Apparently a quarter of our brain is devoted to processing visual information and about two thirds of us are visual learners. Combine this with the fact that combining images with text or speech increases retention by 40% means pictures are important.

Graphic recording – also referred to as reflective graphics, graphic listening, graphic facilitation etc. is the art (pardon the pun!) of capturing people’s ideas, thoughts and expressions in words, images and colour as they are being spoken in the moment.

In large conferences and meetings you can use graphic recording to capture all the key messages of the meeting – the essence of what is being said is then recorded in a visual representation.

It’s the groups’ memory on paper – such a powerful medium for sharing the collective intelligence in the room. The recorder is usually at the front of the room, enabling people to see their contribution. This creates a real energy for participation and connection to the conversation in the room.

We caught up with Claire Holgate – doodler, illustrator and cheerful generator of ideas - to give her insight into what our doodling can do for us and the art of journaling.

LS: How did you get into this crazy business?

CH: Well, I didn’t plan it and I don’t think anyone had ever heard of the term!
As a kid, I liked drawing. I used to really like the film Labyrinth.
I remember I used to spend a lot of time drawing the exact font they’d used for the title - elaborate pictures and letters, which I suppose, would now be looked at as a modern style of Calligraphy.

I would always be doodling. At school I got told off for messing my jotters up by absent-mindedly doodling in them.

As children we pick up crayons and pencils and are encouraged to make marks on paper, we scribble our ideas down, draw little pictures of what we see; we’re not restrained by the idea of ‘does this look correct?’

Gradually as you grow up, you don’t draw as much unless you take Art at school. In senior school, some people go down the creative route – I didn’t.

My drawing got parked. In my 20’s and 30’s, I still had a very creative streak. I signed up for many creative courses - a lot of crafty stuff but my work life was the complete opposite.

I studied Environmental Science and was very much a scientist. I dealt in fact and then I ended up in I.T.

I started
working for the Ministry of Agriculture; designing databases, creating websites (although a lot less high powered than nowadays). And after that, I was a civil servant in Central London working on the Government’s sustainable development policies.

I found the Policy job very tough - for me, it seemed a long way from feeling like I was making a difference on the ground. It took me a lot of head banging and soul- searching to realise that what I need to be doing in my life is something that means something to somebody.

I had my two beautiful children, Rosie 8 and Oscar 6, and an opportunity came up to take redundancy. That job paid the bills but it involved commuting into London, high childcarecosts and day-to-day it wasn’t lighting me up. The only thing that kept me going was that I worked with nice people. In a way, it would have been much easier to stay than to leave.

But...I took redundancy, the kids were little and we were about to embark upon some building work at home. I thought I could take 1 year off and try to gain some clarity on where I wanted to go in life.

During that year, I started to see things differently and really noticing the world around me. Towards the end of my “year off”, I began to panic about what I was going to do for work. That fear made it difficult to think and plan clearly so I took a Mindfulness course. I consider this to be a pivotal moment in my life.

At the same time, a contact from my previous job invited me to join her on about a course on doodling - ‘graphic facilitation’. It was called ‘The Power of the Pen- How to take visual notes. I love to learn and it was very important to me to keep developing new skills, so I took the course! I really enjoyed it and was OK at it; it gave me something to focus on.

I then started a journal, capturing my thoughts on everyday life. I began speaking to a few people and found that I was getting more and more positive feedback on the drawing stuff more than anything else. In a nutshell, I got a couple of free drawing jobs - very ballsy - I was in big rooms, full of people, listening and drawing.

It’s now two years on and I focus on a lovely mix of live graphic recording work and commissioned illustration work, illustrating websites,books and creating great live visual facilitation at events.

The graphic recording is currently where I focus most of my energy on and my work is constantly evolving.

There are lots of different styles of graphic recording and I can see that I have a certain style to my work that is different to everyone else’s.

Everyone has their own style and the work I love best is being able to capture the excitement of inspirational conversations. I really enjoy working in a coaching environment, and with start-ups and new businesses. Having me there, capturing what is going on has been described by one client as “a kind of magic thatcan’t quite be explained”.
I have been involved in many different types of meetings, seminars and conferences; graphic recording pretty much works for any type of conversation. Having the event visualised in this way really helps to liven up proceedings - giving a focus to discussions, capturing the essence of the discussions for future reference or for maybe for those who weren’t able to be there in person. I don’t think I’ve been to an event yet where I feel I haven’t added some value.

In the workshops I run my role is as a creative coach - to help people unlock their talents and help them to believe they are making something useful and encourage them to be enthusiastic about
the future.

run courses for women who have had children and arethinking about returning to work but are unsure what to do.

LS: There’s such an identity shift when you become a parent – you move from being ‘Claire to Mum’ and I think the visioning would fit so well into that.

CH: Yes, totally.

The shift in identity is similar to people thinking of changing career, it changes your home life, your relationships and your own perceptions of yourself. I try to encourage people to go for it..Just do it!

My drawing work, works well with this, it is visual, non-threatening and encourages people to touch a part of themselves that they haven’t in decades (i.e. doodling, colouring in).

I’m working on some workshops at the moment and I’d love to run a colouring-in workshop sometime. Colouring-in is a great example of an activity that engages the brain just enough to keep you occupied but frees your thinking mind up at the same time and you’ll often find you come up with some really great ideas when you’re engaged in this way.

