Five fun ways to build visual thinking into your everyday activity

The best way to use visuals and graphics is to enhance the work you are already doing. This way graphics don’t become an extra item on your to-do list, rather they make the to-do list just a bit more interesting…

1. Invest in an unlined notebook.
Whether you’re a fan of A4, A5 or the tiny A6 choose a notebook that is line free. It’s much easier to get into the habit of drawing graphics when presented with a fresh clean white page.

2. Ditch the biros.
Biros tend to suffer the same fate as socks and teaspoons – they disappear into an unknown vortex never to reappear. So why not bring some colour into your life and opt for a fine nib set of markers such as Berol Fine Tip? Don’t be surprised when people ask for a copy of your notes at the end of a meeting.

3. On the phone? Make visual notes.
The next time you’re on the phone to someone use a combination of text and graphics to jot down what they say (with the aid of your unlined notebook and fine tip pens). It’s fascinating to look at afterwards, especially when it brings home the fact that yes, your sister did spend the last 35 minutes waxing lyrical about her latest squeeze.

4. Pimp your to-do list.
We all use to-do lists. They tend to be long, tedious and without end. Inject a bit of interest by adding a graphic to each item on your to-do list. This is also a great way to remember what actually needs to be done!

5. Design a template for an action plan.
Whether or not you take minutes at a meeting more often than not there will be an action plan at the end. Why not design a graphic template for this that you can reuse over and over again? Far more interesting than just another list…

My last tip is to share what you’ve created with your networks. Take a photo of your visual notes and share it on Twitter or LinkedIn. The positive feedback you receive will encourage you to keep going.

Good luck!

Want more tips? Join me for Secrets of Simple Graphics open course on September 5th. Sign up here.

How to spot good graphic facilitation

When I tell people what I do for a living, the common response is, ‘Oh you must be very artistic.’ I certainly don’t consider myself an artist. What makes good graphic facilitation does not necessarily make good art and vice versa.

You see, it’s not really about the little drawings, the fancy icons. People (myself included) can get really focussed on that.

It’s about so much more.

Graphics are about drawing out ideas and getting a message across, they’re about making ideas to come to life and getting everyone on the same page. They’re about communicating ideas quickly and easily. They’re about making people feel heard, appreciated and valued.

They’re not about producing works of art.

A good piece of graphic facilitation or graphic recording (often called a chart or a map) has many different components. When viewing graphics work consider the following checklist:

  • Is there a clear title? How does the lettering look? Is it legible? Are words spelt correctly?


  • How clear is the logic trail? Is it easy to identify headings and categorisation of themes and ideas?


  • Does it breathe i.e. is there enough white space?


  • How does the colouring look? Are the colour choices appropriate to the content? Is there a consistency to the use of colour?


  • Are the icons relevant and easy to understand?

So forget about art, think about purpose and whether the chart is serving the purpose at hand. Does it make sense? Does it serve the group?

Whether you’re hiring a graphic facilitator or interested in becoming one, keep this handy checklist close by.

And don’t worry if you feel you just can’t draw, believe me you can. All it takes is practice and a willingness to get stuck in.

Join me for Secrets of Simple Graphics on January 24th 2017 to learn more.

Five quick ways to use graphics in your training

Five quick ways to use graphics in your training

As a trainer or facilitator you may be curious about incorporating hand drawn graphics into your training design and delivery.

Perhaps you’re fed up with powerpoint, itching to try something new or have simply heard about the many benefits of using graphics and want to try them out for yourself.

At first hand drawn graphics may seem daunting, particularly if you believe you’re ‘no good at drawing’ or ‘not artistic’. Remember when it comes to using graphics in a learning setting the goal is to get a message across and draw out ideas, not to impress the group with your flair for fine art.

Here are five quick ways you can introduce hand drawn graphics into your training:

1. The Welcome Flip

You just can’t beat a friendly welcome flip when you enter a room. That’s right, it’s simply a flip chart with the word Welcome written on it, accompanied by a graphic. What graphic represents the word welcome? A cup of coffee? A sun? A smiling face? You choose!

2. The Meeting StartUp

I love the meeting startup. It’s basically a large paper template that outlines the agenda, roles, rules and outcomes for the day. The Grove Consultants in San Francisco have designed some great meeting startup templates – check them out here.

3. Burning Questions 

This is one of my favourites. Draw a simple picture of a fire on a large piece of paper and stick it on the wall. At the beginning of the session invite delegates to write down their key burning questions on post it notes (flame coloured, naturally) and stick them to the template. At some point during the session allow time to openly reflect on the questions posed to ensure questions and concerns are being met.

4. Reflection in Action sheet

Generally speaking at training events, delegates are often provided with blank sheets of paper to make notes on. Why not create a simple Reflection in Action template for delegates to jot down insights, ideas and suggestions as they emerge? Here’s the one I use. Feel free to create a template of your own – use lightbulbs, flipchart stands, target symbols, any outline you like to allow delegates to capture their learning in a unique and memorable way.
ReflectioninAction sheet









5. Head, Heart, Feet Finishing Exercise

I’m always looking for different ways to round off a training session and this is particular favourite.

