Visualisation techniques for flipchart and whiteboard: Graphic recording & sketchnoting
Our world is visual. Hearing, smelling, feeling and tasting account for 17% of human sensory perception. An impressive 83% of the sensory impressions processed by our brain are perceived through our eyes. Until man invented writing, we only communicated through images and stories. Even at pre-school age, we communicate largely through visual images. And as adults most of us have to actually see something before we can understand it and remember it.
Whereas we have to learn a foreign language in order to understand it, pictures are surprisingly universal in terms of understanding. Anyone who sees a tree or palm tree in a picture will instantly understand what it is wherever trees grow in the world. The word "tree" or "palm tree", on the other hand, only has a meaning for those who speak German and must be learned at school.
The picture is globally understandable, the word is not. As a result, the use of visual techniques in companies, at school or even at home has become very popular in recent years.
The term visualisation refers to the pictorial or graphic representation of abstract information and thus puts this information into a form that is easier to understand. Visualisation reinforces statements by adding simple images.
Advantages of visualisation
- Images are clearer and easier to understand
- Symbols create a common denominator and reduce the risk of misunderstandings
- Visualised information is easier to remember
- Visualisation promotes an enhanced understanding of relationships
- Visualised information is more emotional, entertaining, creative and collaborative
- Visualisation promotes unconventional thinking
► In summary, communication becomes more effective and efficient when visualisations are used. It therefore becomes quickly evident why visualisation is important and why visualisation techniques should be used in class, at work or at home.
There are many different visualisation techniques, such as graphic recording and sketchnoting. To which extent they differ and are often vague. This is why we are providing a brief differentiation between these two techniques.
What is graphic recording?
Graphic Recording is the visual translation and documentation of presentations in real time, it is used for larger audiences and therefore a larger format is used.
What is sketchnoting?
Sketchnoting refers to the creation of visually vivid notes for personal use and is therefore done in a smaller format.
► This brochure explains the basics of the two visualisation techniques of graphic recording and sketchnoting:
Fear of drawing vs. the visual alphabet
Most adults who have had little practice drawing will be put off by the idea of creating visualisations themselves because they think they cannot draw. The good news, however, is that you don't have to be able to draw to use graphic recording or sketchnoting. The symbols that both techniques use are based on the visual alphabet, which consists of a few simple shapes: points, lines, rectangles, triangles and circles. And anyone can draw them.
Graphic recording is the simultaneous visual translation and documentation of presentations. This section describes how the basics of graphic recording can be used by everyone in their daily office work on a flipchart or whiteboard. Although there are many significant differences in the use of flipcharts and whiteboards, there are also some similarities.
Graphic recording combines written notes with symbols, pictures and graphic elements. Even if you want to work a lot with drawings, you will always need to do some writing, because nothing can replace the precision of the word. The most common mistake is (a) writing too small in (b) too light colour. If you want people to read the text even from a distance of 10 m, you should try not to write smaller than the width of three fingers.
Another common mistake is writing only in capital letters. This is not recommended as it significantly impairs readability, since every word has the same outline. Therefore, capital letters should only be used for headings.
Another aspect to achieve better legibility are the ascenders and descenders. These should be kept rather small. To ensure that the text remains legible, the words should not be squeezed in the margins. A well-practised, legible handwriting is therefore the basis for a good flipchart or whiteboard.
Chisel tip or bullet tip
Whether to use a chisel tip or bullet tip is a matter of personal taste. The chisel tip is more flexible and allows you to vary the stroke width, bringing writing and drawing to life.
On the other hand, the bullet tip allows for a more even stroke, which leads to more consistency and can therefore prove to be easier for beginners.
The power of order
Whether on a flipchart or whiteboard, the more orderly you work, the easier it is to read. The power of order should not be underestimated, as a well-ordered presentation on a flipchart or whiteboard is easier to read, understand and follow.
Same content should also be presented in the same way, because then the audience will interpret it as being of equal value. There's nothing better than lists and bullet points to keep the message clear. Decorated with icons they become visually appealing.
Using colour and white space
Colour brings flipcharts and whiteboards to life. However, it should be used sparingly: Only dark colours such as black, blue and dark green should be used for the font. The light, bright colours attract attention and can therefore be used well for colour accents and decorations.
