TERMS OF ART: Graphic Recording vs Graphic Facilitation vs Scribing vs Sketchnoting vs Infographics

November 25, 2019

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What's the difference and what means what?

What Does ImageThink Do?

Whether your new to the world of visual meetings, or you’ve been in the game for a while, there are a lot of terms to keep straight, with new designations being created every year. It’s a fast-growing industry, and one that is becoming increasingly stratified as the wider world recognizes the value of visuals.

If you’re on the ImageThink website, chances are you’ve run into words like graphic recording, graphic facilitation, scribing, sketchnoting, whiteboarding, visual facilitator, live illustrator. All descriptive terms, and all relatively explanatory, however, it can be overwhelming.

ImageThink appreciates that investing in a visual partner for your most important events is a big commitment. We want to make sure that you know what you’re getting, get what you want, and choose the right partner.

To that end, below, we’ve created a glossary to help you navigate the sometimes inky black waters of visual communication. Terms of Art:

What is Graphic Recording?

ImageThink founder, CEO, and Visual Leader Nora Herting graphic recording, using a traditional foam core board and markers.

A cornerstone of ImageThink’s visual practice, graphic recording describes visual note-taking during a meeting on large scale paper, foam core, or digital tablet. Our graphic recorders listen and synthesize the biggest ideas in a meeting, and create visual icons to represent them, mapping them out in two dimensional space in real time. Graphic recording is more passive than graphic facilitation, and is primarily focused on capturing and illustrating the biggest ideas in a way that is easily readable by attendees and triggers memories of a discussion.

What is Graphic Facilitation?

ImageThink Graphic Recorder and facilitator Arielle Rothenberg leads several employees of a major automotive manufacturer in a strategic session, using illustrated foam core boards as a springboard for conversation.

A related service that requires many of the same skills of graphic recording, graphic facilitation refers to using visuals to lead a meeting. Graphic facilitators will often use flipcharts, whiteboards, foam core boards, or large sheets of paper taped to walls to guide the discussion, encourage participation, and inspire creativity in attendees. Graphic facilitators also take responsibility for designing the agenda, managing the clock, and steering the discussion. Graphic facilitation is more about actively pursuing a goal and generating ideas rather than listening for insights or collecting data.

What is Scribing?

Traditional note taking with a pen and spiral notebook.

While increasingly used interchangeably with graphic recording (nobody said there wouldn’t be gray areas), scribing more traditionally refers to using the written word to document a meeting. Similar to a courtroom stenographer, the goal of a meeting scribe is to take down detailed minutes of a discussion which can be later be summarized, typed up and distributed to attendees, as well as serve as a more literal record of what was said. That said, you’ll often encounter the term scribing to describe what graphic recorders do – it’s always advisable to clarify before you buy.

What is Sketchnoting?

an imagethink graphic recorder takes sketchnotes during a planning call with a client in a small notebook

Also thrown around in connection with graphic recording, sketchnoting takes the same idea of combining pictures and words to visually capture ideas, and shrinks it down to a more personal scale. While professional sketchnoters can use their skill to share their ideas and key takeaways with others, usually, sketchnotes are an individual memory device, and a way for visual learners to quickly imprint and internalize ideas, next-steps, and complex processes. (For many people, even non-artists, sketchnoting is a great way to help focus and pay attention to an otherwise dry meeting, so don’t be offended if you see someone doodling during your presentation.)

What is Whiteboarding?

imagethink ceo nora herting and graphic recorder ona rygelis stand in front of a whiteboard calendar in their office

You’re likely familiar with this one, but whiteboarding is the most common way our clients have already experienced communicating ideas visually. Impermanent, fast, and inexpensive, whiteboarding can be a powerful tool for even the most inexperienced and “least artistic” of us out there. As we often teach in our creativity workshops, getting people on their feet and moving activates a different part of the brain, which inspires creativity, boosts energy, and ties ideas to physical memory as well. And if you can draw a square, a circle, and a line, you can communicate a ton of ideas in fun visual ways.

What is an Infographic?

A colorful infographic example depicting the journey of consumer data as a flow of water from various sources, to a lake, and on to different end point tributaries after being parsed by data analytics platforms.

Created to convey complex data sets or statistics in a readable, aesthetically pleasing, and even entertaining way, infographics differ from the visuals above in that infographics are usually created after a meeting or event. At ImageThink, we create hand-illustrated infographics in studio, once data and findings have been compiled, or as a way to summarize the big ideas that came out of multiple sessions that might live on multiple boards. The best infographics lay the data out in a visual narrative, a singular illustration that tells a story and leads the viewer through your observations to the desired conclusion.

Other Definitions Related to Graphic Recording

Beyond the big differences we’ve outlined above, below are a few words, services, or tools you may encounter when looking for a partner.

  • Digital Graphic Recording (DGR) – Often abbreviated to DGR, digital graphic recording is the same as traditional graphic recording, except that it is done using a tablet, and can either be projected, displayed, or even animated, and can better serve large groups and conventions.
  • Wacom Cintiq – a Digital Tablet and screen that illustrators and graphic recorders use to draw directly on screen using a stylus.
  • ImageBoards (or “the boards”) – The outputs from your event, when traditionally graphic recorded with markers, ImageBoards are large, often 40” x 60” foam core white boards that can be mounted on a wall, displayed on an easel, or photographed and digitized.
  • Social Listening Activations – Sometimes called living murals, or experiential drawing, these large installations pose a question to an audience, and graphic recorders illustrate answers, and serve as a form of public survey, feedback gathering tool that participants enjoy interacting with.

Hopefully, the definitions and examples above will help you wade into the world of graphic recording with more confidence. Armed with your new knowledge, we wish you the best in your search for the right visual solution.

Whatever your need, please reach out to our accounts team at the number in our nav bar, or schedule a call to go over any questions. We’re happy to offer a free consultation in advance of your next meeting or event to discuss how you can leverage graphic recording (or any of the items above) to maximize your creativity!


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