Start off by drawing a person on a piece of flip chart paper (a stick man is absolutely fine!) and give the group some post-it notes.

Ask the group to jot down what they’ve learned (head), how they’re feeling (heart) and what actions they’re going to put in place (feet), and invite them to put their post-it notes on the appropriate place on the person you’ve drawn. (If, like me, you have a penchant for post-its you can even get some head, heart, feet shaped ones. Yes, I do get excited about such things…)

So there you have it, three quick ways to introduce hand drawn graphics into your training design and delivery. Have a go with one or more of the above suggestions and do let me know how you get on.

For more ideas why not join me for Secrets of Simple Graphics open course on September 27th 2019.

Graphic facilitation myths busted

Graphic Facilitation is a particular facilitation technique that uses the power of visuals to help groups ‘see what they mean’. Typically a facilitator stands at the top of a room, filling in a pre-drawn template with words and images that represent what a group is expressing.

When it comes to graphic facilitation many myths abound. I’m here to bust the top three!

  1. You have to be good at drawing to be a graphic facilitator.

    This is absolutely not true. When it comes to graphic facilitation the art of facilitation itself is key. There are many people out there who are amazing artists and illustrators but don’t know the first thing about facilitation! With graphic facilitation the importance is on drawing out ideas and getting a message across; this often works best when the images are straightforward and easy to grasp. So you really really (honestly) do not have to be ‘good at drawing’ to be a graphic facilitator. Designing templates and drawing icons all come with practice.

  2. Graphic facilitators always have their back to the wall.

    This is another common myth that is simply untrue. A graphic facilitator pivots, turning both to the group to ask questions and facilitate discussion, and to the wall to capture the key points of what is being said. It takes a little practice, and works very well. It’s a good idea when facilitating to explain to the group at the beginning of the process that you will sometimes have your back to the wall, however you will be keenly listening to what is being said. Getting participants involved in the graphics and checking in regularly that you have accurately captured the discussion are two ways ensure the process works effectively.

    (It’s also possible as a facilitator to team up with a graphic recorder – so one person is doing the facilitating and one person is recording what is being said.)

  3. Graphic Facilitation doesn’t really make a difference

    Au contraire! Over 80% of us are visual learners meaning we absorb information quickly and more easily when it is in a visual format. Graphic facilitation makes meetings more effective, reducing misunderstandings, diffusing tension and increasing participation and ownership of ideas. But don’t just take my word for it. Here’s the feedback Kate and I received when we facilitated a PATH (strategic visioning) session for Update Disability Information Scotland,

    ‘“Many thanks for a really useful planning day and a fantastic graphical depiction of our plans! It’s so much better than a dense list of tasks, scribbled notes or formal minutes and highlights so clearly how much work was done on the day by everyone.The PATH is now up in the office for all to see and be reminded of the tasks and the dream! Claire has also done photos of parts of the plan (first steps, month, actions) and patched them together so everyone has a record of what needs doing over the next few weeks – there’s no escaping ‘the plan’!.”

Want more tips? Join me for Secrets of Simple Graphics open course in Edinburgh on September 5th 2017. Sign up here.

The power of drawing BIG!

I first learnt about graphic facilitation when I did a course on Person Centred Planning back in 2002. The trainers had enormous pieces of paper on the wall and they were really working those markers.

‘Wow’, I thought, ‘That looks…terrifying!’

I loved art as a child and always kept my drawings small and neat. I would only reveal them to my teachers and classmates when they were ‘finished’.

The thought of standing up by a wall and drawing BIG as other people looked on filled me with dread.

Some years later when Kate asked me to co-deliver a course on Person Centred Planning with her I said ‘Absolutely. But there’s no way I’m doing the drawing bit!’

I’m happy to say I overcame my fear of drawing big and now embrace it at every opportunity.

In fact I recently created a ‘studio’ in my flat, where one wall in my living room is covered in enormous paper for the sheer pleasure of drawing big when the mood takes me (i.e. every day).

So what are the benefits of drawing BIG? Why do I love it so much? Here are my top three reasons:

1. It works as a very powerful visioning tool. Have you ever written out your goals on a piece of paper, put the piece of paper in a drawer and never took it out again? When you draw your vision BIG it becomes more real. I see this often with my own visions, and also when I am doing visioning work with coaching clients or groups. It really does feel different when visions are drawn big, and particularly if they are left up on the wall as a constant reminder.

2. Drawing big also helps us to think big. With all that space our mind starts to expand, to find new solutions to problems, to be creative.

3. It’s ‘not allowed’. I don’t know about you but when I was growing up I wasn’t allowed to draw on the walls. Drawing on walls was a ‘bad thing’! It’s perhaps for that reason that drawing (on paper) on the walls feels incredibly liberating.

And did I mention it’s tremendous fun?
Give it a go yourself. Don’t wait until you have the ‘right’ size wall or the ‘right’ paper. A piece of flip chart on the back of a door is a good start.

And if you’re keen to explore the power of drawing big in a fun, safe environment do join me for Secrets of Simple Graphics on September 5th. Book now >>

To your success,