Live Sketching at NASA’s Big Think

We live sketched at a NASA's annual Big Think conference. Here's what happened.

At the close of 2016, NASA held it’s annual Big Think conference, a one-day, interdisciplinary workshop that pools the acumen and expertise of scientists, engineers, and other top industry minds to identify an innovation goal for NASA’s Frontier Development Lab over the course of the following year.

We were invited to supplement scientific conversations with the lens of human-computer interaction and user perspective, taking into account who would be implementing the solutions proposed by the attending experts in space weather, asteroid hunting, planetary defense, and machine learning. Needless to say, it was a cool way to apply UX in such a bold and undefined field.

To change things up, we proposed to graphically facilitate the session by recording the workshop in a live sketch. And NASA said yes.

Equipped with colorful markers and fresh notepads, our illustrator captured the day’s presentations, presenters, notes, and conclusions in a colossal sketch. At the end of the workshop, we were able to present the paper artifact to NASA and participants as a physical asset and graphic recording of the workshop.

Amelia Altavena

Feb 20, 2017

What is Graphic Facilitation?

Graphic facilitation is an emerging practice, one that companies are starting to recognize for its unique value in documenting and transferring information, as well as visualizing information during meetings to help with understanding and retention.

The results of our graphic recording session were pretty cool.

Value-add.

By illustrating the day’s presentations, we were able to accomplish several key outcomes:

  • Promoting active listening: Watching someone else take complex information and distill it into note form helps the audience understand and retain what they’re seeing, and helps humanize complex data. The concepts presented at NASA’s Big Think workshop dealt with highly nuanced, complicated concepts, but processing information and actively translating it into another medium helped both viewers and our illustrator better understand the subject matter.
  • Visualizing information: For our illustrator, it was a matter of translating data-centric ideas from engineering and physical sciences into readable, digestible visuals. This aids memory and subject matter comprehension.
  • Revisiting information: After a full-day workshop strung with back-to-back presentations, it can be difficult to ensure retention, especially when sharing complicated yet critical pieces of information. Graphic recordings are a way of traveling back in time to remember when people talked about what, capturing the day’s proceedings in one fell swoop.
  • Summarizing findings: At the end of the day, the live sketch captured conclusions and critical next steps, documenting the thought process behind how ideas were formulated and conceived.

Participants were enthused by the end result, and snapped photos of the graphic recording with their mobile devices to refer to at the conclusion of the workshop. After receiving such critical acclaim, we’ll continue to promote graphic recording as a valuable tool for not only understanding, sharing, and recollecting important information, but re-living the workshop experience.

(And after an all-day workshop at NASA, a live sketch sounds like a stellar souvenir.)


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