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  • Writer's pictureJulia Bakay

Graphic Recording & The Naming Dilemma

Almost every time I meet someone and introduce myself, there comes the question… so, what do you do?

The-Scream-Munch-Adaptation_By-Julia-Bakay

I throw in a term, and then.. They ask me what that is and I go into a well-practiced (and as the years go by, shorter) monologue explaining what I do. It’s a great icebreaker, but I can’t help but think… couldn’t my title do a better job of summarizing it for me?


Although this profession (or variants of it) has been around for more than half a century, it feels like there is still a lot of flexibility in what we call ourselves. Fortunately, there's no real authority to confine us to one or the other and, like our entire work, the title we choose to call ourselves is entirely subjective and personal. It seems quite appropriate for such a group of creative individuals.


When I stepped into the industry, I will admit that probably my biggest headache was what to call myself - none of the existing titles seemed to cover what I want my work to be! I see fellow 'Visual Practitioners' struggling with the same thing and I see Linkedin titles changing regularly, just as I update mine when I feel I've found more suitable terminology!


So, here’s a breakdown of all the titles I’ve come across or considered, and why or why not I personally haven’t been able to identify with them!


Graphic Recorder

Despite increasing in popularity, I still find it doesn't say much to anyone new to the term! In fact, I had to admit, when I follow it up explaining what I do in detail, I don’t use ‘graphic’ or ‘recording’ much in my description. Moreover, as I’m currently based in the UK, my friends’ first association is the old wooden flute they have childhood memories of. Although I use 'I do Graphic Recording' often, I haven't really been calling myself a Graphic Recorder, if I'm being honest with myself.


Scribe

The UK equivalent is a Scribe, needless to say how many ways this one can be misinterpreted! It often gets confused with medical scribes, but so far my favourite comments are ‘medieval guys in courts’, or ‘Sumerians scribing on clay plates’. Based on my informal interviews, people generally don’t think scribes exist today.


Visual Note-taker

I love the word ‘Visual Notes’, but calling myself a ‘Visual Note-taker’ (I feel) doesn’t help me establish the importance and value of my work, and definitely doesn’t cover all that I do, such as the Illustrated Infographics and Strategic Visuals.


Sketchnote Artist

This name certainly suits some styles of Graphic Recording - some of my colleagues specialise in that type of witty and inventive cartoonesque, sketch-feel style. I love the creative freedom this type of style allows, but I often go with a more artistic approach and it doesn't seem right to refer to what I do as sketches.


Live Illustrator

This, I find, is certainly of the better terms - easily understood by most without too much accompanying explanation. Then again, sometimes when I double check if they understand it, it turns out they think I capture portraits in court meetings or at weddings! It’s an easy transition though to then say ‘well, not quite - I don’t draw them, I draw what they say!’.


Visual Strategist

This is also a great one, as it suggests we’re not merely ‘Illustrators’, but Strategic Thinking Partners, which is almost always the case. We lend our creative, visual thinking brain to our clients to create wonders together! I use this term when appropriate, but not all of my work requires this type of strategic thinking - I feel most like a Visual Strategist when I’m doing Visual Facilitation work, co-creating Workshops, Journey Maps, Purpose, Value and Strategy Graphics.


Visual / Graphic Facilitator

There's a lot of overlap with Graphic Recording and these terms are often used interchangeably, but they can refer to completely different things! They are, at least, both based on listening, but Graphic Facilitation generally means more dialogue and interaction, as opposed to ‘just’ listening and drawing.


Graphic Storyteller

This beautiful term occasionally applies to my work, but, like Sketchnote Artist and Graphic Facilitator, it only really refers to part of what I do instead of the whole.

Visual Thinkers

Some of us would just call ourselves ‘Visual Thinkers’, a term that avoids the problem of being too specific and focuses on perhaps the real value we offer - our Visual Thinking brain


 

So, fellow Visual Practitioners, Graphic Recorders, Scribes, Visual Notetakers, Sketchnote Artists, Live Illustrators, Graphic Facilitators, Graphic Storytellers and Visual Thinkers…   Whether or not you can relate to the struggles above, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the naming dilemma! 


… and let me know what you think about my attempt to solve this problem as a Keynote Artist.


Keynote Artist

Based on Keynote Speakers, who....

  • "are responsible for setting the tone and tenor of the gathering that resonates through the event..."

  • "posses exceptional communication skills... "

  • "captivate and inspire... "

  • "establish a main underlying theme...

  • establish the framework...".

...A Keynote Artist feels like a logical name, as we do much of the above, from extracting the Keynotes to capturing the feel of a Live event.


Read on if you’re interested in how Keynote Artist was coined and why I feel I’ve finally landed on something that defines me….


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Thoughts from a Keynote Artist & Visual Strategist

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