The scribing wall: Where brains and beauty meet

Scribing is art. I don’t mean to sound pompous (and I know I do), but it takes a lot of creative energy to turn large amounts of information into something that looks as spectacular as a great piece of scribing looks.

You wouldn’t believe the amount of drawing practice, style-tweaking and structural theory that goes into the scribing crock-pot. But it would be a mistake to think that art is all it is.

I recently did a scribe at a large event with lots of different companies in attendance. It was very important for the client to be noticed, and we were to be part of their allure. We arrived with our paper and pens, all ready to go, but quickly realized that there was hardly any content at all. The occasional tweet, snippets of info about the products… but in terms of solid content, we were in a ghost town.

So, we improvised. Much like making a banquet out of the leftovers in the fridge, we took what little scraps of insight we had, and threw them into a large, eye-catching mural.

On one level, it was a great success. The work may not have been as rich in content as it could have been, but the fact that we were there, drawing it, certainly pulled in the crowds.

But while ‘ornamental scribing’, as I call it, has its place, it can feel like a wasted opportunity to us scribes. As much as we love to draw, we also love to weave meaning into our work – it’s what differentiates a scribe from an illustrator or an artist.

A piece of scribing should look great, of course – but it’s so much more than just a pretty face. It should be brimming with wit and fizzing with intelligent observation. As Bob Mankoff, of the New Yorker once said: “It’s not the ink, it’s the think.” And that has become something of a mantra for us in the Scriberia studio.

We encourage our clients to ask themselves not “what do I want to see?” in a scribe, but rather “what do you want to say?”. Because, while the aesthetic draw of a fantastic scribe is what makes it such an effective tool for communication, everything starts with the content.

So, not unlike scribes themselves, scribing is beautiful but it has brains too. It also likes long walks on the beach and little umbrellas in its cocktails.