Case Study: Simple Graphics in the NHS

Case Study: Simple Graphics in the NHS

We’re speaking with Nicola Roy, Learning and Development Technologist at NHS National Services Scotland, who attended Secrets of Simple Graphics back in April 2019.

What motivated you to attend the training in the first place? What problems were you experiencing that you hoped the training would address?
I was motivated to attend after taking part in introductory sessions run by Emer. I’m always looking for ways to develop my facilitation skills and find new ways to engage participants.

How are you using what you’ve learned?
I recently ran a skills development event for facilitators in my organisation. I used this as an opportunity to try out what I’d learned. Instead of using slides, I created a series of hand drawn posters. By doing this I was able to practice using different layouts, icons and lettering. It was great to have a goal in mind and while testing out different ideas.

What kind of results are you getting? What kind of feedback are you getting?
I was most proud of the agenda roadmap I created for the event. I had always wanted to be able to create one but didn’t think I had the knowledge or skills to do it. I was delighted to receive so many positive responses.

What would you say has been the overall impact of using visual thinking/simple graphics in your work?
As a facilitator, it’s great to do something different and have the chance to be creative. And it’s worth the effort when you see the positive impact it has on participant engagement.

What would you say to someone who is considering going on the training?
Go for it! You’ll learn lots on the day and the follow up activities and support will help build your confidence. It’s also really good fun!

Nicola has over 20 years’ experience designing and delivering a range learning of interventions within the private and public sectors. Her most recent experience has been redesigning the management development programme for her organisation. All artwork in this article has been created by Nicola.

Feel inspired by Nicola’s experience? Book your place now for the next Secrets of Simple Graphics course.

Your Learning Log (free template inside)

Your Learning Log (free template inside)

Welcome to Learning at Work week!

An opportunity to reignite our passion for learning and appreciate all the wonderful benefits it brings.

The great thing about learning is that it’s all around us! You don’t have to go on a training course or buy a book to engage in learning. I believe that every day we learn something new and that learning can come from a myriad of sources.

That’s why I’ve designed a Learning Log especially for this week to help us keep track of our learning and also to build confidence that yes, we are learning all the time. 

Sometimes that learning can come from the most unlikely sources – a conversation you overheard at the supermarket, a colourful poster that caught your eye, something a friend did that made you stop and think.

Download and print your own copy of the Learning Log here >> 

I’d love to know how you get on with this. It would be especially great to hear about the different sources of learning in peoples’ worlds. Do let me know and I can share in a future email.

What PowerPoint research tells us

What PowerPoint research tells us

The opening line of this article made me smile.

‘People have been picking on PowerPoint for a long time. But the remedy proposed is … better PowerPoint.’

The article goes on to discuss research that was carried out recently at the University of Stanford on three visual storytelling approaches:

1. Hand drawings on whiteboard
2. Traditional PowerPoint (stock photography and bullet points)
3. ‘Zen’ PowerPoint (key phrase and accompanying metaphorical image)

Image courtesy of

Researchers were testing for:

  • engagement
  • enjoyment
  • credibility
  • recall
  • persuasive impact

So what were the results?

Essentially, the hand drawn whiteboard presentation outperformed both PowerPoint presentations in a number of areas:

Engagement: Participants paid more attention and thought more deeply about the content of the whiteboard presentation.

Credibility: Participants reported that they found the whiteboard presentation to be more credible (i.e. based on scientific evidence). They also found their presenter to be more experienced and trustworthy.

This is particularly fantastic to hear! So many people I speak with are concerned about not being taken seriously if they use hand drawings in their work. And as you can see from the picture, we’re not talking about a super sophisticated drawing. This is simple stuff accessible to us all.

Presentation Quality: Participants rated the whiteboard presentation more enjoyable, clearer and easier to understand than both PowerPoint options. 

Recall: Participants were able to accurately remember significantly more message content than the PowerPoint options – in fact a 16% improvement in memory for message content. 

Amazing! Read the full article here

So the next time you find yourself painstakingly looking for stock images for your PowerPoint presentation remember, there is another way. Don’t just take my word for it!

Feeling inspired? Join me for Secrets of Simple Graphics in Edinburgh on September 27th and I’ll show you exactly how to create a hand drawn presentation. Book now >>

Three creative ways to kickstart a meeting

Three creative ways to kickstart a meeting

Let’s not underestimate the importance of openings and closings. 

When it comes to meetings we can all too often rush in, blurt out what we want to say and hurry off to the next appointment in our diary. 

It’s so important to take a moment at the beginning of a meeting, to check in with folk and to set the tone. 

When I talk about kickstarting a meeting I’m not talking about a time consuming icebreaker or going round the table with lengthy introductions. I’m talking about something quick and creative which serves the purpose of helping people arrive fully at the meeting, feel welcome and feel ready to participate.

