of speaking from your heart to connect with and inspire others around you.

Feeling the authentic vibes and want more? Read on my friend!

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?

Washington, DC  with the Environmental Defense Fund. We are in the middle of a series of systems thinking workshops to help two teams re-frame how they’re approaching their work around agriculture and pollinator habitat.

Washington, DC with the Environmental Defense Fund. We are in the middle of a series of systems thinking workshops to help two teams re-frame how they’re approaching their work around agriculture and pollinator habitat.

Stamford, Connecticut  for the kickoff of an Ethics Week focusing on integrity in action. This is part of a synthesis of survey themes from employees that I created ahead of time for the client. Major kudos to the team there for their creativity and for facilitating the conversation that inspired this email!

Stamford, Connecticut for the kickoff of an Ethics Week focusing on integrity in action. This is part of a synthesis of survey themes from employees that I created ahead of time for the client. Major kudos to the team there for their creativity and for facilitating the conversation that inspired this email!

Here's What Your Design Thinking Process is Missing

Have you ever been invited to participate in or heard about a Design Sprint? Design thinking, design sprints, agile, human-centered design thinking, all of these terms have been popping into my world more often.

As tools used to innovate and spark creativity, if you’re using design thinking but haven’t partnered with a graphic recorder, you’re missing out on huge potential to support your team through visual thinking.

But wait, aren’t design thinking and visual thinking pretty much the same thing? Well, no. But I love this excellent post and illustration from Xplane to see the difference, and where some opportunities exist to infuse visual thinking into design thinking:

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Have you used any of these tools or strategies? How did it go? What other visual thinking tools are in the top drawer of your toolbox?

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?

Albuquerque, New Mexico:  Returning to support the New Mexico Breastfeeding Task Force for their Hospitals and Clinics Summit. These practitioners work hard every day to help educate and support new mothers so they can make the healthiest decisions for themselves and their babies.

Albuquerque, New Mexico: Returning to support the New Mexico Breastfeeding Task Force for their Hospitals and Clinics Summit. These practitioners work hard every day to help educate and support new mothers so they can make the healthiest decisions for themselves and their babies.

Painting in the Studio:  Not only am I working on filming another  Drawing Connections video  for the National Park Service, I’ve had some time in the past couple of weeks to do some painting for fun. This one of the Nokhu Crags went to the  Samburu Youth Education Fund  Harambe to raise money for education and leadership development for young people in Kenya.  Here’s a post  about why I care so much!   Please  contact me  for inquiries on commissions.

Painting in the Studio: Not only am I working on filming another Drawing Connections video for the National Park Service, I’ve had some time in the past couple of weeks to do some painting for fun. This one of the Nokhu Crags went to the Samburu Youth Education Fund Harambe to raise money for education and leadership development for young people in Kenya. Here’s a post about why I care so much!

Please contact me for inquiries on commissions.

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.

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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.