I am always on the lookout for new techniques that visualize ideas quickly and discovered a very effective method of communication called “visual scribing” - the act of sketching on paper what is being verbally described by others. As I mentioned in my book Drawing Shortcuts, this type of hand drawing is 100% from imagination and does not rely on any tracing over photographs or 3D models.
The project shown below was for a visioning session my company studioINSITE had with City Council members from Brighton, Colorado. As individuals expressed their opinions about topics such as ‘why I moved to Brighton’ or ‘what makes Brighton a great place to live’, I translated their concepts into thumbnail sketches cartooning each concept. By the time the meeting concluded, two of us had generated over 65 sketches!
Listen Carefully and Draw Small. Here I am sketching on blank sheets of letter sized paper. Each free hand ink drawing was small enough to fit on 1/4 of the sheet in order to then enlarge it by 200% and tape the print to the wall of the council room.
Capture a Single Idea on Paper. As members spoke about topics such as creating a cultural website, music events, retail diversity, housing and bike trails, I tried to imagine what simple visual “icon” might represent that idea. For the ‘bike friendly’ sketch, I illustrated six bike riders on a curved path. Simple and with minimal detail!
It Takes Teamwork to Organize a Visual Scribing Session. As we generated the sketches, we handed them to our assistant who enlarged them 200% using a basic scanner-printer machine that we set up in the room. Other planners on our team wrote down ideas in traditional text format. Between the numerous pages of notes and our 65+ sketches, we really documented the visioning session with material that was constantly referenced for the following two months by staff and city departments.
Doubling Up the Visual Scribing Effort. I teamed with another planner from my firm studioINSITE to keep up with the fast pace of the council visioning session. As I completed one drawing, Eric was starting on another. We constantly shared ideas about how to visualize certain concepts during the session. His very minimal sketch of the tractor (below) on a field successfully captured the ‘rural roots’ comment by one of the council members.
Many Diverse Ideas on Paper. Look at the many different sketch techniques used in this edited collection of drawings. There are simple cartoons, perspectives, elevations, and even a section technique used to illustrate the skate board park. We did not worry about perfect proportions or accurate detail, as much as getting the idea drawn quickly with minimal amount of effort. Notice that the people illustrated in the ‘more jobs’ sketch have iconic hats and clothing to emphasize diversity in their jobs.
Wall Sized Presentation. Each sketch was enlarged 200%, which fit perfectly onto 8.5”x11” paper. As the drawings were created, they were taped to the wall and reviewed by council members during breaks and following the meeting. I visited the room two months later and the material was still taped to the walls!
Next time you have a community meeting or design workshop, try sketching some of the ideas and ‘visually scribing’ the concepts. It may be scary at first but completely rewarding and appreciated by very happy clients. A typical client comment about this process is: “we spoke, the team of consultants listened and captured exactly what we said on paper. They are amazing”!
The 2010 Blog Collection , a 116-page catalog of my best blog posts from 2010 is now available on Blurb! http://www.blurb.com/bookstore/detail/1963744