What are your criteria for assessing your work?

As I review my notes in anticipation of hosting my follow-up coaching session with Visual Binge attendees tomorrow, I am struck by the two quotes I found this morning as I was reading.

Bashõ (Japanese poet, 17th century)

“Do not seek after the sages of the past. Seek what they sought.”

Neal Allen (Vipassana practitioner)

“I admire the capacity of any human being to come into wisdom on their own by questioning the assumptions that are around them.”

The preparatory work for our session is to bring and share any sketchnoting or graphic recording completed since the UnConference last month. My second, and perhaps more important request was that participants bring a short list of criteria for assessing their own work and the work of others.

I am all about leaving one’s inner critic ”at the door” AND I see the value in appreciating what is working in a piece and what can be made even better next time. 

What would be your criteria?

What matters to you?

What is important to your audience? (Perhaps there are varying answers based on the different audiences…)

My top 10 criteria are straightforward though not separate—they exist in combination. This task of assessing one’s (or others’) work is both art and science. I believe that the visual I have quickly created is a better representation of these criteria, as the list below seems more mechanical, like a checklist. This (assessing our work) is not that (a checklist to determine quality—from spectacular to inept, or some other continuum). To me, these elements work in concert, and perhaps not enough of something (maybe white space?) is compensated for by something else (the vitality of the colors used or movement through the piece).

What do you think?

1. Layout

    Conceptual fit with the content 

   Title—what percentage of the visual?

   Placement of title on the page

2. Use of white space

3. Use of color

   Literal, strategic, figurative/metaphorical

   Color palette chosen

 Number of colors used and for what purpose (i.e., all the colors of the rainbow are important if there is a rainbow… if not, then I would suggest, two or three colors beyond the foundational black and the color chosen for shading {which might grey, periwinkle blue, yellow, orange… the list goes on!})

4. Logic flow

Can I understand how information moves across or around the chart or “page”?

5. Lettering

Is a hierarchy use and used well/in an easily comprehensible way?

How legible is the handwriting?

6. Interplay/balance of words and drawings

Some subjects require a lot of text—precise terminology, quoting people, etc., in other instances, icons, figures, and containers can be supported more minimally with text

7. Containers

Which ones are used and how?

8. Iconography and graphic elements

Are they a fit for the subject matter?

9. Execution

Neatness,  recognizable/well-drawn icons (Is it a lightbulb or an ice cream cone?)

10. Clear communication through style used (perhaps a more personal taste criteria)

What do you notice when you look at your sketchnotes orographic recordings (yours or other people’s)?

I hope that you will consider these criteria and be in touch with me with your thoughts. I am always (okay, almost always/often…) ready to expand my thinking.

What habits bring your work to the next level?

What makes for good practice?

Just last week, Jill Langer and I completed the bikablo Basic Day 1 Virtual training. Folks are jazzed by the end of this experience. Both they, and we, want them to continue deepening and broadening their skills. We discuss during the training how to maintain and grow the habit of practice. As you can imagine I suggest the following during and after working on a piece:

Be

  • conscious—of every stroke you make
  • consistent—in practicing—find ways every day to use your new skills
  • accuratein your appraisal of your work, using criteria/success factors we have discussed
  • kind to yourselfappreciate what you’re doing well
  • diligent—in applying what you have decided about areas to improve

As I think about, Seven Questions That guide the Work of Inspired Teachers, an article from ASCD (the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development), that I just read about being excellent teachers,  I am most struck by this paragraph:

How can I make clear the criteria for quality work we will use in class and help students understand why those benchmarks are significant? How can I help them learn to assess their own work using those standards? How can I support each of my students in reaching for excellence?

These questions are at the heart of my thinking. Sharing my ideas during the training creates the conversation about ongoing professional development.  It’s an aspect of being a graphic recorder or a Sketchnoter that I addressed in my session for the Visual Binge last month. In that engagement, I asked the participants to look at graphic recordings from four different sources and begin to create their criteria for successful work. We’re about to do a follow-up coaching session and my plan is to have us all share our respective criteria for excellence. Here’s what I’m thinking…

  1. Consistent, strong/clear lines/strokes
  2. Containers, graphic elements, and figures with closed edges
  3. Appropriate perspective-—what is in front and behind other objects or figures
  4. Following guidelines for use of color (the bikablo method)
  5. Consistent shading/source of light and with regard to various types of objects (the bikablo method)
  6. Effective layout chosen for content of work—open to interpretation though I believe there are criteria (I would use waves or eddies to indicate content in a sea-themed drawing —or treasure chests, fish, etc., rather than put a square or a circle in the water.
  7. Logical flow of content
  8. Spacing between objects/use of white space to enable easy understanding of all content and relationships between content areas
  9. Use of frame or container for finished work
  10. Signature of visual practitioner on work (unless not permitted due to contract)

What are your criteria for your work, and presumably others’ work, as you learn and grow from seeing what’s out in the world?

