International Forum of Visual Practitioners: My Recent Reflection Article

Was recently asked to submit quick little piece to International Forum of Visual Practitioners on reflections on Graphic Facilitation / Graphic Recording field from my perspective as a seasoned practitioner (i.e. that is nice way of saying old, LOL).

Here it is …



I’ve been pondering this article since I got the note from Avril that she thought some reflections on my time in our field would be of interest.

Awake in the wee hours one morning, a remembrance of a photo taken at one of the very early IFVP conferences flashed inside my forehead. Clad in nightie and slippers I climbed my ladder to squeeze into my storage attic. To find this gem from 1998 in North California –Westerbech Ranch in Sonoma if memory serves?

Left to Right: Christina Merkley, Anthony Weeks, Tomi Nagai-Rothe, Joanna X,  Deirdre Crowley, David Sibbet, and Lynn Kearny (I think).

Left to Right: Christina Merkley, Anthony Weeks, Tomi Nagai-Rothe, Joanna X,
Deirdre Crowley, David Sibbet, and Lynn Kearny (I think).

At that time I was a Graphic Recorder working with The Grove Consultants (David Sibbet has been a wonderful patron of IFVP right from the get go). It was SO FUN to gather with others in our then ultra niche field. To talk shop, trade tips and just plain socialize (something usually tough to arrange in a field where we traveled for a living).

Flash forward over these many years, and my visual career shifted into Graphic Facilitation (leading group process while simultaneously recording). Then into Coaching and Hypnotherpay weaving the visual way of working into those modalities. All along I have been an active mentor and trainer of other Visual Practitioners. Which puts me into an interesting position to witness the evolution of our profession.

The Positives I See:
globalI see a field that is growing in leaps in bounds, rapidly making its way across continents, countries, metropolitan areas … and now also into seemingly small and isolated regions and towns. It’s covering the world. And I think that is extremely positive for all of us and the populations we serve.

Working visually is getting its due as a captivating and interesting way to work with groups and individuals. I see it being applied across a full spectrum of industries and topic areas … from corporate change management, governmental, not-for-profit, small business and solopreneurs. Lawyers, accountants, tech, healthcare, counseling and financial professionals use it. More esoteric applications like energy workers, channelers and tarot readers use it too! It’s useful anywhere that people think, reflect and reach decisions.

Technological innovations during my career have been amazing. Desktop publishing, digital cameras and scans, high speed internet, tablets and online conferencing (in the early days I primarily worked with large paper at-the-wall and did constant travel). Nowadays I coach and teach via web conferencing and my tablet with my puppy on my lap.

Some Negatives I Worry About:
clip-lighteningWith growth come some concerns. From my vantage point, some practitioners don’t seem to understand the various distinctions in the work (Graphic Recording and Graphic Facilitation are confused A LOT). This causes some marketplace bewilderment and tensions. Also, newer practitioners (who want to turn their new skills into a full time career) often under estimate the amount
of craft and business development it takes to build a successful practice. And also need to consider the geographical and client considerations of where they want to be based (clients often won’t pay for travel anymore if they can find someone closer).

Also, I personally think the recent focus on overly illustrated live work is problematic, where content (which should be the first priority) is taking a back seat to art. By way of example, I posted this cartoon on my blog and on Facebook a few weeks ago. Teasing about how I have had to draw my fair share of elephants in the room, sacred cows and transformation butterflies (i.e. animal metaphors) and inviting others to list their favorite visual metaphors.

It prompted a fair share of interaction, including these revealing comments from my friend Robert, a consultant who has collaborated with MANY Graphic Recorders over the last two decades:


I share it to help some Graphic Recorders see inside the perspective of a Facilitator … to be careful about getting so caught up in your drawings that you miss the point that the drawing is suppose to support. Graphic Recording and Graphic Facilitation involves the Left and Right Brains TOGETHER (not right brain only). My invitation (from loads of personal experience and in training others) is to capture the important words first, then draw icons to support that … not the other way around. Facilitators will love you for it!

In Closing:
Thank you Avril for the suggestion to share some thoughts. I wish everyone all the best with your visual career, be you a seasoned pro or a new entrant to our fascinating terrain. May your development continue to unfold over time and keep you interested for years to come! I know no matter what I do in the years ahead it will always involve process work and markers — be they real or digital!
Christina Merkley
The SHIFT-IT Coach and Interactive-Visuals Mentor

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *