A hard day's workshop

It happens on every job we do: someone will come up to admire the scribing, take in the full weight of its construction, pause a moment and then say, “Wow, that’s amazing. How did you learn to do that? How could I learn to do that?” And until recently, our response wold have been a combination of the following: “Thank you", "Practice", and "Just have a go”.

It’s true, we love it when our work is admired for what it is; a long-form piece of honest craftsmanship. It always looks fantastic, and conveys information and mood in a way that’s totally unique. Still, like many an amazing thing - be it cooking, pottery or playing the piano - it's a craft that can be learned. But until recently the only way to learn how to harness the power of visual thinking was by doing it for yourself: trial and error; just giving it a try. However, Scriberia Academy decided to right this wrong and, earlier this month, hosted its first Hardworking Pictures Workshop for all those people who have asked us if they could learn to do what we do, too.

We have made visual thinking our life’s work, and we know what kind of heavy lifting our images are required to do once they leave our hands. They are put to work communicating very complex ideas to wide-ranging audiences. They do overtime explaining difficult concepts. They put in the hours describing processes or sharing stories in a way that a pile of text cannot cope with.

So, we put together a workshop to share some of those skills with a group of 25 people, from differing backgrounds ranging from consulting and graphic design to not-for-profit and academia. What our participants had in common was a desire to learn how to use pictures not only to enhance but also to enable their thinking processes.

While our own scribes are accomplished illustrators, we know that the most effective way of using visual thinking is to draw what is within your ability; if that means simple shapes, lines and arrows, that’s a great place to start. Once you are comfortable giving structure to your ideas by using simple icons to represent concepts, it’s possible to give your drawings a little bit of personality.

The humour and character of Scriberia’s work is something we consider a trademark, so we spent a lot of time working on how to use metaphor, humor and left-field thinking to bring a little bit of lightness and style to the work. After all, the cartoonish aspect of our visuals is not just a gimmick—we know that the laughs work just as hard to get at the truth of an idea as the intense research behind it. We did a few exercises on visual storytelling and using graphic modeling as a thinking tool, and a good long while breaking down the idea of a “hardworking picture” into manageable bites.

After a long day and many hundreds of drawings, we felt more energized than ever about the power of a picture to work harder than its text counterpart. We're looking very much forward to keeping up with this group of participants via our new LinkedIn group and seeing their work as it develop. We can't wait to see them take what they've learned from us, and worked out for themselves, into their boardrooms, presentations, conference halls and beyond. And, we're very much looking forward to the next one. Watch our Academy space for details.