Graphic Recording: Reporting in Pictures

Sarah Catherine Firth-CM Sketch

© Sarah the Firth Creative Services, 2014

Graphic Recording is the art of interactive illustration – a fusion of mind mapping and cartooning and comics arts – that visually documents a presentation or a meeting process and outcome. Some “scribes”, as the practitioners are known, also extend this practice to 3D modelling.

Graphic Recording is fast being adopted in the educational, government and corporate sectors to facilitate participants’ engagement, comprehension and recollection. It is applied best where teaching and learning, strategic planning, analysing, problem solving, change management, decision-making, conflict resolution, brainstorming and / or the documentation of processes are the focus.

How does it work?

An organisation hires a scribe to sit in and listen to a session, all the while depicting the key concepts and major ideas in a visual format that combines text and images. The major benefit of Graphic Recording is its accessibility—the process helps people open up. The end product, which can summarise hours of discussion, also provides clarity and can help increase people’s understanding, integration and recall of key concepts. The disadvantage of this tool is that linear and non-visual thinkers can get frustrated with it. Furthermore, a scribe can only be as good as the other people in the room.

David Blumenstein - ACA Sketch 1

© David Blumenstein, 2014

The scribe uses a whiteboard and colour textas in real time to record the nuances of the presentation or meeting they are attending. They may often use a video camera to record the process, or take photos of the evolving images, which can be bundled in the client’s package or used for marketing purposes later on where no confidentiality agreement is in place. The 
practitioner will often keep a notebook by their side or record the session to ensure they do not miss out on vital details, which they can add later when they edit the final images. Additional colour can also be overlayed at the editing stage. The final images are then photographed and handed over to the client. These images will then be integrated into PPP slides, reports or used for educational or promotional purposes on websites. The upshot is that the final product enhances content rather than replaces it.

David Blumenstein - ACA Sketch 2

© David Blumenstein, 2014

Graphic Recording is both a passive and active role. It is the former in that the practitioner does not directly comment or get involved in the actual presentation or meeting. The active component comes from listening and scribing to produce a physical (print or digital) product.

The Australian Cartoonists Association recently ran a session on Graphic Recording with a panel of Australia’s foremost practitioners that included Sarah Catherine Firth, David Blumenstein, Glen Le Lievre and Luke Watson who shone the spotlight on it and demonstrated the process in action to an enthralled audience (see illustration below). Comics Masterclass was also lucky to have Sarah Catherine Firth document a 45-minute presentation into one concise and brilliant page (see top illustration).

Here are seven things you need to know upfront if you want to consider a career as a Graphic Recorder:

  1. Be prepared to sign a Non-Disclosure (Confidentiality) Agreement if you are working in the corporate sector or in government, as some matters under discussion are confidential. Not only will you not be allowed to chat about the session, you will not be allowed to exhibit or publish the material you have generated on websites or on marketing collateral.
  2. This is a form of live drawing except you are dealing with ideas rather than an artist’s model. You will need to be focused and switched on and yet remain relaxed throughout the session so you capture central concepts and other informational high beats quickly and effectively.
  3. This is not an art form that demands perfection. You can be loose in your drawings and still get the desired effect.
  4. You will need to learn to present yourself and your services to a corporate market. Be professional in everything you do from your sales pitch to marketing and negotiation to your phone etiquette and beyond. You need to deliver quality every time.
  5. Marketing is usually conducted via social media and word of mouth.
  6. Do your homework in determining what your fee structure will be so it is competitive and in line with your expertise and value proposition to the market.
  7. Join an association so you can network and learn from your peers (see resources list below). 

In the final analysis, Graphic Recording has a dual purpose—not only is it a powerful tool for capturing ideas and information critical to an organisation’s success, it also provides entertainment in the form of performance art for delegates. Witty live sketching invariably commands enthusiasm and appreciation from an audience who do not consider themselves to be artists. Therefore, for those of you who want to makes comics a career this is a great way to add another professional string to your bow and create another income stream.


Local Practitioners
Sarah Catherine Firth: and (look out for a one day course in 2015)
David Blumenstein:
Glen Le Lievre:
Luke Watson:

Associations and Conferences
Graphic Facilitation Facebook group:
The global International Forum of Visual Practitioners (IFVP): and
EuViz Conference 2014 (Berlin):
IFVP Conference 2015 (Austin):

More Information
Brandy Agerbeck:
Ink Factory:!/categories/graphic-recording-2/
Sketchpost Studio:

Julie Ditrich

© Julie Ditrich, 2014

Image Credits
Top: Sarah Catherine Firth
© Sarah the Firth Creative Services, 2014

Middle and Bottom: David Blumenstein
© David Blumenstein, 2014


Originally published in Comics Masterclass Spotlight (Vol 1. No 11, Nov 2014).

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