As you bring your work to the next level, what does that look like to you? How will you facilitate your learning?

You know me, I’d suggest continuing your education in a formal/structured way… making a plan and working your plan

  • find a buddy to draw with consistently or an accountability partner
  • work with a coach individually or in a group
  • take the next level of training

What’s your next step?

PS: I hope you will share your thoughts about my ideas. I’m always looking to expand my thinking!

What’s in your vault?

Gaining Perspective on Your Treasures

Listening to an interview with Morris Hayes, about Prince’s forthcoming album, Welcome 2 America, was fascinating!

What intrigued me most was discovering that Prince had a vault of his material. As you can imagine from the statement, I am not a Prince devotee, yet I am fascinated by creative people and creativity.

So I got to thinking. If I had a vault, what would I put in it? Upon reflection, I thought, well, I suppose that I do have a vault—creations of mine—that I haven’t shared with the world. Do you?

At one point, the interviewer, asked Hayes a leading question, revealing her thoughts about the release of a new Prince album.  In her opinion, material in the vault was not meant to be seen or heard by other people. Her thinking was that the material was inferior to Prince’s work that was out in the world. I loved Haynes’s response, “Well, I would disagree with the premise that he didn’t want it out there.” He went on to say that he knew some of the material and that it was even better than anything that had even been released—it just hadn’t been the right time.  I’d suggest listening to the interview to hear his explanation of Prince’s thinking.

So my question for myself and for you is, what’s in your vault? What have you and I not shared with the world, and why?

My vault contains, hand lettering, a wee bit of calligraphy, some quilts that I love that are WIPs/works in progress, and plans for the future—of art I want to create and learning that I want to do. As you can tell, my thoughts are not just about physical artifacts, like card decks and large-scale art projects, it’s also my thinking and imagining… what about you?

All this thinking makes me wonder if I want to begin to be more like a museum than a person with just a vault. Perhaps I should think in terms of rotating exhibits, showing my work to other people, and engaging in some of those ideas that I’m holding onto for a future time…  because honestly, life is impermanent. I am here today and I may be here tomorrow, I just don’t know. I say that as a reality, with no pessimism intended.

As some of you may know, I have an interest in and graphically record people’s imagining and planning for the ends of their lives. This is deeply personal and rewarding work. It is a good and constant reminder that no day, no moment, should be taken for granted as the future is uncertain. 

I think this weekend I’m going to look at my creations that are in physical form and decide which I will hang on a wall in the house or share on social media. And, I will look at some of those things I have planned for 2022 and beyond, and make decisions about whether some of those ideas and projects should shift forward on my timeline, or remain where they are, as crowding the present is not my goal. My intention is to consciously and consistently check-in with myself, my life at this moment, and align with my vision of who I want to be in the world.

What are you moved to do in light of reflecting on your treasures, your vault, and your future? I’d love to hear from you.

The Fresh Breeze of Visualization

True story 

I’m reading the newest issue of TD/Talent Development magazine and the editorial/Hot Topic is “Curtail Chaos in Digital Workplace Communication.“ I think to myself, I should give this a fast read, it’s an important topic… in fact, I have suffered the consequences of abrupt, incomplete, task-oriented missives that ignore the humanity of all involved (as I am sure you have too.)

I get into the article, and I say to myself, “Oh yes! This is exactly what I’ve been experiencing in a few of my work relationships.” The author Derrick Thompson, cites the white paper, Conversation Chaos in the Digital Age, by Fierce CEO Susan Scott. “It’s likely that remote team members have not had a single face-to-face encounter with coworkers during the past year. Scott explains that those spontaneous break room chats that many workers take for granted can help build trust and rapport.”

