Case study: Graphics and social innovation

Case study: Graphics and social innovation

I’d like to introduce you to Jenni Inglis, MDes, MSc, FRSA. Jenni is Director of VIE (for Life) Ltd. VIE enables social purpose organisations to better involve their stakeholders in design and evaluation of initiatives in order to create more positive change. Jenni attended Secrets of Simple of Graphics back in January 2017.  Read about her experience – her reasons for attending the training, how she’s using graphics in her work now and what she has to say to people who are thinking about learning this skill.


Before Jenni attended Secrets of Simple Graphics in January 2017 she already used some graphics in her work as a facilitator. However she only used graphics she had prepared beforehand. Jenni felt this was limiting what she was doing. She has recently found herself working more and more with groups of people who might not get the most from spoken and written English. She felt that an increased use of graphics would help in these settings. The introduction session in the training helped Jenni to realise that she actually wanted to become more fluent in graphics, so that she could use them more spontaneously and draw graphics live in front of people.


Jenni found the training to be great practice in drawing graphics live in front of people. She thought it very well structured and full of tips and tools to improve the way she uses graphics. It enabled her to explore the use of graphics in different ways that she had not previously thought of (e.g. the difference between graphic recording and graphic facilitation) and to identify stretch targets for herself.


As Jenni says, ‘At the end of the course I had really caught the bug, in a good way!’. Jenni decided that she wanted to use graphics all the time in all her work – in presentations, in templates for individuals and groups, in capturing what people say, and when training – so that she could really become fluent, just like learning any language.  She gets a lot of positive feedback and the individuals and groups she works with are more engaged. To someone who is considering going on the training, Jenni says, ‘Do it! You’ll have a great day and learn a lot about how you can make your work more engaging through graphics.’ See below for a sample of Jenni’s work!              

Keen to catch the bug yourself? Book your place now for Secrets of Simple Graphics April 26th 2019

Top tips for lettering on flip charts

Top tips for lettering on flip charts

Have you ever written a list on a flipchart only to discover that, despite best efforts, your writing makes a downward curve?

Here are my top tips for lettering:

  • Write your title in advance where possible. Figure out how many letters you can fit across the page before you run out of space.


  • When writing live, add a little mark to the opposite side of the page (where your sentence will end). Glance over at the mark from time to time – this acts as a guide to help keep your writing straight.


  • Stick out your pinky! Use it to anchor your hand on the page. This works whether you are right or left-handed.


  • Using a ruler, draw lines on your flipchart in pencil beforehand.


  • Use a piece of flipchart paper with thick lines and place it behind the page you are working on. (This always reminds me of my Mum sitting down to write a letter to my aunt using Basildon Bond stationery.)


  • On that note it’s also possible to buy flipchart paper that features lines or guides to help your writing.

Remember to use plain lettering with no serifs (small lines added to the stroke of a letter like this for example) and avoid fancy calligraphic strokes. They may look pretty but they are often inaccessible to your audience.

I hope you enjoyed these tips on lettering – if you have any of your own do let me know and I’ll share them in a future edition.

For more tips and hands on practice to boot why not join me for Secrets of Simple Graphics in Edinburgh on April 26th 2019? More information and booking here >>

Five quick ways to use graphics in your training

Five quick ways to use graphics in your training

As a trainer or facilitator you may be curious about incorporating hand drawn graphics into your training design and delivery.

Perhaps you’re fed up with powerpoint, itching to try something new or have simply heard about the many benefits of using graphics and want to try them out for yourself.

At first hand drawn graphics may seem daunting, particularly if you believe you’re ‘no good at drawing’ or ‘not artistic’. Remember when it comes to using graphics in a learning setting the goal is to get a message across and draw out ideas, not to impress the group with your flair for fine art.

Here are five quick ways you can introduce hand drawn graphics into your training:

1. The Welcome Flip

You just can’t beat a friendly welcome flip when you enter a room. That’s right, it’s simply a flip chart with the word Welcome written on it, accompanied by a graphic. What graphic represents the word welcome? A cup of coffee? A sun? A smiling face? You choose!

2. The Meeting StartUp

I love the meeting startup. It’s basically a large paper template that outlines the agenda, roles, rules and outcomes for the day. The Grove Consultants in San Francisco have designed some great meeting startup templates – check them out here.

3. Burning Questions 

This is one of my favourites. Draw a simple picture of a fire on a large piece of paper and stick it on the wall. At the beginning of the session invite delegates to write down their key burning questions on post it notes (flame coloured, naturally) and stick them to the template. At some point during the session allow time to openly reflect on the questions posed to ensure questions and concerns are being met.

4. Reflection in Action sheet

Generally speaking at training events, delegates are often provided with blank sheets of paper to make notes on. Why not create a simple Reflection in Action template for delegates to jot down insights, ideas and suggestions as they emerge? Here’s the one I use. Feel free to create a template of your own – use lightbulbs, flipchart stands, target symbols, any outline you like to allow delegates to capture their learning in a unique and memorable way.
ReflectioninAction sheet









5. Head, Heart, Feet Finishing Exercise

I’m always looking for different ways to round off a training session and this is particular favourite.