White space is a powerful tool when working with flipcharts and whiteboards. While we have a tendency to fill flipcharts and whiteboards as much as possible, this significantly impairs readability. Participants will appreciate the use of white spaces, which can also be used as a design element.
Preparation is everything
Standing live in front of a group and presenting on a flipchart or whiteboard can often be stressful, especially for inexperienced users: time is running out and you fall into a hectic rush. This stress can easily be reduced by preparing the all things that can actually be prepared.
For example, one should create a small collection of key symbols and practice them until they can be used without hesitation. You can also prepare elements on separate paper and pin them to a flipchart or whiteboard at the right moment.
Using the right paper
When visualising on flipcharts, small actions can often produce huge improvements, including choosing the right paper. Basically, you can draw with any type of paper, but some papers are better suited than others. Ideally the lines or checks should be printed rather pale, so that they do not disturb the writing or drawings. If the print is very dark, it is often better to put the side with lines to the back, i.e. turn the flipchart pad over.
Using light and shadow effects
The use of shadows gives flipcharts a special touch. The effort required for this is not particularly great, but the effect is all the greater: a few loose strokes of the grey flipchart marker make the drawings look three-dimensional and give them more dynamism. Light effects with the yellow flipchart marker make the drawings even more interesting.
Tip: you should draw the light coming from the top left and therefore the shadow should be at the bottom right.
Supreme discipline: Drawing faces on the flipchart
We are social beings and nothing speaks to us as much as a face. When we look at a drawing, we always look at the faces first. Many different emotions and expressions can be depicted with even the simplest of strokes. After some practice, advanced students can also add different hairstyles, beards, glasses or caps when presenting on the flipchart, or even use different face shapes to create different characters.
Do not be afraid of making mistakes
The big advantage of whiteboard visualisations compared to flipcharts is obvious: there is no need to be afraid of mistakes. The ink dries within seconds on the whiteboard and can then be wiped dry with a soft cloth or a whiteboard eraser. This enables small corrections or you can start from scratch.
Use possible combinations
Another advantage of the whiteboard is the almost endless combination possibilities. The whiteboard can be easily combined with magnets, crepe tape and coloured paper. This turns the whiteboard into a powerful tool for brainstorming and workshops, for unlimited creativity.
Sketchnotes are traditional notes with that extra something: Sketchnoting combines written words with pictures, symbols or small drawings. With sketchnoting we create mental bridges, so to speak, which makes it easier for us to remember things by linking information with an image. It may sound like doodling, but preparing information visually helps us to process the facts in a way that writing cannot. This significantly increases our ability to remember what we have seen. That is why sketchnoting is especially helpful at school or at work. For example, sketchnoting is valuable in subjects such as history or art, where facts about a certain person or place need to be remembered.
In fact, studies have shown that sketchnoting can increase memory by up to 65%*! This illustrates the value of sketchnoting for students and gives a clear answer to the question "Why sketchnoting? The enriched notes can also be used at home, for example to make weekly planners or recipes more attractive, as it is also fun to create.
(Source: *John Medina, Brain Rules)
Similar to graphic recording, the great thing about sketchnoting is that you don't have to be particularly talented or artistic: all sketchnoting symbols are created from the basic shapes rectangle, triangle, circle and simple points and lines. The best way to get started with sketchnoting for beginners is to learn a few basic sketchnoting basics. Once you learn them, sketchnoting becomes much easier, faster and more fun. A few of the most helpful basics are as follows:
These are used in sketches to illustrate connections between thoughts or objects, similar to a "mind map". These can be kept very simple (simple lines) or more elaborate (three-dimensional arrows, or the like).
There are almost endless possibilities for quotation marks, for example dots, hearts, stars or even lightning.
These are an ideal sketchnote method to write down quotations.
These forms are used to differentiate between different thoughts, ideas and quotations.
triplus colour fibre-tip pens can be used for strong lines and areas: from headlines and frames to arrows and exclamation marks ► Step 1 of the sketch recipe should be made with the triplus color fibre-tip pens.
pigment liners are ideal for everything written and drawn in the sketchnotes: the pigmented ink will not smear if marked with highlighters ► Step 2 and 3 of the sketch recipe can be done with the pigment liners.
triplus highlighters are ideal for light and shadow effects and for subtle colour accents ► Step 4 of the sketch recipe can be created with triplus highlighters.
Download our cheat sheet here and find examples of visualisation, sketchnoting and graphic recording templates: