How is the economy going? Illustrations will tell you

In recent months, together with the Bank of England, we have travelled the roads and railways to capture, through our drawings, the issues that affect the day to day lives of the British public.

The Bank of England wants to know and hear how the economy is impacting people’s lives.

Always equipped with an Ipad Pro, we provide graphic facilitation of meetings between representatives of the Bank and the community. As these events wish to provide a platform to the greatest possible portion of society and most of the time this means visiting many different locations on the same day.

Flexibility and journalistic spirit are important requirements. You need to be versatile and adapt to drawing either whilst standing or sitting on the floor or between tables and always prepared to adopt a new position at any given time. The desire to obtain relevant, factual information and accurately capture the data is the basis of a good visual recording.

At the end of the day, we have produced a series of illustrations that will be shared on the Bank’s website and social media. Maintaining open and accessible communication with the general public.

For us it is one of the richest visual recording exercises, interacting with so many different people and experiencing the multitude of visions and accents from around the UK.

What is visual thinking?

Visual thinking is a way to organise information in a visual way. As a matter of fact a majority of us are visual thinkers. Studies show that we understand and retain information better once we have seen it.

Albert Einstein on visual thinking

A lot of so called geniuses were masters in visual thinking. Einstein even said that words or language spoken or written do not play any role in his mechanism of thought.

Drawing is our passion. We never stop. We scribble conversations, ideas, situations. We scribble waiting in a phone queue, travelling on a train, waiting for the waiter to bring our breakfast. You get the idea. Our Creative Director and scribe David comes back from each trip with dozens of travel sketches. The great thing about turning one´s passion into profession is that you never really get tired of what you are doing.

Here are some sketches from David´s recent trip to Rome and Wroclaw:

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The workplace of today spans different geographic locations and consists of a lively mix of people from various cultures, speaking many languages and following different social codes.

Even if everyone is fluent in English, business language is filled with nuances of meaning and is open to interpretation. For example, if a Brit says something “sounds interesting” he most likely means “I’m not that keen” but a German colleague may conclude that he is genuinely impressed.

There are countless anecdotes of words being misinterpreted and meanings altered and, as amusing as those stories are, retold over a cup of coffee, they can drive you crazy if you happen to lead a global team. “What you say can be magnified or minimalised based on your listener’s cultural context.” (Mayer)

Direct cultures

Erin Mayer highlights in her article on Harvard Business Network how different cultures communicate. The more direct ones use what is referred by linguists as upgraders – words that reinforce the statement, such as: this is totally unprofessional, your behaviour is absolutely wrong.

Less direct cultures

Other less direct cultures use downgraders, words that soften the criticism. For example: “We are not quite there yet”, when what you want to say is “We are nowhere near completing this”.

One can imagine all the humour and chaos created by people from direct and indirect cultures working together. Mayer gives the example of a German who almost loses his job because he misinterprets the suggestion by his British boss that he rethink the way he does something as a choice, whilst it’s more of an order along the lines “Change your behaviour right away or else”.

No one wants to be misunderstood. So how does one successfully communicate important strategies and content to an international team?

1. It´s helpful to know when to use downgraders and when upgraders.

2. Use of images can ensure that everyone is on the same page. Images support and clarify words and communicate on a universal level, transcending socio cultural differences.

Leading a global team visual scribing

They say a picture is a thousand words and this is certainly true. In a time where attention spans are a rare commodity bullet pointed powerpoint presentations are becoming more and more ineffectual and, we feel, should by now be extinct. It is our strong belief that by translating messages into engaging visuals we can help facilitate communication and get your message across faster and better – people understand pictures without having to read words, and more importantly people remember pictures more than they do words. Our drawing skills and design expertise help us transform our clients’ presentations into engaging experiences. 

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A Typical Assignment

Our client had a room packed with A1 sheets covered with hand written bullet points. The result of long hours of discussion and too many cups of coffee – a terrifying vision if you are looking for a succinct message. They needed clarity – the way to obtain this is through effective visuals that encapsulate their ideas. This is where we come in!  

Our Approach

The first thing we did was to reduce the number of bullet points. We listened carefully to our client’s story – with our years of experience in communication and the fact that we were ‘outside’ the problem it was therefore easy to identify the key messages that would form the basis of our illustrations. Our objective was to create the “Patient of the Future” and explain how modern technologies can help people have healthier lives. Once the most important bullet points were highlighted we used them to create a rough layout. While our client talked we drew quick sketches generating a ‘collaborative lab’ in the room. Clients bring their expertise and we add our unique vision – and it is this combination that results in a very efficient and fun way to work. After creating the initial draft, we decided which style and colours best told the story (usually the client’s brand colours). After these

preparations our scribe drew the final illustrations on big A1 boards. Et Voila! The client loved it – it happened in front of their eyes and they were able to give us feedback there and then. These live sessions allow us to facilitate the ultimate collaborative process.

The Result

The presentation was very successful. Live scribing your bullet points and powerpoint slides is a way to create a unique and remarkable experience for your audience. Ultimately you can communicate your message faster and better.

