Case Study: Emily Bryson, ELT Materials Developer and Lecturer

This week we’re speaking with Emily Bryson, Self-Employed ELT Materials Developer and Lecturer at City of Glasgow College, who has attended Secrets of Simple Graphics.

What motivated you to attend the training in the first place? What problems were you experiencing that you hoped the training would address?
Emer came to the college to deliver a short training session last year.  I was instantly hooked and wanted to learn more.  I teach English to non-native speakers, so I knew that the ability to illustrate language points and vocabulary quickly and visually would be really helpful.

I also deliver teacher training sessions and write educational materials.  I knew that using graphics would help these stand out from the crowd and be memorable and captivating. 

How are you using what you’ve learned?
I now use what I’ve learned in many ways.  In class, I illustrate vocabulary by quickly drawing a simple graphic on the whiteboard and I support my students to take sketch notes.

One of my main reasons for doing the course was to jazz up my presentations.   I’ve now updated my teacher training slides, taking out the stock photos and replacing them with much more interesting and relevant hand drawn graphics. 
At the last ESOL conference at the college, I drew some icons to create a space for people to leave their feedback in an interactive way. This went down really well.

It’s also been helpful in my writing work.  I can now confidently illustrate any artwork briefs with a quick sketch and when I sent my latest book off to the publisher, I included a couple of sketches to demonstrate an activity.  

What kind of results are you getting? What kind of feedback are you getting?

My publisher really appreciated the sketches I made for my latest book, 50 ways to Teach Life Skills.  It helped them to visualise exactly what should be included.  In the end we actually we decided to include my illustrations because they are authentic and simple for teachers to copy.

The slides I created using simple graphics went down really well at a recent conference.  I think the participants noticed that they were by no means perfect, but that they got the point across.  I got the feeling that this reassured them and that they’d try to recreate similar images by themselves in their classrooms.

What would you say has been the overall impact of using visual thinking/simple graphics in your work?
I think it has given me the confidence to communicate in a different way, and it’s inspired others to do the same.

What would you say to someone who is considering going on the training?
Book it! Asap! It will change your life.

Anything else you’d like to add?
Emer is a very enthusiastic and supportive trainer.  Her training session was one of the best I’ve ever been on.  She gave us all lots of time to practise and the post-training online support was invaluable and very motivating.

Emily Bryson is an ELT materials writer, teacher trainer and ESOL Lecturer. She has written digital and print materials for a number of publishers including Macmillan Education, The British Council and Language Fuel.  She has been teaching ESOL at City of Glasgow College since 2007.  Her first book, the A-Z of ESOL, is out now and her second book 50 Ways to Teach Life Skills: Tips for ESL/EFL Teachers is coming soon from Wayzgoose Press. All artwork in this blog post has been created by Emily.

Feel inspired by Emily’s experience? Book now for Secrets of Simple Graphics, September 27th.

Dave’s story – the final instalment!

Dave’s story – the final instalment!

It’s time for the fifth and final instalment of Dave Fardoe’s story on how he used simple graphics to deal with his feelings and chart his story following a sudden change in life circumstances.

Missed the previous instalments? You can read them here:
Article 1 Out of The Blue
Article 2 What the hell just happened?
Article 3 Learning to Walk Again
Article 5 Good Days Bad Days

Following on from the last time…

…Accept these bad days, they happen – but move on…

I’m now just under six months on and feeling pretty good – I marked five months by climbing on a plane and spending a week in the Caribbean. I went swimming, a bit, but I’m not yet ready to pick up my scuba gear and explore wrecks and reefs, which was my passion before, yet I will be, and I’m looking forward to that.  Taking on an eight hour flight I admit, I was nervous, yet I got advice and it was fine. I never drank much, although a couple of rum punches may have passed my lips during that week away – take it slow and it will all work out fine.  Life is about living and not hiding away in fear, so the fifth cartoon needed to capture that. And more, without the support of so many professionals, the brilliant NHS, my family and so many friends, it would have been so much harder. The cartoons and the drawing of course have been so important to me, putting perspective to the thing and charting the journey. Has it been therapeutic, I’d say so, and how – they have helped me express how things feel, and to show the people around me in ways they can relate to, when for me to find the right words would have been so hard.  The title of the last cartoon – simply  “Future Days”

To everyone involved, thank you.

And a big thank you to you Dave for sharing your story and fantastic drawings with us. May your Future Days be bright!

Does Dave’s story resonate with you? Are you inspired by the use of simple graphics as a form of therapy? Please send feedback and comments to Dave at

And if you have a story you’d like to share about how you use simple graphics I’d love to hear it. Please get in touch.

Sketchnote: 10 Ways to Look After Your Mental Health

Sketchnote: 10 Ways to Look After Your Mental Health

Lots of you commented on how how much you enjoyed seeing my Three Ways The Brain Creates Meaning sketchnote a few weeks back, so I thought I’d share another sketchnote with you today.

This time the topic is mental health. Here I share with you some tips I gleaned from the Mental Health Foundation website.

As I was reading through the information a part of me was a little frustrated, thinking ‘Yes, I’ve seen this before’. 

And then I asked myself some important questions.

I may have seen the info before, I may even feel that I *know* it, but…
– Do I do it?
– Could I do more of it?
– Could I do it more often?

As I’m sure you’ll agree, knowing and doing are entirely different things.

I hope you like this sketchnote. Feedback always welcome.

Video: How to draw an elephant

Hello and welcome to this week’s Tuesday.

Today I’ve done something for the first time ever.

I recorded a ‘How to Draw’ video on my iPad.

Yes, this week we’re learning how to draw…an elephant.

Have you ever sensed an elephant in the room? Wondered if you should call it out or just leave it fester? Well now you can acknowledge the elephant in the room by drawing it out on a flipchart and bringing attention to it at the right moment. You could also ask others to name the elephant by adding post it notes to its head, give it a voice by adding a speech bubble and so much more.

I hope you find this video useful and I’d love to learn how you deal with the elephant in the room when you’re facilitating. 

P.S. Did I mention I’ve never done a video like this before? Please do tell me what works and what I need to improve on. Thanks so much!

Guest Post: Good Days, Bad Days

Guest Post: Good Days, Bad Days

This week it’s time for our fourth article by Dave Fardoe in our ‘Simple Graphics as Therapy’ series. Click here to find out what happened last time)

The first walks were ok, I got my feet and pushed on, it went well….

Back home it was a huge relief to be out of hospital and back in a familiar place, and yet, the new normal hasn’t quite established itself yet so some unknowns remain. Of course, there is residual pain to manage, your breast bone takes six months to heal and the mental impact at least that long, so the fourth cartoon wasn’t long in coming – what else could it be entitled but “Good Days / Bad Days”.

Your body takes a while to adjust, the breast bone alone takes six months to fully heal and your head at least that long, and some more – and so you have good days when you’re feeling better and everything’s bright, getting up and going for a walk or to the rehab is a pleasure, other days are not so good and moods clash and strong words can be spoken – accept these bad day, they happen – but move on…

As always, please send any comments/feedback you feel compelled to share either to me or directly to Dave on

Don’t forget to tune in to the final instalment of Dave’s story next month!