Visualization as a tool for collaboration and communication

I’m not gonna lie, live sketching is fun but it can be tough work. You’re on your feet for long stretches, listening to what’s being said while drawing what was just said, all the while trying to keep the energy, accuracy, and creativity up in your artwork. By the time a typical work session is over, I usually don’t have a lot of gas left in the tank.

live-sketchAt the end of the day, one of our last jobs is to take photos of the drawings from the session. We do this partly to have a record for ourselves for further project work and partly to share with participants as a session capture.

A while back we helped facilitate a session that included visualizing a set of prototypes that a tech company was brainstorming. After the session was over, the final thing I needed to do was walk around and take photos of the sketches.

As I was close to finishing, there were two people were standing right in front of one of the drawings I needed to shoot. Being wiped out and ready to be done, I started to get a little irritated. I’m thinking, “come on guys we need to wrap this up here”. But then one of them turned to me to ask about the sketch. The session was wrapped up but they were still thinking and talking about the drawing. I went from kind of annoyed to kind of psyched. It’s always so gratifying to see dialogue being sparked by something we sketched!

And it speaks to the power of visualization as a tool for collaboration and communication. I’ve witnessed many times how having a drawing posted up in a room enhances group dialogue by serving as a shorthand for a concept or a point of view. I’ve seen participants be able to walk through an entire day’s thoughts and ideas in just a minute or two with someone who just walked in the door.

Although we’re currently not doing in-person live sketching, we can still create great visuals on digital platforms and collaborate in new and different ways. And on the plus side, when we sketch virtually I don’t have to worry about taking photos at the end of the day.

Illustration by Ted May / Tremendousness; photo by Paul Nordmann