So the experience that most concerns me, at this moment, is working with folks I have never met face-to-face in person or only once or twice before the pandemic. In our work for the organization, we gather once a month for a group meeting and communicate primarily through Slack. In one relationship in particular, I have never had the opportunity to have other-than-work-related conversations. When this individual and I communicate, it’s always to address a problem or the (unsolicited) suggestion of an idea that feels like it has an edge to it. (Of course, that’s my perception of the communication, I do not know its intent, just its impact on me.) We’ve had little time to develop any relationship or to work together and celebrate successes. As you can imagine this is a situation ripe for misunderstanding… and it’s happened more than once. I am troubled by this situation because in general, we both appear to be nice folks. 

What is happening? 

What can I do differently? (As change begins with me.)

As luck would have it, serendipitously, we have recently been given a task to do together. 

Before the meeting, I worked to gain a larger perspective on the situations and us, and to consider this a fresh start (a bit of beginner’s mind/being present to just that moment, leaving history behind). I also remembered a similar situation, a disconnect with a colleague, and my response to that challenge. I picked up the book Dynamic Relationships, by Jaqueline M. Stavros and Cheri B. Torres, and gained new knowledge, skills, and practices. I can’t recommend the book highly enough!

Perhaps not surprisingly, the experience went really well. We were able to show up, in part because we had the time to interact just a little socially, and because we had to work together to achieve the task. I am heartened by this result!

In thinking more about the TD article though, I am troubled by the omission of what it means to bring our whole selves to work and relationships. “A more effective way to begin these conversations (giving feedback) is to provide a fact-based, objective example of what you observed and then ask the other person to share their experience.” 

While I am all about speaking of the facts, (though they are seen through our own lenses), I remain concerned that there is no acknowledgment of the role that emotions play in our thinking and behavior. Whether we recognize our feelings or not, they live within us all the time, influencing our thoughts and perceptions. My conviction around this belief has led to extensive reading, training, and practice in the field of Nonviolent Communication (compassionate communication). Awareness of ourselves and others, and working with our emotions to co-create relationships is the place where I begin… sometimes I begin again and again… and that’s a good practice!

In response to the impact of the pandemic on interpersonal work relationships, I am offering sessions for teams and groups in organizations who wish to experience the joy of virtual visual collaboration. Colleagues can come together to create team guidelines for collaboration, work on a joint project, generate a strategic plan, a roadmap, or… the sky’s the limit. I invite you to imagine how you want your work relationships to develop over the next few months, read through the short document* that describes the essence of the offering, and reach out to me for a conversation. 

* bikablo offering — The Fresh Breeze of Visualization

What inspires you?

Last Friday, at the Allentown museum (PA) I saw a piece that struck me as brilliant and inspirational…

As you can see from the description, the artist, Sam Gilliam, created a piece, then cut it up, and placed the pieces in a different configuration. I was gob-smacked!

I thought of my Zentangle work. I could create a piece and tear it or cut it up! It sounded exciting and scary! I’ve never done this—destroyed, torn up, or reassembled my work…

I approached the new adventure with a bit of nervousness because, in general, I like what I create. So I took a photo at the various stages of creation, the marker and paper, the shading that I added… and truth be told, to get a little more freedom, I made a copy of the piece before cutting it up. The piece didn’t need to be complete… I usually fill almost all the space on the surface yet since it would be a mash-up perhaps more white space was fine. I’m not sure about that thinking. It was liberating and maybe faulty—we’ll see!

 I did a bit of preliminary experimenting and didn’t like the results of tearing the paper so I decided to cut my work into pieces. I also experimented with a tile (what we Zentangle-lovers call the 3.5 inch square of Italian paper that we generally work with).

I was excited and curious throughout the process wondering how much to cut and whether I really cared if the pieces truly fit together like a puzzle. Does it need to be a perfect square or rectangle again? Is that overthinking it? Or, should I create more prototypes? It was beginning to feel kind of heavy, too up in my head—for now. I just wanted to see a few quick results, learn from them, and then take the plunge.

When was the last time inspired you were inspired? What did you do with the thought and feeling?

Here are the beginning stages of the process. Here are a few photos and a chatty video of my experience cutting up/re-purposing my original artwork

 

IMG_0052

(Click the link to watch the video.)

If you’re pressed for time, just watch the reel on insta, though it won’t show you my final design!

What do you think? I am still reflecting on the experience.