Here are some sketch notes from a three-day Open Space Technology facilitator training I just did with Lisa Heft in San Francisco. Open Space is a process for holding meetings and conferences that is participant-driven and known for starting without an agenda. Particularly interesting to me is the potential for bringing visual tools into this process.
Lisa’s great and I would highly recommend her workshops.
Here are some images I created last week in Toronto for Alex Osterwalder’s Business Model Workshop and Masterclass. His groundbreaking, highly-visual method is the basis of the popular book, Business Model Generation.
Here’s an image from the book On the Writing of the Insane (1870) by G. Mackenzie Bacon, medical superintendent at an asylum near Cambridge, England. Surprisingly similar to what I do for a living. And I’m a little crazy.
The brilliant cartoonist, and big inspiration for me since my humble beginnings, Lynda Barry, is teaching a course at the University of Wisconsin called, The Unthinkable Mind. It’s a deep dive into the connection between neuroscience the act of making marks on paper. It’s fascinating. She posts her class assignments and all sorts of goodies on her tumblr. I’ve been lurking there quite a bit and I recommend that you check it out.
My friends at ImageThink sent me on a job to scribe the Promaxbda Conference in LA where I captured interviews with Charlie Sheen, Betty White, and Ryan Murphy, among others. It was a blast.
When I got my iPad I thought it was going to be a tiny computer that I could carry with me and type on and do all the same stuff I would do on a laptop, but it’s a whole different thing. My son immediately grabbed it and started amassing video games. At dinner I used it in the kitchen to look up recipes. But I was a little disappointed in my new toy. It didn’t do much other than provide entertainment. That was until I got turned onto the drawing apps and began to see its value for visual note taking, graphic recording, and animation.
I fell in love with the apps, Brushes, Sketchbook Pro, Flipboom, and Neu Notes. I bought about ten others for drawing and animation but can’t recommend any of them.
With the iPad it’s possible to sit in on a conference or meeting and visually record it on your lap. A wireless connection beams the drawing in real time to a projector and the audience can watch it unfold on the screen. I’ve only heard of colleagues doing it so far, I haven’t been called on to do it myself. But I’m practicing drawing on the iPad constantly so I’ll be ready.
Here are some iPad recordings I did for practice at my son’s Cuong Nhu martial arts class.
So your company wants to make one of those RSA style videos you’ve seen on YouTube and loved so much. You’ve got to hand it to the people at RSA, they really hit on something cool when they started this hand-drawn whiteboard animation phenomenon. People were craving the low-tech human touch for communicating ideas and RSA was there with the perfect concept. A disembodied hand magically draws cartoons while a voice lectures you, all at the privacy of your desktop.
I have enjoyed the benefit of the popularity of whiteboard animation and have done I think ten of them now, I’ve sort of lost count. Not for the real RSA company but, you know, knockoffs in my own style. The results have ranged from great to not-so-great, so I thought I’d share some of the things I’ve learned, so that you don’t end up disappointed with the results when you embark on your own. Here are the elements you should have in place if you want to make an RSA knockoff and have it turn out great:
1. Have a good story
Don’t think that the magic of whiteboard animation will turn mind-numbingly dull material into compelling video. It won’t. Watch the RSA videos again. They are so great because the stories are great.
Come up with an engaging tale that can be told by a single narrator. It could be worthwhile to hire a professional writer to whip your content into shape. I offer, actually sort of demand, to be involved in script revision now whenever I work on a video because I’ve seen how they turn out when the words don’t get the love they need.
Another thing: fifteen minutes of whiteboard animation does not a good video make. The maximum duration is about five minutes. After that fatigue sets in and your suffering viewer loses the message of your video.
2. Use Detailed Storyboards
Even though they look spontaneous, these videos are anything but. All of the imagery is drawn and plotted out beforehand in a tight storyboard. You, as the client, want to know what the artist has in mind so you can make revisions. For a three-minute video I usually plan for a week of storyboard revisions before filming. Once the storyboard is nailed down to everyone’s liking the artist and videographers will use it as a bible for the filming. Don’t turn on the camera without it.
3. Have a Quality Voiceover
Again, before you try to do it yourself, remember there’s a reason why there are professional voice actors and recording studios. Your audience is used to hearing the polished voiceovers of TV commercials and movie trailers, and your CEO reading a tedious monologue is a cue that it’s time to fall asleep. If you must record it yourself at least be sure to record clean audio, without a dog barking in the background.
4. Be Sure to Use Good Lighting
Lighting is the most important thing in shooting one of these videos. If you’ve seen one with harsh shadows all over the whiteboard you know what I mean. Lighting is best left to people who light things every day. If you’re standing around with some cheap clip-on lights for the first time, trying to get them aimed properly, I’m worried about your results.
5. Have a Pro in the Cutting Room
Once the shoot is done you need to have a professional edit the video. A pro will make it look seamless and beautiful, timed perfectly with the audio. Your brother-in-law will make it look like a hack job. In post production a lot of enhancements and tricky animated effects can be added. This is where RSA makes a lot of the magic happen, in fact my videographer friends say that RSA must spend weeks in post production making their videos seem so simple and appealing.
To many of you these tips will seem obvious. Hire people who do this for a living to get the best results. But for others who see the RSA style video as a cheap and dirty way to turn a boring speech into something hip and memorable, please think again. The commitment–and cost–may be more than you planned for.
Hey, none other than the Wall Street Journal has an article on the value of doodling for business!
Friends and acquaintances keep asking me, “What’s that new graphic whatchamacallit thing you’re doing?”
It gives me lots of practice with my elevator speech. So here it goes:
It’s called graphic recording. What I do is attend a meeting or brainstorming session and capture the content in words and pictures on large sheets of paper.
“That sounds cool,” they say. “Graphic, er, what’s it called again?”
Sometimes I wish graphic recording had a more memorable name. Like Zap Doodling or Superfly Sketching. It’s sometimes called scribing or visual note taking or graphic facilitation but those aren’t exactly dynamic names either. My friend Nettie suggests I call my version Live Dangle-tooning which is pretty good, but I’m afraid the serious purpose of the activity would be lost with something as silly-sounding as that. People love graphic recording they just can’t remember what it’s called.
The other response I get from people who know me, when they find out that I draw during meetings and conferences is, “Oh so you do exactly what you’d be doing anyway.” That’s true, I almost always have a sketchbook with me– especially at conferences– and I’m always Zap Doodling the content.