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Thoughts from a Keynote Artist & Visual Strategist

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  • Writer's pictureJulia Bakay

Graphic Recording & The Importance of Improv

When I stepped into a career as a Graphic Recorder & Facilitator, I soon realized that being talented and quick at drawing won't be enough here. In order to succeed, I'll need to awaken a unique type of wit... the one that many of us only explore when playing charades!


I started thinking about how I could develop this skillset, and where one might exercise this mental muscle.


....so I joined an Improv club!


The importance of Improv in life


From the very start, I felt how important Improv was just for life in general. Having the flexibility and confidence to play and improvise as an adult is a gift that can truly enhance the quality of our everyday life; this developed ease comes across in the way we communicate and handle the waves of life.


The importance of Improv in Live Illustration!


However, as I had hoped, these Improv workshops helped to equip me with the tools I needed in my professional life as well. I didn't have to search long for the correlations between the two! It felt as if I was taking courses on the psychological background of Graphic Recording, and I was immediately able to apply the principles learned from Improv Comedy in my Live Illustration work.


The more I played and learned at the Improv workshops, the faster and wittier my Live work became, until I realized...

Live Graphic Recording is a form of Improv

How Improv can help become the best Graphic Recorder

Improv Principles for Graphic Recorders


There are no mistakes

Everything is useful and can lead to great things (don't waste time erasing things!)

Say YES

Go with the flow and see where it leads

Say 'Yes, and'

Build on what's established and take it to the next level

You don't have to be funny

Comedy can arise from the most unexpected of places, you don't need to force it

Don't overthink it

Try not to let your mind get in the way and let things flow naturally - I've written an article on our 'Pandemic of Inhibitions', if you're interested in the subject

Show, don't tell

Exposition is boring and lazy, try to bring it to life! When we draw, the more visuals and less text, the better.

It's about connection

The more immersed you are, the more relevant and insightful you'll be

Focus on the here and now

Find that state of flow in the present, don't try to think ahead or second-guess yourself - see my article 'Graphic Recording, A Practice of Presence'

Tell a story

Connect the points and discover the magic happening between them


Live Graphic Recording and Improvisational Comedy are like distant relatives
...seemingly unrelated yet inherently sharing so many qualities!

With its roots going back to the 15th century (Commedia dell’arte), Improv is a treasure trove of well-founded theories and principles, and has all that to offer to Graphic Recorders looking to improve their creativity and awaken their playful spirit.


Enjoy your journey!



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