I recently attended the 2012 Visual Thinking and Literacy Conference. There I was introduced to the work of graphic facilitator Brandy Agerbeck. Brandy defines graphic facilitation as “the practice of using words and images to create a conceptual map of a conversation.” During the opening session, Brandy drew images, words, and symbols on a giant sheet of paper to create a visual representation of the conference… as it was happening! She varied the marker weight, font size and color to create hierarchy and movement, which emphasized key points in the session. As a result, the audience had a visual way to understand and reflect on the presenters’ stories. By looking at the visual map she created, I gained a dynamic and deeper understanding of the concepts.

Having seen this process in action I was curious to try it out. At a planning meeting for the Download, I grabbed a blank piece of paper and pen and set to work trying to visually synthesize information. I will admit up front that my end result was basic like a mind map, but I learned from the process. A hierarchy of information developed naturally, making it easier to find both the tasks that needed to be done and the areas that needed more focus. Important connections became evident. I also found it easier to communicate the timeline to someone else. For a first attempt, visual synthesizing proved to be a pretty useful tool and I could see the potential in developing this skill.

Could this be applied to Instructional Design? At TorranceLearning we kick off new client projects with a Learning Project Ignition session. This meeting determines performance objectives, knowledge needs, scope boundaries and what success looks like. A tool like visual synthesizing helps break down complex information and could facilitate shared understanding of goals and expectations. Clarifying desired results creates a more streamlined process and effective working relationships. Perhaps it could even serve as a starting point for project planning. What are your thoughts on this tool and what would you use it for?