Graphic recording: How to get started

Data visualization professionals often focus on numbers, helping to tell the story of what, when, where, and how much. But more often than not organizations first need to better understand the why and how (this is known as qualitative data).

Before there is a need to communicate key insights, there is always a need to communicate first about what insights will matter most to the people involved, and therefore what data to plan, collect, analyze, and present.

Graphic recording is a method for using visuals to support communication and understanding during real-time dialogue. Hand-drawn illustrations allow teams to simultaneously collect, analyze, and report qualitative data about people and groups.

There are several reasons why graphic recording is hands-down the best method for visualizing qualitative data...

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What happens when we connect with "the other"

As I take stock of another year gone by, one thing I am reflecting on is that this year I really embraced my own identity as a connector, liaison, mediator, network weaver, and culture nomad. It took me years to realize that it's no coincidence that most of my collaborators are leaders of networks. I love assisting them with addressing the unique communication challenges that come with bridging identities, disciplines, industries, and/or sectors.

One of my personal favorite ways to traverse apparent divides is to attend conferences where I can meet with folks outside my own industry. What makes conferences so much richer in my opinion than other learning experiences (books, podcasts, webinars, even classes) is that they are like "microtribes." Attending them is like immersing yourself in a group that has specific languages, behaviors, and ideologies. You get exposed to a range of perspectives and ideas from different people who tend to share similar roles, experiences, and/or goals.

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Tips for sharing research visually

This Academic Writing Month, Janet Salmons asked me for my suggestions on sharing research work. My responses to her questions are below.

What approaches do you recommend researchers take for using visualizations and images of various kinds to communicate research findings? Is it different for qualitative or quantitative researchers?

Like research and writing, creating images requires thoughtful process. I highly recommend that anyone and everyone use a design thinking process...

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Using visuals to support your writing process

Many of us are well trained in using writing to develop and convey our insights, but only some of us learn how visuals can help us organize and communicate our ideas.

It’s well worth learning what you can, because visuals have the unique ability to help us:

  • Develop ideas and understand experiences that language can not yet describe
  • Gather and analyze complex and/or abstract ideas in simple, immediate ways
  • Communicate across language, knowledge, ideological, and other barriers
  • Impact decision-making, which largely happens in our pre-lingual, pre-rational brains

The best visuals balance the use of thoughtful images and words, and the best writing balances thorough explanation and visualization. Writers that use visuals to describe their ideas help their readers better understand the frameworks of thinking that inform what the writer is seeking to convey, and they make it easier for readers to share those ideas with others.

The most effective way to incorporate visuals into your writings is to start using them at the beginning of your writing process...

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