In this article, we introduce the concept of graphic recording and outline an exercise on how to think about complex ideas visually which was led by visual practitioner Eleanor Beer during the 2017 Wellcome Trust International Engagement Workshop. 

"This session was very focusing and great for collaboration" 
Dorcas Kamuya, KEMRI-Wellcome Trust Research Programme, Kenya (workshop participant)

What is Graphic Recording?

Graphic recording is the art of capturing the conversations from a meeting or discussion in a graphic - drawn live by a facilitator present at the meeting. As a technique, it shows the power of visualisation in synthesising complex discussions and concepts.

Caption: Video explanation of what graphic recording is and how it can be used.

Simplifying Complex Issues with Visual Thinking: the exercise

Many of us use the parts of our brain responsible for logic, language and analytical thought more than the creative parts of our brains. In this exercise, which took place at the 2017 Wellcome International Engagement Workshop, the aim was to engage the creative side of participants’ brains to help visualise the future state of an issue with drawings and visual thinking. 

In this instance a diverse group of practitioners from community engagement, policy, education, biomedical research and beyond were asked to split into groups around issues that were common amongst them in their professional practice. They were asked to imagine their issue had been chosen to appear as the front cover story of a magazine. Participants were then asked to think of, discuss and draw the key headlines surrounding their stories along with quotes and images to create an engaging visual narrative.

Caption: Participant Carolyne Ngara, from the Enduring Voices Foundation, Kenya, presents the graphic representation of her group's discussion on Climate Change

Groups were encouraged to draw out their ideas and designs (rather than write them) on large pieces of paper, to encourage simplification and visualisation of their thoughts. This stimulated discussion, aided problem solving and allowed for easier sharing of individual's thoughts with others. The exercise was a great success. Though daunting at the start, with many participants taking a while to pick up a pen, by the end everyone was involved. Each group presented an array of colourful, well thought out visual narratives which engaged the whole group and allowed for each members’ voice to be heard.

The participants split themselves into eight groups to explore topics including: translating research into policy; the ethics of engagement; blood, sputum and vaccines; youth as agents for change; DNA based personal medicine; Climate Change; 

Caption: Evelyn Namubiru-Mwaura, Accelerating Excellence in Science in Africa, Kenya, presents the graphic representation of her group's discussion on policy making (left). Vicky Nembaware, H3 Africa Coordinating Centre, South Africa, presents the graphic representation of her group's discussion on DNA Based Personal Medicine (right).

Download all of the group drawings [PDF 1800KB]

Further Reading on Visualisation

The Graphic Facilitators Guide by Brandy Agerbeck
The Sketchnote Handbook by Mike Rohde
Doodle Revolution by Sunny Brown
Description of Graphic Recording from Workshop Participant Eleanor Beer [PDF 354KB]

The content on this page forms part of the online report for the 2017 International Engagement Workshop "It's Complicated: navigating scientific complexity in public and community engagement". To read more about metaphor and visualisation in engagement visit the metaphor and visualisation theme from the workshop. To read more about the full workshop and access the rest of the report including video presentations, discussion summaries, and tools, visit the workshop page.

Creative Commons License

This work, unless stated otherwise, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License


Please Sign in (or Register) to view further.