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The concept was later transformed into a video.

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visualscribing_illustration-of-Mozart

Mozart designs with musical notes; the balance and elegance in Mozart’s melodies are an endless source of inspiration for us.

A great way to learn and improve on your creative skills is to research different areas of expertise. Our obsession with Mozart comes from the fact that in order to keep developing our skills we look constantly into other fields of art in search of innovation and inspiration. Mozart transformed the lives of many people through music. We work hard to transform the lives of people through drawings – making life easier and more fun. 

We wanted to  celebrate Mozart’s quotes in postcard format to keep his immortal art alive in people’s hearts – to transfer the musical to the visual.  The cards are letterpress printed by Blush and shared with clients. If you would like to have a printed card and be inspired by this unique combination of music and scribing drop us a line and we will post you one! :)

Mozart-letter printed illustration by visualscribing

Innovative ideas

A truly innovative idea is worth a lot. But it´s like finding a diamond among thousands of pebbles. How can you find out quickly which of your ideas are innovative and which are worthless?

Usually innovative ideas flow in loads. How can we found out quickly if the idea worth investing time and money in? At visualscribing.com we believe in “draw first ask questions later”. Sometimes one needs to see one’s idea on paper to evaluate it and make sure it’s truly innovative and that it’s progressing in the right direction.

The process of visualising innovative ideas quickly and evaluating them is called rapid prototyping. Rapid prototyping has been used successfully in design for a long time but is increasingly used to evaluate ideas as well. Scribing helps the process of rapid prototyping, saving time and preventing you from investing time and money in ideas that are born to fail. Rapid prototyping is quick (obviously!) and interactive – it’s a brilliant way to generate a lot of fast feedback and initial thoughts, which saves  a lot of time in the long run. Rapid prototyping encourages experimentation and discussion by way of images instead of words – people are allowed to think in all sorts of ways with the knowledge that in the end there will be common understanding of the main goal. On the whole, if a solution to a problem is found quicker it is likely to be successful – rapid prototyping is one of the best ways to do this.

We were invited by Atlantic Customer Solutions to graphically facilitate an event with a group of 50 talented professionals who came together to discuss ‘Personalisation of Social Care’. The environment was buzzing with innovative ideas. Everyone wanted to contribute and to find ways to transform the future of health and social care in the UK.

Our approach

We set up a big knowledge wall using magic whiteboards. Graphic facilitation starts by choosing the right platform for the visuals to come to life. Whether it’s on paper or on whiteboard, to find the proper place and size for your illustrations is crucial to making it as accessible as possible for your audience.

Having a breathtaking and inspiring view around us at the Digital Catapult Centre, we set about illustrating the ‘big story’ of the event as a mural in real-time – the participants were therefore able to see the development second by second, minute by minute, bringing to life innovative ideas that will transform the way social care is approached. As proof we can work in any adverse conditions, our visual scribe David drew on the massive glass windows of the building and often experienced vertigo!

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The drawings had a big impact and sparked conversation, discussion, questioning and photographs, and importantly captivated people’s attention.

Many of the participants walked away from the conference with a visual reminder on their mobile or tablet that would help with the development of digital solutions for our social care system.

Personalisation of Social Care event – visual scribing

photo by @paul_clarke / @MissMemarzia / @DigiCatapult

Innovative ideas mural

The ‘knowledge wall’ at the event had a longer life than just the event therefore: the discussion’s content was now on mobiles and tablets where it was tweeted, facebooked and pinned. These ideas become accessible to people who were not able to attend the event and were still talked about long after the event had finished. Or as one of the speakers tweeted “It was so wonderfully portrayed”.

Personalisation of Social Care – visual scribing

Using comics in business is a great way for companies to communicate with their employees.

Companies generate a big amount of data and the question is what we do with it and how can this information be helpful in gaining useful insights into the business? Many companies are working with new database systems and data analytics. A major UK bank wanted us to explain to their employees how their new database system works.

Our approach

It could not be done with only one image or a poster: the explanation required the use of sequential images showing the various stages of how the database works. In this case, we decided to create a comic page. Why? Because using comics in business is accessible, easy-to-understand and very memorable. We believe that great design helps to engage audiences and capture people’s attention. Having a background in branding we know how to use colors and visual elements to keep the message ‘on brand’. In this case we had to break with the playful nature of the comic, limiting the colour palette, to communicate the seriousness of the topic.

Our process

1 ) Clients usually talk us through the brief and explain the project in detail. This time, the client created a sketch which was very helpful.

2) Based on the sketch, we created the first layout with most of the artwork only in pencil and one finished frame showing the style.

using comics in business

Once the layout was approved, we moved on to create the final version. The result was an elegant ‘on brand’ comic page that explained in a simple and fun way the company’s new database system. The client was very impressed by how engaging and fun the page was. The awareness and usage of the database increased with everyone wanting to know more about it!

using comics to explain complicated processes to employees

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We´ve just got our new business cards letter press printed by Blush. They look so beautiful. Quality that you feel with your fingertips.

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