A brief history of one branch of modern scribing/graphic recording from 1995 to today, that focuses on how MG Taylor helped turn a democratized facilitation technique into a more personalized practice.

Graphic recording in its origins, was almost exclusively a tool for facilitators and design thinkers to help guide meetings by adding visual documentation and synthesis to strategy and visioning sessions. Its modern roots can be traced back to the early 1970s in San Francisco, California, with the way ahead of its time consulting firm, Interaction Associates, led by two former architects, David Straus and Michael Doyle. It cannot be stressed enough how important architects are to the history and development of graphic recording and graphic facilitation, as you will soon discover.

In its early days the roles of graphic recorder and facilitator were often combined, one of the consequences of that combination (graphic recorder + facilitator = graphic facilitator) necessitated the drawings to be simple, fast, and easy to produce — therefore, a democratized approach to drawing was necessary, one that anyone could learn and do with a little practice. Because if you are an upfront facilitator interacting with a group in real-time, the graphics by definition should be very efficient. There simply isn’t a lot of time to concentrate on how well a likeness of a character or object is when you are trying to stay two or three moves ahead of a conversation. …


This is a graphic recorder “origin story”. It details how you can learn to “tune-in” like Christopher Fuller did (Founder and “Chief Scribe” at Griot’s Eye) to become better at real-time visual storytelling and collaboration.

Once when I was 4 my mother had to discipline me after nursery school (shout out to La Petit!) because I jammed my pencil into another boy’s hand because he told me I had forgotten the mouth on my drawing, and so he added “a smiley face” to my picture of Spider-Man. SPIDEY DOESN’T HAVE A MOUTH DUMMY!” I suppose I gravitated to drawing in the first place because I enjoyed the solitude of pencil and paper and tuning things out so I could unleash my imagination with input from no one else. Seriously… No. One. Else. I graduated with a degree in Visual Art at college (shout out to Scarlet Knights!) yet looking back I realize my education was predominantly focused on art created by individuals. …


Three essential tools that helped me become an effective real-time visual storyteller.

I’ve been at this real-time graphic facilitation and recording (sometimes called scribing, or sketch-noting, or visual facilitation) career quite a while. How long? I ingratiated myself with my future employer MG Taylor by doing my Ross Perot impression at one of our first meetings (which was really just a lame rip-off of Dana Carvey’s if I’m being honest). What you see here are snippets from the same conference from various graphic boards that were created in real-time during the speaker sessions. They are examples of some of the most engaging tools a scribe has at their disposal: actors and motifs.

Image for post
Image for post
Graphic recording examples from the same event that highlight the use of actors, motifs, and cartooning

Actors are the characters or objects (in scribing even inanimate things can become actors, i.e. “talking buildings” and whatnot) that you utilize to help communicate ideas. When I first started my go to actors were “bean people”. I tend to believe actors in scribing work best when they are simple, versatile, and quick to draw. The key here is to keep them simple! I keep them simple for two reasons: 1) they can be sketched relatively quickly so you can fully use listening skills to concentrate on the dialogue you’re hearing and 2) sometimes characters that are too well defined can take away from the meaning of what you’re trying to convey. That last point is especially important when you’re creating visual models. For instance, if you’re creating a model that requires people (e.g. …


Snapshots from the real-time scribing of “the dance” (dry erase markers). An aesthetic homage to golden era Hollywood that symbolized the creative dance between marketing and automotive design engineers.

I’ve been at this career of graphic facilitation and recording quite a while (since right after Bush started that war in Iraq — the “Shock & Awe” one from the 90s, not the “NeverEnding Story” one). And over time I’ve discovered that my role as a graphic facilitator has 4 main responsibilities:

  1. Reporter, documenting the key points of what you hear;
  2. Mutual/Co-Educator, as opposed to a teacher/educator, here you “mutually-educate” with the group you’re supporting by using their own input to reveal patterns that help them literally see what they are talking about;
  3. Visual Modeler, synthesizing concepts in real-time by creating graphic models that help simplify ideas that can sometimes be complex, and…

About

Christopher Fuller

Mr. Fuller began his career as a Graphic Facilitator with MG Taylor’s knowledge worker network in 1992. He is the owner & chief scribe at Griot’s Eye Inc.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store