1. Pass around post-it notes and ask everyone to write down what kind of weather represents how they are feeling right now e.g. ‘sunny and bright’, ‘foggy’, ‘blustery’. Participants can reveal as much or as little information as they like. Watch the energy shift in the room as you introduce this quirky opener!
(with thanks to David Sibbet)

2. What’s on your mind?
Invite people to jot down what’s at the forefront of their mind as their enter the room. It might be work related, it might not. Then ask them to scrunch up the piece of paper they’ve written on and throw it in the bin. This is a way of ‘parking’ their distracting thoughts so that they can fully focus on the meeting.

3. The Mindfulness Minute.
All you need for this is a stopwatch (most phones will have this setting) and the confidence to say ‘We’re going to take a short breather before we begin the meeting’.
Set your stopwatch for no more than 60 seconds and invite people to simply take deep breaths during the 60 seconds. That’s all. Let people know that if their minds start to drift off, no problem, just bring their thoughts back to their breath.
Notice how the atmosphere has changed at the end of the 60 seconds, how much calmer and grounded everyone feels. 

60 seconds! That’s all it takes. 

How do you lick to kickstart a meeting? What ideas would you like to see me share in a future post? Email me your ideas here.

Planning a training session? Go big or go home (free template)

As you may be aware I’m not only a huge advocate of drawing, I’m a huge advocate of drawing BIG.

When I say drawing big I mean drawing on the wall (tip: put paper on it first) or at the flipchart.

Here in my office/studio I have a large 8ft graphic wall and a large 5ft whiteboard. When I need to think I stand up and I draw big.

Drawing big opens up the heart and opens up the mind. Anytime you need to think something through, draw big.

Here’s a template I use when planning a training session. I like to sketch this out big on a large piece of paper.

This is the order in which to fill it out.

1. Delegates
How many delegates?
What do we know about them?
What do they know about the topic?
What needs do they have?

2. Outcomes
What are the key outcomes for the session?
What is the transformation we want to have happen as a result of the training?
If we had to narrow these down to three key points, what would these be?

3. Ideas for Exercises
At this point you move naturally into brainstorming ideas for exercises. You may need to grab a flipchart and really go to town with your ideas.
Stick your pieces of flipchart paper all over the wall and start selecting the best ideas.
Put the best ideas into a natural sequence.

4. Agenda
Jot down your agenda items and timings based down on the above.

5. Get clear on the purpose of each exercise and note these down. Make sure they tie in with the outcomes to your right.

6. Include any materials you need to prepare for the day.

7. Have a lie down.

This kind of big scale drawing and thinking is SO worth the effort. You will find yourself coming up with ideas and insights far quicker and with greater insight than if you sat in front of a laptop and started with a blank Word document in front of you.

Top tip: wear comfortable shoes 🙂

Case study: Graphics and social innovation

Case study: Graphics and social innovation

I’d like to introduce you to Jenni Inglis, MDes, MSc, FRSA. Jenni is Director of VIE (for Life) Ltd. VIE enables social purpose organisations to better involve their stakeholders in design and evaluation of initiatives in order to create more positive change. Jenni attended Secrets of Simple of Graphics back in January 2017.  Read about her experience – her reasons for attending the training, how she’s using graphics in her work now and what she has to say to people who are thinking about learning this skill.


Before Jenni attended Secrets of Simple Graphics in January 2017 she already used some graphics in her work as a facilitator. However she only used graphics she had prepared beforehand. Jenni felt this was limiting what she was doing. She has recently found herself working more and more with groups of people who might not get the most from spoken and written English. She felt that an increased use of graphics would help in these settings. The introduction session in the training helped Jenni to realise that she actually wanted to become more fluent in graphics, so that she could use them more spontaneously and draw graphics live in front of people.


Jenni found the training to be great practice in drawing graphics live in front of people. She thought it very well structured and full of tips and tools to improve the way she uses graphics. It enabled her to explore the use of graphics in different ways that she had not previously thought of (e.g. the difference between graphic recording and graphic facilitation) and to identify stretch targets for herself.


As Jenni says, ‘At the end of the course I had really caught the bug, in a good way!’. Jenni decided that she wanted to use graphics all the time in all her work – in presentations, in templates for individuals and groups, in capturing what people say, and when training – so that she could really become fluent, just like learning any language.  She gets a lot of positive feedback and the individuals and groups she works with are more engaged. To someone who is considering going on the training, Jenni says, ‘Do it! You’ll have a great day and learn a lot about how you can make your work more engaging through graphics.’ See below for a sample of Jenni’s work!              

Keen to catch the bug yourself? Book your place now for Secrets of Simple Graphics April 26th 2019