Looking for a way to track your progress as a graphic recorder and find out what areas to develop further? Try a chart critique. I recently printed small copies of charts that I created in meetings during the past six months — I picked one or two per month — and sat down with my colleague Laurie Durnell to critique them. We looked at how my style has been evolving, identified areas that are working well, and came up with a list of things to practice going forward.







I’d share the charts here, but unfortunately they are client confidential. (The examples in this post were pulled from my iPad work on Flickr.) I can share some of the things I’d like to work on, though:

  • Changing the length of the paper to help avoid blank space or crowding. I have been using 4′ x 8′ sheets, but I’m going to try 4′ x 6′ sheets, allowing one sheet per half hour, so that I can work on filling the space without crowding.
  • Using different bullet styles (I tend to use all dots or all squares, varying only size and/or color) to indicate different levels or different lists.
  • Differentiating the subtitles of the charts so they stand out more.
  • Experimenting with really big circles!
  • Creating a visual landscape on the charts — I don’t tend to do that unless I’ve planned it in advance. I aspire to being able to create this on the fly!
  • Clarifying the visual flow of charts that aren’t straight-up lists.

I find that I can pick one thing and practice it during a gig. For instance, if I have a two-day gig, I’ll pick “bullets” and then work on that with each chart I create during the meeting. Some things are best practiced in advance in my notebook: I don’t want my clients’ charts to look like practice work! But some things can be safely worked on during a real meeting, and that’s really how new skills get integrated into my practice.

It can be a little scary to invite someone to critique your work, but it can also be extremely helpful. Laurie was wonderful: she pointed out what was working, and her suggestions were both constructive and gentle. We noticed that having the charts printed very small (on letter-sized paper) was an advantage because we could get a sense of the whole chart without being drawn into the content.