Co-Graphic Recording on Agricultural Sustainability

Last month I had the pleasure of co-graphic-recording with the amazing Mariah Howard at the ASI Agriculture Sustainability Symposium in Davis, California. I have some of the pictures here and am attempting a slideshow embed below!

First, I’ve been doing some work for ASI for about a year now and deeply appreciate their systems view of our food systems. It isn’t just agriculture – it is all the steps between the sprouting of the seed and your plate, and it includes a hay wagon full of policy as well. The people who care about this stuff are bright, engaging and committed. So it is great work.

The ASI team led by Tom Tommich had an ambitious three days planned, with the work from one day cascading and driving the next day. When Tom said I could bring in a second person, I said “A Graphic Recorder!” I had done some recording as I facilitated last year, but this time the content would be so dense and coming so fast, there was no way I could do it alone, nor do it justice. I’m still too new at this. So I sent a query to the International Forum of Visual Practitioners email list and found Mariah. I’ve known and admired her mom for many years, but we had never met nor worked together. So after one phone call I said “let’s do it!”

Now for those of you who have never co-graphically recorded, I have to say, it is not something everyone can do. It requires a very interesting collaborative dance and a certain “letting go” of one’s own habits and expectations. This dance is both physical (not getting in each others way), mental (co-processing the information as it comes in and deciding what to do with it), and for me, emotional (caring about the other person, respect, negotiate, push, pull, back off, drive forward.) It is an exquisite form of improv and I LOVE it. In this case, Mariah was a far superior artist, and I had a grasp of the content.

Over the first day we did 5 charts. We had spent a few hours the day before pre-planning and sketching out frameworks for each of the panels we were going to record. After the first panel – which was by far the toughest for me, we started letting go of our plans. By the third one we had totally let go of our plans and for me, things started to click. We also allowed ourselves the evening to finish off the panels and I’m VERY glad we did. They were still fairly raw at the end of the program day, but after some time adding color, connecting ideas and plain old “sense making” I think they turned out well. But the decision to “let go” of any pre-planning turned out to be critical, as was the simple act of getting used to each other as we worked. As a consequence, Mariah did most of the heavy lifting of key images, I did a lot of the content synthesis, and then we both colored and wove things together. But the images you see are far more her work than mine.

The content was dense so as you look at these, they probably won’t make sense as stand alone products. But they add a richness and can be very complimentary to the videos .

Mariah was a total pro and a champ to put up with “crazy Nancy.” I work fast, I switch directions on a dime and get really involved. I think it could be overwhelming to many. Not Mariah!

If you have co-recorded, what have been your experiences?

4 thoughts on “Co-Graphic Recording on Agricultural Sustainability”

  1. Some really wonderful work there! Congrats to both!

    I have done some minimal co-graphic recording in my time. Usually with a less experienced recorder work with me so they feel confident in front of the audience. But I agree no matter how you plan it to work it never works the way you want. I do find usually it is best to dedicate one to grabbing the points and information while the other does the graphically additions and creations. Then you can swap around or the person adding text and the key points can do the colouring in and finishing up of the work the graphic or glyph creator is doing.

    I have found most of the time with the new bies they tend to end up doing there own thing once comfortable and we end up with two creations at the end of the day but with experienced recorders it is easier to work and you end up in a flow together weaving in and out swapping roles and generally just fulling into place understanding what role each of you wants to play without the need to converse around it.

    I find the planning is best just to discuss who you are, what you prefer to do, how you have worked before and then just have a go. I think in the future i will endeavour to practice with my co recorder before hand maybe to the news or something similar so on the day it isn’t as stressful or edgy!

    Paul Telling
    Creative Communications Creator and Graphic Facilitator
    Pauls Site
    Visualise and Monetise!

  2. I like the “dance” metaphor… Thanks for the article and posts, all. Scribing to the news is a great idea for practice…why haven’t I thought of that? Have you heard of Sita Magnuson? She does similar work collaborating with many people worldwide and has probably learned the dance pretty well. Check her out: Sita Magnuson – Graphic Facilitation

    Keep it up y’all!


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