AEA365 | A Tip-a-Day by and for Evaluators

TAG | Graphic recording

Hello!  We are Clara Pelfrey, Translational Research Evaluation TIG Chair and evaluator for the Clinical and Translation Science Collaborative (CTSC) at Case Western Reserve University, and Johnine Byrne, a graphic recorder and owner of See Your Words.  We’d like to introduce you to graphic recording (GR), a valuable tool for evaluators that we’ve used in research, technology and collaboration settings.
What if you could capture a meeting’s ideas and energy and use them to evaluate a program, to generate qualitative data or to motivate future change? You can, because a picture is worth 60,000 words. According to Business 2 Community author Rita Pant, ninety percent of the information sent to the brain is visual, and 93% of all human communication is visual. Why not harness all that power for evaluation?

Graphic recording (GR) is a visual capturing of people’s ideas and expressions – in words and drawings – and can be a catalyst for generating new ideas, for aiding comprehension, or to help people see emerging patterns in group interactions. At a CTSC retreat, we asked attendees “What are we going to be known for?” and used the GR to develop evaluation questions and as a future vision of our research collaborative.

Hot Tip:

As an evaluator, how can graphic recording (GR) help you?

  • Assessing stakeholder program readiness for evaluation, as recommended by Michael Quinn Patton in the Essentials of Utilization-Focused Evaluation.
  • Brainstorming. People see their ideas take shape, increasing participation in the meeting and reducing distractions. The GR reminds them of what transpired and motivates them to take action.
  • Creating timelines. Demonstrates where the group came from and where they are heading. It reminds them of future goals and how they fit into making that vision a reality.
  • Capturing a dynamic talk. Can’t remember what a talk was about? You will if it’s captured in drawings!
  • Promoting your organization. The GR image is used in social media, advertising and newsletters.
  • World Café. Large group meetings use GR to engage everyone in a dialog and all are encouraged to draw.

Lessons Learned:

Examples of how graphic recording (GR) be useful in evaluating research, technology and collaboration:

  • A medical device manufacturer used GR at an all-hands meeting to work through a major glitch in their manufacturing process. They brainstormed solutions and ways to get past roadblocks.
  • A world-renowned medical research center used GR as a tool to promote communication between research groups working in the same institution. Once attendees viewed the GR they could see the possibilities, promoting the creation of new collaborations.
  • A researcher used GR in her focus groups. Participants saw what others had said and they wanted to be heard too, increasing participation and promoting emergence of different viewpoints.

Rad Resources:

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Research, Technology and Development (RTD) TIG Week with our colleagues in the Research, Technology and Development Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our RTD TIG members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.


Hi, this is Kat Athanasiades from Innovation Network. Our team is especially engaged in improving how evaluation information is communicated, and to that end we thought we would do some graphic recording at Evaluation 13!

Kat graphic

That’s me, working on the graphic recording of an Evaluation 13 session about advocacy evaluation.

What is graphic recording? Graphic recording is organizing information in a visual way using words, symbols, and pictures. This is often done in real time, paced with the information generated in a panel session, a meeting, a focus group, etc.

Hot Tip: Graphic recording benefits a number of different audiences:

  • Speakers. It isn’t always easy to remember the themes of a talk. A visual map of key points can help speakers recall ground covered and build on themes from earlier in a presentation.
  • Attendees. A graphic recording of a session can help attendees better follow the conversation and understand key take-aways. In our session, one concept was discussed pessimistically by panelists—and the graphic recording helped elicit discussion from attendees around the “frownie face” that had represented that concept. The session became more participatory as attendee views were incorporated into the visualization.
  • Absentees. You can’t make it to every talk or meeting you would like to attend, particularly at Evaluation 13! A graphic recording can help you quickly understand the conversation arc and key points.

What did the finished product look like? Here are a few shots of the completed graphic recording for session 706: Seeing the Forest Beyond the Trees: Learning Across the Experiences of Seven Advocacy Evaluators.


Rad Resource: Looking for inspiration? Check out the RSA Animate videos, which are high-quality visualizations of visionary talks put on by the RSA.

Hot Tip: You don’t need an art background to practice visual recording. I have some basic knowledge of composition and shapes from a couple of drawing and photography courses I took in college—quite some time ago. Really, I just started drawing in a staff meeting one day, and thus a graphic recorder was born. Graphic recorders often work off of templates to give a shape to a visualization, and the point is to populate a graphic recording with easy-to-recognize images. They do not have to be works of fine art.

Rad Resource: Wondering how to get started? You can browse Dan Roam’s Napkin Academy, or practice by incorporating graphic recording methods into your own note taking.

Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to . aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

My name is Susan Kistler. I am AEA’s Executive Director, and this week’s post is coming from on the ground at our annual conference in San Antonio. What a week it has been with over 600 sessions, 1200 presenters, nights out on the Riverwalk, morning planning meetings, and buzz throughout the hallways.

This year, we’re starting a scribing program where we have attendees at over 40 sessions taking notes and compiling their lessons learned to share with aea365 readers. You’ll see their contributions throughout the coming year but I thought that I would start things off.

I attended session 284 I See What You Mean: Applications of Visual Methods in Evaluation. The interactive session focused on visual facilitation and recording. Back on February 27, I wrote about Network Weaving (see post), and bringing together Jara Dean-Coffey and Terry Uyecki based on their common interest in visual facilitation methods – Terry has used graphic facilitation as part of her evaluation work and Jara had written about employing graphic recorders on aea365 earlier in the month (see post).

Lessons Learned: We learned both from Terry and Jara as well as from one another in the audience. Here are a few of the key take-aways:

  • There is a difference between graphic facilitation and graphic recording: Although there are variations, graphic recording is a bit like taking minutes, only in graphic form; while graphic facilitation involves the recorder interacting with the audience/stakeholders (recorders may have back to audience while facilitators are more likely to face the audience).
  • Graphic facilitation/recording does not work with every group or organization: Jara stressed that there had to be a match and the audience raised questions related to context, preferred learning styles, and organizational culture to find a best match.
  • Graphic facilitation/recording works in multiple contexts: There was particular discussion of its usability when visualizing complex systems, working with community groups and youth, and creating a shared vision. Graphic recording was noted as a good tool in logic model development and to come to common understanding in order to move forward with evaluation planning and organization development.
  • Graphic facilitation/recording is not all about graphics: Terry stressed that you need not be an artist to be a graphic recorder – the goal is to use symbols and pictures that are readily understandable but are not necessarily perfectly rendered. Graphic recordings often involve a lot of words and showing linkages between and among words and concepts.

Rad Resources: Jara and Terry have been kind enough to share:

Stay tuned for more scribing from Evaluation 2010!

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