Visualising Ideas – my journey of discovery

I’ve been ‘OK’ at drawing and an avid doodler for my whole life. I vividly recall as a child devouring blank paper, pencils, protractors, pens, set squares, compasses (the circle-drawing kind) and soft lead pencils… A lifelong love of stationery! I loved creating patterns and designs.

My father worked for a government office and for some reason (I choose not to think about it), he would bring home a particular type of writing pad used for sketching out engineering jobs. The primary-school-aged ‘me’ would head straight to his briefcase to purloin this resource (and just maybe he brought some extras home for me). I remember every detail of the paper, the bright green gum that held the pad together, each page was beautifully blank, unlined, slightly creamy-coloured, of a decent weight, foolscap* size, and it was emblazoned in bold font ‘Department of Public Works’, just along the top. I would draw and create designs. I also remember gathering up anything else that could be a potential canvas, such as the cardboard inserts in the packaging of my father’s new shirts.

(* The traditional paper size used in Europe and the British Commonwealth before A4)

Then I discovered ‘lettering’. Prior to our digital world, we had stencils and lettering books. I would practice lettering all the time. In the 1970s, a school ‘project’ meant sticking a few pictures on a piece of coloured cardboard, writing on some explanatory text and maybe a couple of diagrams. What my projects lacked in the substance of the content, I made up in the quality of the lettering.

How did this latent passion become rekindled?

In early February 2019, I attended a workshop for facilitators using a suite of tools called Liberating Structures. Throughout the workshop co-developer/ lead facilitator, Keith McCandless, would set us up for a dialogue or an activity amongst the groups and then while we were engaged, he would work on the ongoing visualisation of the three day workshop. This left us to our own devices, without the ‘hovering facilitator’ nearby. On the last day, there was an option to learn about and have-a-go graphic visualising, so I leapt in.

Learning my craft.

The tools themselves have revolutionised my facilitation practice. I use the combination of the Liberating Structures tools and graphic illustration, and my workshops have more talking, drawing (from everyone) and thinking, generating rich outcomes.

In the short few months, I have practiced my craft and played with new ideas. I’m developing my toolkit – Panobook for prototyping, beautiful Fabriano Academia paper, Sharpies of a variety of widths and colours, pastels, a drawing board, B and 2B pencils, and the very important eraser. I use an app called CamScanner to turn my illustrations into a PDF or JPEG.

A Suite of opportunities

Mapping the journey of the workshop.

Workshop journey map: ‘From Separated to Connected’ (April, 2019)

Creating a one page summary for a talk
(instead of providing a copy of my slides)

Presentation at AISNSW Tomorrow’s Environment for Learning Conference (April 2019)

Visualising a book chapter and research article.

Socol, I., Moran, P. & Ratliff C. (2018) Timeless Learning: How imagination, observation and zero-based thinking change schools (Chapter 9 Where Design Begins)
Fernandes, M., Wammes, J. & Meade, M. (2018) “The Surprisingly Powerful Influence of Drawing on Memory” Association for Psychological Science, Vol 27(5), p. 302 – 308

The next big challenge:
Starting with a blank page, I want to visualise a talk in real time.


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