Start off by drawing a person on a piece of flip chart paper (a stick man is absolutely fine!) and give the group some post-it notes.

Ask the group to jot down what they’ve learned (head), how they’re feeling (heart) and what actions they’re going to put in place (feet), and invite them to put their post-it notes on the appropriate place on the person you’ve drawn. (If, like me, you have a penchant for post-its you can even get some head, heart, feet shaped ones. Yes, I do get excited about such things…)

So there you have it, three quick ways to introduce hand drawn graphics into your training design and delivery. Have a go with one or more of the above suggestions and do let me know how you get on.

For more ideas why not join me for Secrets of Simple Graphics open course on September 27th 2019.

Graphic facilitation myths busted

Graphic Facilitation is a particular facilitation technique that uses the power of visuals to help groups ‘see what they mean’. Typically a facilitator stands at the top of a room, filling in a pre-drawn template with words and images that represent what a group is expressing.

When it comes to graphic facilitation many myths abound. I’m here to bust the top three!

  1. You have to be good at drawing to be a graphic facilitator.

    This is absolutely not true. When it comes to graphic facilitation the art of facilitation itself is key. There are many people out there who are amazing artists and illustrators but don’t know the first thing about facilitation! With graphic facilitation the importance is on drawing out ideas and getting a message across; this often works best when the images are straightforward and easy to grasp. So you really really (honestly) do not have to be ‘good at drawing’ to be a graphic facilitator. Designing templates and drawing icons all come with practice.

  2. Graphic facilitators always have their back to the wall.

    This is another common myth that is simply untrue. A graphic facilitator pivots, turning both to the group to ask questions and facilitate discussion, and to the wall to capture the key points of what is being said. It takes a little practice, and works very well. It’s a good idea when facilitating to explain to the group at the beginning of the process that you will sometimes have your back to the wall, however you will be keenly listening to what is being said. Getting participants involved in the graphics and checking in regularly that you have accurately captured the discussion are two ways ensure the process works effectively.

    (It’s also possible as a facilitator to team up with a graphic recorder – so one person is doing the facilitating and one person is recording what is being said.)

  3. Graphic Facilitation doesn’t really make a difference

    Au contraire! Over 80% of us are visual learners meaning we absorb information quickly and more easily when it is in a visual format. Graphic facilitation makes meetings more effective, reducing misunderstandings, diffusing tension and increasing participation and ownership of ideas. But don’t just take my word for it. Here’s the feedback Kate and I received when we facilitated a PATH (strategic visioning) session for Update Disability Information Scotland,

    ‘“Many thanks for a really useful planning day and a fantastic graphical depiction of our plans! It’s so much better than a dense list of tasks, scribbled notes or formal minutes and highlights so clearly how much work was done on the day by everyone.The PATH is now up in the office for all to see and be reminded of the tasks and the dream! Claire has also done photos of parts of the plan (first steps, month, actions) and patched them together so everyone has a record of what needs doing over the next few weeks – there’s no escaping ‘the plan’!.”

Want more tips? Join me for Secrets of Simple Graphics open course in Edinburgh on September 5th 2017. Sign up here.

The power of drawing BIG!

I first learnt about graphic facilitation when I did a course on Person Centred Planning back in 2002. The trainers had enormous pieces of paper on the wall and they were really working those markers.

‘Wow’, I thought, ‘That looks…terrifying!’

I loved art as a child and always kept my drawings small and neat. I would only reveal them to my teachers and classmates when they were ‘finished’.

The thought of standing up by a wall and drawing BIG as other people looked on filled me with dread.

Some years later when Kate asked me to co-deliver a course on Person Centred Planning with her I said ‘Absolutely. But there’s no way I’m doing the drawing bit!’

I’m happy to say I overcame my fear of drawing big and now embrace it at every opportunity.

In fact I recently created a ‘studio’ in my flat, where one wall in my living room is covered in enormous paper for the sheer pleasure of drawing big when the mood takes me (i.e. every day).

So what are the benefits of drawing BIG? Why do I love it so much? Here are my top three reasons:

1. It works as a very powerful visioning tool. Have you ever written out your goals on a piece of paper, put the piece of paper in a drawer and never took it out again? When you draw your vision BIG it becomes more real. I see this often with my own visions, and also when I am doing visioning work with coaching clients or groups. It really does feel different when visions are drawn big, and particularly if they are left up on the wall as a constant reminder.

2. Drawing big also helps us to think big. With all that space our mind starts to expand, to find new solutions to problems, to be creative.

3. It’s ‘not allowed’. I don’t know about you but when I was growing up I wasn’t allowed to draw on the walls. Drawing on walls was a ‘bad thing’! It’s perhaps for that reason that drawing (on paper) on the walls feels incredibly liberating.

And did I mention it’s tremendous fun?
Give it a go yourself. Don’t wait until you have the ‘right’ size wall or the ‘right’ paper. A piece of flip chart on the back of a door is a good start.

And if you’re keen to explore the power of drawing big in a fun, safe environment do join me for Secrets of Simple Graphics on September 5th. Book now >>

To your success,