Watching a nature documentary in 4K is a lot less tedious than reading a script detailing each individual scene, one after the other. Most humans process visual information a lot faster than text. With text, we need to derive meaning from the abstract shapes that letters are. A defenceless antelope running for her life with a roaring lion at her heels has a bigger impact on our brain. We understand the situation immediately and we know there is danger. Part of our brain is responsible for visual information whereas another part is responsible for text but we tend to process images much more quickly than text.
In our daily working life, we are used to meetings filled with presentations and text. If we are lucky, the presenter will use no more than seven bullet points, therefore, increasing the likelihood that we will retain the information. If we are unlucky, we might fall asleep. On the other hand, if an architect is leading a presentation, they will draw something on a whiteboard to explain an idea and the intuitive nature of the drawn diagram will make it easier for their audience to understand this complex idea. Architectural tasks can be visually represented in a very efficient way due to their structural nature, but a presentation can be structural too! We can explain relationships or the path to a solution graphically and Graphic Facilitation is an easy way to achieve this. It makes better and more efficient use of our audience’s brains by showing them information as text and graphics. This enables our audience to comprehend our presentation more easily. Drawings also serve to increase their attention.
Before we start drawing our graphic, we need to have an idea. We can get to this idea by brainstorming. If our idea is still not solid, we can apply Design Thinking. By using lateral thinking techniques, we can create ideas we would otherwise be unable to identify. We can see a problem or idea from a different perspective.
At first, we grab one attribute of a random image or we choose a random word. Based on this, we re-iterate our brainstorming. Another way to thinking laterally is to change our perspective. Let’s imagine we are the CEO of one specific big company. Think about how we would handle the problem from that perspective. We could also use impossible constraints to make our thinking more difficult in order to come to more thoughtful solutions.
Next, we converge our ideas by selecting only the ones that make sense. Once we have a solid solution, we can start with the structure of our graphic.
Before we can start with our graphic, we need to identify the items we are going to draw. If we are unsure about the content of our graphic, we can try brainstorming again. We can take a piece of paper and note down all the actors and activities that come to mind. At first, we do not judge the value of our ideas. Then, we evaluate the items of our list and keep only those that provide value to our graphic.
We categorise our items into objects, people, processes, and concepts. Objects can be observed in the real world. People can include individuals, groups, or mankind. Processes can be workflows or steps of a procedure. Concepts are abstract thoughts or ideas conceived in one’s mind. They are more difficult to describe than a process.
Find the Vocabulary
Now, we need to create drawings for our items. When drawing the items, make sure to use inner shadows for 3D objects and outer shadows for flat objects.
Objects can be drawn as the actual item they represent but we should only draw the main lines and contours to keep them as simple as possible. We can also have a big central core item in our graphic that supports the metaphorical meaning of our graphic.
People can be drawn as a simple upside-down U with a circle on top for a head. We can also draw them as stars if their legs and arms have an important meaning and we can also supplement them with objects or emotions.
Processes contain mostly arrows. We can combine them with objects, people, or concepts to illustrate the process. Our graphic can be a process.
Concepts can be drawn by combining objects, people, or processes. It is easier to find a metaphor for a concept that includes people.
Our graphic needs to have a layout. We can structure it in a Z-flow, top-down, left to right, or bottom to top. We can also use a big key image in the centre of our graphic or a pre-drawn layout if we have one. We try to create a first draft on A4 by only using text to situate our items. We can cross out the list items that we already placed on our draft to help keep track.
Once, we have a layout for our items, we are going to sketch and scribble a second draft on A4. The only important thing is that our items have proper proportions. The items themselves can be quickly sketched. We may be left with too much blank space or parts of our graphic might be squeezed in. It’s ok, we can correct this in another draft.
We can then create containers to group our items. People and objects can be connected by drawing a shadow line behind them or a black line that marks the horizon.
In order to avoid painful overlapping mistakes in our actual graphic, we can distinguish the layering of items with colours like red for foreground items, then orange for middle ground items and yellow for items that are more in the background. We can use the vocabulary draft as reference for drawing our graphic. Remember, we have to write the text first for parts of our graphic and always leave space between overlapping containers and items. The first text we write is our headline without its container. When writing, we have to make sure that lowercase letters are about two-thirds as big as uppercase letters. We then frame groups of our graphic into containers before we frame the whole graphic. After this, we can colour our graphic but mainly its background. We should stick to no more than three colours if possible.
We have now completed our graphic and it is ready for presentation! With Methodical Graphic Facilitation, we can create graphics for all complex ideas or problems. Our audience will understand our thoughts more easily because they retrieve information both with visual images and text.
- G. Anderson (2018). Design Thinking 101
- BiggerPictureVideo (2014). Learning Graphic Facilitation – 8th Element by Bigger Picture. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H0QZbwqp4lg