Sketchnoter will save EU project managers

Tanja Wehr is sketchnoter and graphic designer, founder of Sketchnotelovers in 2014 but she is also a European project managers.

Tell us a little bit about when and why you decided to move your interest from EU project management to the scribing/visual interpretation world?

One of the major problems in EU-projects is not the willingness to accept intercultural diversity or different working styles but the huge amount of information provided by all the partners and the commission during a projects lifetime. Most partners are not even interested in reading the minutes after a three day meeting. But in the minutes everything is written down. I am no exception to the rule. So in 2007 I started firstly only for me, to reduce my notes and minutes and add some symbols and colourcoding to have a better overview about work packages, timelines and responsibilities. Some time later I was asked by partners if I can provide them a copy of my „nice notes“ because they are more fun, faster and easier to understand. So I did sketchnotes and visual minutes, project overviews and also documentation for several projects. In 2014 the funding money was to little to keep all of us so I was terminated for operational reasons. So I decided to give self-employment with a focus on visualization a try. It turned out to be the best decision I could have made. Since the beginning of 2015 I am fulltime self-employed and work for ministries, big companies, NGOs and universities, published several books, organise two big national events regarding knowledge culture and visualization and teach sketchnotes and lettering.

How important is, in your opinion, the visual impact on today’s communication?

In a world where the amount of data is exponantially growing day by day and the time ressources to consume and digest these information is decreasing due to work overload etc. it is in my opinion one of the most important future skills to provide information in a condensed and easy accesable way. You need to filter everything with focus on relevance, understandibility and accessability. One good way to manage these challenges is with visual parts to ease up your life. Also for inclusion visualization is one of the best methods to get a lot of people on board who are otherwise dropped out.

How relevant do you think are the techniques of graphic summarisation in meetings and presentations of EU project?

As I know from my previous life the partners in EU projects do not only work in one project and that‘s it. They have diverse topics in diverse projects with different people. And sometimes you have a period of time not working in one of them. So you may get lost a bit about priorities and to dos. A visual minute, or a graphic recording can

  • help to get back on track quite easy, after working in other topics
  • help to find a common ground of understanding – so that all partners start on the same level
  • share agreements
  • find easily the next things to do
  • refresh your memory about previous meetings and results of discussions
  • get an overview about responsabilities & deadlines
  • … and many things more

Do you have any tips to share with people who might want to follow your experience and start using graphic facilitation?

If you really want to start graphic facilitation you should go through previous stages of visual techniques.

1. Sketchnotes – personal notes combining picture and word

2. Graphic Recording – passive live documentation of a meeting or a speech

3. Graphic Facilitation – active and interactive process. A mix of moderation and graphic recording

So I recommend to start with Sketchnotes, try out how good and fast you can filter and visualise. If you are already a presenter with experience it is not that difficult to add visualisation to your portfolio. If you are a beginner in bothe fields start with small steps.

  • you should start with small steps – an icon now and then is a good idea
  • try out to filter as much of the unneccesary information as possible – be brave
  • skip perfectionism – Mike Rohde use to say It‘s about ideas not art.
  • have a look at professionals and find styles you like, try to imitate them
  • look for resources like the noun project to find help learning easy to draw icons
  • I provide on my instagram several times a month step by step intriductions to draw symbols and icons (sketchnotelovers)
  • there are a lot of tutorials in the net – you can trust on the quality when you follow Mike Rohde when it is up to Sketchnotes (as he is the inventor of the name of the method) and eg Brandy Agerbeck for graphic facilitation.
  • the most important thing – unfortenately also the most time consuming: Practice – practice – practice – start with ted talks or documentations on tv – summerise book content oder try to visualise a method that you like to show to others.
  • never be overcritically with yourself

Why, in your opinion, is it useful to have a scriber in a EU project meeting?

When I attended eg three day partner meetings, we often discussed again topics we agreed already on the previous day. With a graphic recording you have the results arround you in the meeting point and it is easy to avoid repetitions

  • People will read and like the minutes 🙂
  • You safe time, because people know faster where to start working.
  • all the points I wrote answering the relevance question 🙂