New calendar entry for Friday afternoons, and in all seriousness, ‘Creative Playtime’
On a Friday afternoon for two years I have had in my diary to protect time for Creative downtime and I have rarely achieved this. However, this year I intend to give this a whole new priority as I believe it is an essential part of keeping that balance and being able to provide the energy in the work. Whilst I recognise it wont always be possible, this year, it will be a priority. And to kick it off a little playful look around the desk I spend so many hours at I hope you enjoy it. PS the idea inspired by others and namely of recent Raquel Benmergui
Visual Summaries for the Open University, UK, course ‘An introduction to Mental Health Science’. ‘These free, advanced level courses serve as an introduction to Masters level study in neurosciences and mental health.’
In 2017 I worked with Dr Payam Rezaie, Reader in Neuropathology at the Open University. Dr Rezaie had asked me to work with him to visually summarise the content of three, free, advanced level courses which serve as an introduction to the Masters level study in neurosciences and mental health.
We arranged a process that began with two days of working side by side to discuss the content of the modules in depth. Before we worked together Dr Rezaie sent a great deal of information and content about the course and I had begun to process the material in readiness.
Side by side we discussed the content, I took visual notes and mapped the conversation between us. I asked many questions, interrogated the information, suggested ways of illustrating the material, suggested visual connections and we debated, we debated a lot. Dr Rezaie would use the developing maps to indicate additions, connections and corrections.
By the end of two days, we had co-created rough visual maps of the three sets of content. I had suggested using a visual tryptic whereby the Anxiety graphic is on the left, the Depression graphic is on the right and a middle graphic shows the interconnections and discussion points between Anxiety and Depression. The tryptic was visually designed and developed so that each of the three could be viewed as a separate graphic summary and together all three made a larger whole graphic.
I then went to ground and developed the rough visual maps into more detailed and drawn visual summaries. During this quiet drawing stage, Dr Rezaie and Dr Heath would see draft versions and send back comments, ideas, and amends.
And then they were complete. In July last year, 2019, the course went live.
Even now when something like this is finally unveiled, I have a mix of thoughts and emotions. Firstly, I always have the wave of surprise, surprise that this is something I did? Then, childish excitement waves across me as I realise that the work is live and out there in the world. These courses may be taken by people far and wide, and so this feels like a big wave.
It is fair to say that creating these summaries was an absolute sweet spot for me. Over the years my work and life has enabled me to harness a lot of knowledge, information, and experiences about mental health. And, whilst my academic knowledge is not a patch on the depth of Dr Rezaie’s academic learning, I do believe I made a pretty good comrade to co-create these visual summaries with.
However, I was stunned on completion when Dr Rezaie stated I was officially the co-author of these visual summaries alongside Dr Rezaie and Dr Heath. As a graphic facilitator, my work is ordinarily signed as the visual creator of the work but not ordinarily as the co-creator or the content itself, for this, I am incredibly humbled and damn proud.
I hope these courses and these visual summaries serve many purposes; to support the learning and questioning for those taking the courses and also to serve as a point of reference for further debate and ongoing questioning. And, if you are reading this, your comments, questions, ideas, and thoughts would be very welcome. _________________
The course description states ‘These free, advanced level courses serve as an introduction to Masters level study in neurosciences and mental health. They will help you to consider some of the key issues around diagnosis, causes and interventions for anxiety and depression from biological, psychological and social science perspectives.’
Graphic Recording (Visual Notes) are increasingly being used across different sectors and different organisations large and small. This in no accident. In an age of complexity of information, there has never been a greater need for ensuring strong and focused conversations. There are many needs for these conversations including; sharing information, developing innovation, building time to think, time to analyse solutions and much more. Graphic recording in a meeting or event has a number of purposes and roles in supporting these conversations and offer a range of benefits.
graphic facilitation. Graphic recording
Recently Health Education North West (HENW) brought together people involved in developing and training some core roles within the NHS workforce. HENW were keen to maximise the potential of the day and commissioned a live graphic record, the record below, it was created live during the event and follows the flow of the content and conversations of the day. This graphic record is a great example of some of the purposes and benefits they can add to meetings or events.The focus of the event was to look at how learning environments were needing to transform to reflect the real and changing world and how services and the networks of practitioners need to collaborate creatively to face these challenges and changes. The first intention or purpose for this graphic record was to bring the stream of conversations together from throughout the day to support people to literally see connections across the day; to help create a visual record and summary of the day that was visible to everyone.
Equally the graphic record acted to create a great focal point during the day where many conversations ensued in the breaks instigated when colleagues came together to browse the emerging record. When the event was over the graphic record was then available in a second life to remind people of what was covered and to keep the learning and conversations alive.
The reach of the graphic record was then extended to many people who weren’t at the event. The graphic record is a condensed and accessible way to communicate a synopsis of the day to those not there. In this way, the graphic record now acts as a conversation starter and encourages a wider inclusion of people to continue and enter the dialogues started at the event.
Whilst a graphic record is intended to be eye catching the absolute focus and intention is to create a visual record that can reach these purposes (and others). So eye catching yes, but always with this clarity of purposes; to convey and distil content, to enable sharing of the content and to encourage people to take the content and take it further… to the next conversations, the next events and maybe to the next graphic record.
The work of a graphic facilitator is not always easy to explain because there are so many potential ways of working. The landscape is populated with almost endless possibilities, many of which are waiting for the next conundrum that needs solving.
A recent piece of work shows one of these potentials, a graphic record was developed live over a number of different events, a section at a time and then compiled creating a 7.5m graphic record that colourfully captured many conversations centred on a pivotal consultation.
The Education and Training Foundation (The Foundation) was entering an important consultation because they had recently been gifted The Professional Membership Service for those working in the Further Education Sector. In receiving this gift and legacy they needed to look forward, talk and listen to existing and potential members and shape the future of the Membership Service they would be offering and supporting. At Engage Visually we went to a number of sector based events with The Foundation to host conversations and to work on the consultation about the service. As we listened we captured key concepts, ideas and issues and added these to the graphic recordings. At each event, a fresh picture emerged and as the picture emerged it would create a focal point of interest. The graphic records would draw people in and they would come across to ‘see’ what was happening; in turn, they would often become involved in the discussions themselves. A number of The Foundation’s staff were involved alongside the graphic facilitator, talking, listening and shaping the graphic recording. The lead for the consultation work at The Foundation, Claire Mitchell, Head of New Business-Programmes and Services, shaped the visual metaphor of the process of a river running through the landscape with different tributaries flowing in and out.
Graphic facilitation was one method The Foundation used in the overall consultation, with the aim of engaging people in a dynamic conversation and at the same time creating material that would support further engagement as the process unfolded.
This work with The Foundation was a customised service and whilst there a number of ‘off the peg’ services that will fit many people’s needs we also know that some organisations’ needs will start with a conversation. The conversation will then create and build solutions, solutions that will always be doable, exciting and most importantly, useful.