LS: I remember you said “you listen very deeply when you sketch – talk to us about that”.

CH: When I’m drawing, I’m listening very deeply. I’m listening in 3 ways: I’m listening to what the person speaking is saying. I’m listening within the context and I’m listening for conclusions, metaphors, something bigger.

And I’m listening to the reaction in the room and what people’s perceptions are of the person speaking.

My work tries to simplify messages so that someone who wasn’t there can get a grasp of the points made and also so that someone that doesn’t even know the subject matter can get a fair understand of what was being discussed.

I try to really listen to what they are really saying.

LS: It’s a skill that leaders really need - listening.

CH: Yes, totally agree. I want to allow people to be their best selves. In my previous jobs, thesituations when I thrived were always when I was allowed to be myself and follow my instincts. A lot of people just think that I draw nice pictures and they don’tunderstand my line of work. It’s an unusual concept and in some sectors, I think it’s is seen as a bit of a fad. Unless people actually see me physically working, they often can’t picture what I do. Before I agree to work with a client, I need to establish that I am going to be able to add value to them and their organisation.

LS: Who is the best person you have worked with?

CH: Two people stick in my mind from my previous jobs.

They were both very relaxed and laid back, they commanded respect and had the ability to hold peoples attention.

Someone that knows what they are talking about and conveys that.

I like a leader who acknowledges that although they may be steering the ship, they don’t have all the answers, they need the people around them to help.

LS: Every person is a leader.

LS: What are you certain about?

CH: Now more than ever, I am certain that there is a different way of doing business and working with people that means we can all be ourselves and be celebrated for our talents.

The more I scratch the surface of that, the more I need it to become a reality in my life and I’m pleased to have discovered a massive movement of likeminded folk around me. I’ve never been more certain that this is the right way for me to go.

I wouldn’t want to go back to where I was before.

LS: What brings out your dark side?

CH: Two things - If I don’t feel respected or listened to, I find that really disrespectful.

Also, a Lack of justice and equality in the world. I can’t bear to see unfairness and inequality.

LS: What’s taking up a lot of your thinking right now?

CH: A massive shift in direction, I always knew it would come. A shift in the evolution of my business.

I am constantly trying to find that elusive balance of making progress in my business and sqeezing it into the time I have available, around my family commitments. Lots of planning..lots of space needed right now.!

LS: You’re a mum; you’ve got your own business. How do you create balance or is balance just not a word?

CH: It is really really difficult. Sometimes I manage it, sometimes I don’t and I can feel very overwhelmed. It has to be a mix.

When you’re running a creative business you have to look after yourself. Give yourself the space to relax and to create enough time to spend with family, home life and to do work stuff.

I have become a list monster. I try to manage my time, it’s a tricky balance and it is up and down but if I look after my mind, everything else takes care of itself.

The busier I get, the less successful I feel. If I were really successful, I would have more time to relax.

It’s the old saying about meditation. ‘ Do half an hour of meditation a day, but if you are really busy and stressed then do an hour.’!

LS: What is your go to outfit – lucky pants or shoes or?

CH: I don’t actually have any lucky pants, but I want some!

Such a fun idea. I do have my lucky journal that goes everywhere with me. It has everything in it from doodles, to cutouts of pictures or some text I have printed off. It reminds me of where I’m heading and why I’m doing this. I need to surround myself with these things. I have one of my daughter Rosie’s drawings in there, to remind me of the real me.

Through journalling, All my business development ideas have come from my former self without me knowing it.’

LS: Any leadership or doodling books that you would recommend?

CH: Steal like an artist - Austin Kleon. This book is essential for anybody who has a tendency to do something creative in future life. It’s a ‘just do it’ book.

The Sketchnote Handbook and Sketchnote /Workbook - Mike Rohde. These are about creating your own visual vocabulary, elaborating hand-written notes with drawings.

And the Doodle Revolution by Sunni Brown, which takes a detailed look at the benefits and power of all these doodles.

LS: And so what next?

CH: I am working on combining the business me and the real me as I am my business. Creativity coaching: is what I want to do. I’ve never seen anyone do anything quite like I want to offer, and so it’s exciting to be making some plans along those lines.

Having experienced Claire in action you know she has a deep passion for what she does.

What did we learn from Claire?

The art of the doodle. Looking through any of my notebooks you will find a doodle or a mind map or two but I think I am going to really ramp up the visual work that I do in capturing my (crazy) thoughts and ideas.

The busier I am the less successful I am. Just that.

I mention journaling to clients often as I believe we meet ourselves on the page.

Hearing Claire say “All my business development ideas have come from my former self without me knowing it’ – really hammered home the importance of journaling and even looking back into my old journals.

I have used visual recorders before for conferences and I now really get the importance and value that it adds and feel this would be of great benefit to our clients.



Image 1

A picture is worth a thousand words.

Image 2
Image 2
Image 4
Image 2

“Let go of exhaustion as a status symbol and productivity as self worth”

~Brene Brown

Please add Leadership
Styled into my briefcase

Keep in touch monthly (or even more frequently with us*).

* We promise not to virtually stalk you, it will be (at max) weekly round ups and elements that it would be rude not to tell you about...

Mailing list icons