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.

 

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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.