Representation in Graphic Recording

June 27, 2016

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Within the past few years, there has been a resurgence of conversations, panels, and initiatives focused towards diversity and everything that falls under that term’s umbrella.  Not just in media and social forums, but in the conferences and internal sessions for businesses and teams we regularly support. “Diversity” is a term that, in the context of organizations and institutions, covers a number of issues such as workplace personnel and leadership, cultivating an inclusive culture, and searching for talent from underrepresented demographic pools. We’ll focus on this in terms of image making and media. When we talk about diversity in images, a number of questions may arise in terms of WHO is being shown , HOW they are being shown, and WHAT is the impact of those depictions. How this is approached affects everything from how we interact with each other, to how we understand ourselves, to how brainstorm and strategy sessions inside a company are conducted and how successful they can be. In creating an inclusive and diverse visual vocabulary, we must pay careful attention to who is being shown, how they are being shown, and in what context they are being shown. graphic recording and illustration by derrick dent. imagethink graphic recording, diversity, inclusion, graphic facilitation, visual notes, illustration First, the WHO query: When you watch a TV show, look at ads, play videos, read comics, and so forth, a good thing to think about is the face of the avatar- Essentially, who is being used as your point of entry for this particular piece of media? Can you relate to them? Does their story reflect something that you experience? How inclusive or exclusive is that choice? Example: there are a lot of articles out about the importance of representation in the casting of people of color, LGBTQ actors, and women in lead roles in Hollywood movies, since there is a still a dearth of stories that show experiences and perspective outside of a very narrow lens. Can a genderqueer black woman be a steampunk fantasy hero? Can an Asian man be the smoking hot lead in a romantic piece? The answer to both questions is “DUH”, and including those faces can help us move beyond the mental restraints that come with preconceived notions of who can be what. The next question is HOW: So, there is an interesting history of cartooning (which runs parallel to the visual language of graphic recording), which has (because of a historical context, erasure, and systemic discrimination) a codex of icons that steer towards a white, heteronormative default. Obviously that slice of humanity only represents a fraction of the US population (and a REALLY small portion of the worldwide population), but there is such a rich variety of ways to depict this particular group. The visual vocabulary for minorities and women (cis and trans), however, is still a work in progress and there’s a current battle to veer away from harmful, stereotypical imagery. in the history of cartooning, there has been a codex of iconography that steers towards white, heteronormative, and male. As graphic recorders and image makers, we want to create a set of imagery that gives everyone space to be welcome. Not only does this change how we understand others and ourselves, it helps to open up conversations in the public sphere and in internal strategy sessions that our clients host., imagethink graphic recording, diversity, inclusion, graphic facilitation, visual notes, illustration It’s a lofty task, but the people doing that work are incredibly passionate about filling in the gaps. Lastly, WHAT is the impact: When I’m doing work as a graphic recorder, I want to make sure that the world I create is one that has room for everyone. It’s important to use media, including graphic recording, to give us all a broader view of the world that we live in, and the people in it. When doing work as a graphic recorder, derrick dent wants to create a world where there is space for everyone. As image makers we have the power to give new shape to a democratized, inclusive conversation in public and in internal strategy and brainstorm sessions, imagethink graphic recording, diversity, inclusion, graphic facilitation, visual notes, illustrationDerrick Dent, graphic recorder at ImageThink To learn how ImageThink can support your next strategy session, contact us at