Graphic Recording as a Team

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Some of the best graphic recording work I’ve done has been a team effort – it’s fun, you always learn new moves, and the more ears listening, the better!

Here are some things that support group recording work, in my experience…

Before you start:

  • decide on a simple colour scheme (black + grey for shading + 2 other colours), have several of each (1-2 of each colour, per person)
  • discuss what you’re all most un/comfortable doing – hopefully it works out that you have a variety and everyone can play to their strengths, which leads to…
  • plan for consistency: one person does all large lettering – titles and headings (all caps, lower case, or mixed? block letters or bubble? – pick one). Others can focus on illustrations, colouring, shading, quotes, etc.
  • agree to give and receive creative direction to each other in the moment. At various points, someone will be more in the flow, and will know what to do next.  Agree in advance to both speak up and follow instructions with no hard feelings
  • agree that nothing is “precious” – everyone should do what they think is best for the recording. It should be ok to add to each other’s work
  • go for a simple and flexible/forgiving layout. Title in the middle and working out in chunks is probably the best bet. There’ll be room for more bodies at the wall, and more places to go with your recording

Note: this seems like a lot, but it can done very quickly, if necessary. For higher stakes gigs, plan time well in advance for these conversations in detail, and sharing sketches and ideas.

While drawing:

  • remember your agreements about creative direction – trust you’re all in it for the best recording
  • communicate, but don’t talk too much. It’s important everyone keeps listening – fast, quiet talk with much arm flailing works
  • ask for help when you need it. Someone will be able to save you if you get stuck, by adding something (including a boo-boo label if all else fails).
  • take turns stepping back (several feet) regularly to look at the drawing. This allows each person to check the progress of the drawing as a whole, refocus and listen, and give everyone a chance to record
  • have someone alert to harvesting quotes, writing them word-for-word on post-it notes, and sticking them on the wall to integrate into the drawing (e.g., from the speaker, audience, twitter feed, or whatever back-channel may be in play)
  • toward the end, look for ways to add “cohesion” elements to unify the drawing (e.g.,  additional lines, arrows, blocks of colour, adding a repeating icon/shape or colour scheme to highlight key points – these things can help tie it together)

Working with 1 other person seems optimal for “higher stakes” gigs. But with more casual gigs and a large drawing surface, you can reasonably include 4-5 or so in the effort if you keep moving.

Thanks, Nancy White, for suggesting the idea for this post!

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