Start your visual facilitation journey with letters.

With the growing use of agile practices and design thinking, there is also a growing awareness of the importance of working visually. If you think that sketch noting, visual facilitation and graphic recording is not for you because you cannot draw, then my advice to you is: Start by learning lettering. This may sound counterintuitive, but I encourage you by starting with what you use daily in your work: Letters. If your workday is anything like mine, the easiest way to establish a routine of using pen and paper, is to start taking notes.

 

Roman hand is a good lettering style to start with, because it is basic and easy to learn. It is a great way for you to get to know your markers, and experiment with using the space on the paper. This matters if you are used to doing everything digitally. You can practice Roman hand in different sizes and colors, and this will be a chance for you to work with your sense of scale and color. There is an element of technique to lettering that is important for speed and legibility. I admit, that when I learned this at 7-8 years old, it was completely without any awareness of the importance of it, which might explain why I have always had a terrible handwriting. Sense of scale and color, and basic technique will serve you well once you start drawing. When you experience how far you can come with a little focused effort in lettering, I bet that you will also be motivated to start drawing – no matter how inexperienced you might be.

Once you know the basic lettering style well, you can consider learning to add serifs. Especially when working in small formats like the paper from the printer, it is an additional way to add emphasis. Several more sophisticated lettering styles are based on Roman hand, and you will have the prerequisites to learn those.

You can learn Roman hand with the resources provided by Heather Martinez. Either from her website https://www.letslettertogether.com, or her book “Lettering Journey”.

Let me show you what my handwriting looked like before practicing:

This is what my handwriting looked like after having studying Heather Martinez’ instructions for a few hours and practicing for 1 hour:

When you have learned “correct” lettering, you obtain two things. The speed you need to be able to write while listening, and the legibility needed for others to read your letters. This is crucial for establishing a visual practice in an everyday work environment. If you can write with legibility, the notes you write require much less after processing to be ready to share. Let me show you how. Below are my notes for the text you have just read in this article. This kind of content can be notes down while reading or listening to a presentation.

By adding some frames, headlines, and colors you get a result that can be presented or shared. In this particular case, I obviously knew the content in advance and could place the content according to theme. But even if the content had been differently placed, the colors would still indicate what belongs together.

There is no need to re-write your notes because you can write fast enough to catch more than just keywords, and because it is legible enough for others to read. Again, experiencing this way of working will serve you well when you start graphical recording or facilitation. You might notice that I by accident wrote a “R” instead of a “P” in one instance. This is easily fixed with correction ink. My original intention was to add the main headline at the top. But then there was little room, after I had added the frames and the other headlines, so I decided to place in the largest space available and give it different color for extra emphasis. Instead of rewriting the whole thing, when I realized there was no room for the headline at the top, I accepted it and worked on from there. Does this sound familiar? Well, this is also part of the agile mind set: Accept your mistakes and use them. This type of mistake is of no consequence and insignificant, but practicing on insignificant mistakes, prepares you for dealing with mistakes that are significant.

 

In conclusion, getting started with sketch noting or visual facilitation is not as far fetched as you might think, though you are inexperienced with drawing. If you started, and can establish a practice using your pen on a regular basis, I am convinced that you will find the motivation to take on the challenge of drawing as well.