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My Introduction to Graphic Recording

In 2001 I was the office manager and graphic designer for a biotech start-up. Our CEO was an author and former Wall Street Journal editor who loved innovative ideas. He invited a fellow from Chicago to facilitate a meeting around complexity. A week later I got a call that went a little like this: “Hi, you won’t remember me, but my name is Peter Durand. I was in your office last week and I want to move to Pittsburgh. Can you recommend a good place to live?”

How could I not remember him?! He stood and drew during the meeting and left an amazing artifact on the white board walls that my CEO insisted should be included in our office space. (Who knew that’s what those huge rolling walls were for?!)

I told Peter I couldn’t tell him where to buy a house and he should come and stay with my husband and me for a couple days so we could show him around. He accepted the invite and we toured all the neighborhoods. When he got back to Chicago he called to say that his wife needed to see the burgh before they could make a buying decision. So of course, we asked her to stay with us and we made all the rounds again.

When Peter and Diane bought their house on Pittsburgh’s Northside, they needed an office space where they could run their small business, Alphachimp. My CEO was thrilled to offer them space to hotel in our 9000 square foot office and that is when I really was able to see what this graphic recording thing was all about.

In their business Peter would do most of the drawing/graphic capture and Diane would travel with him to document the meetings much like a journalist would – take photographs of participants and flip charts and write reports and executive summaries on everything that was said and done. One day Diane couldn’t do a gig and Peter asked me to go in her stead to write the meeting report. I said no, but the next day I was in his car heading to an oil company in Ohio to document the meeting on his laptop. I must have done okay because after that it was a whirlwind of travel assisting Peter as a knowledge worker, taking notes on my newly purchased laptop that paid for itself after its first use.

As Alphachimp grew I was introduced to the amazing graphic recording work of Sita Magnuson, Christopher Fuller, Kelvy Bird, Brandy Agerbeck, Stephanie Crowley, Jim Nuttle, Drew Dernavich, Deirdre Crowley, Sue Shea and many other graphic recorders with whom Peter networked. I traveled with them taking notes on my laptop and watching them in awe as they visually captured the meetings. And all in their own styles! Their talent and skill were so intimidating that I convinced myself I could never stand in front of a room and do what they did.

With a bit of encouragement, I was pushed into the fire and did my first graphic capture in 2010. I remained skeptical if it were something I could do until my “aha” moment clicked when I was in my hotel room editing a document that probably wasn’t even going to be read, while my colleagues were in the bar unwinding. There’s something freeing about putting down the marker when the speaker is done talking.

I took the plunge in 2011 and assembled a professional looking marker kit, accepted GR assignments, and started calling myself a graphic recorder. While I still continue to battle my imposter syndrome and the feeling that I'll never be good enough, I think I’ve gotten this “listening and drawing in front of other people” thing down. Thank you to all the rock star scribes who I’ve watched over the years! Thank you for giving me a start Peter Durand  and Diane Bleck And thank you to IFVP for keeping me in contact with this fabulous community of visual practitioners!