TEDxLizardCreek 2017

Time lapsed video of graphic recording for TEDxLizardCreek 2017

We're very pleased to once again be a patron of TEDxLizardCreek! This will be the third time we'll be graphic recording the speakers. Check out the charts and event photos from 2014 and 2015. TEDxLizardCreek 2014 provided an opportunity to present "What's Wrong With This Picture," which makes the case for doodling in school, for the first time. Check out the action sketch version of "What's Wrong With This Picture" here


Preparing for a TEDx

TEDx events present their own unique challenges. The talks are very fast, usually capped at eighteen minutes. They happen back to back, leaving little time to reset. And as often as not, they're done on a shoestring budget, meaning that supporting them is a balance of spending adequate time to prepare in lieu of other work.

The solution to the speed and tempo of the talks is to front-load as much of the drawing as possible prior to the talk. That is, preparing each chart in advance with the speaker's name and talk title along with any other visual elements. Of course, preparation comes at the cost of other work. So, how do you prepare a dozen or more charts in advance, with out spending days doing it? 

For TEDxLizardCreek, I scaled up a method that I use in training: designing charts in Adobe Illustrator against a single template and printing them at a local FedEx. That way, I was able to dedicate most of my prep time to design, testing out different combinations of layouts, fonts, and graphics, and not in production. I also opted to go with entirely black and white charts, partly because the cost of printing in black and white is a fraction of printing in color, and partly because eliminating the need to color while drawing took some pressure off the time constraint. Plus, I've been on a black and white kick lately: I just think it looks cool. 

For speed, foamcore is the way to go. I sized the charts to a standard foamcore size of 32"x40." That eliminated any need for cutting. If I'd had FedEx mount the paper charts on foamcore, it would of tripled the print cost, so I did it myself using foamcore that already had peel and stick adhesive. It turned out that the peel and stick wasn't necessary, and created bubbles and wrinkles in the paper that were invisible to the audience (see if you can spot them in the video above) but were an annoyance to me. After a couple of charts, I stopped using the prefab adhesive and instead used double-sided tape at each of the corners.

This approach presented a slight problem when a speaker revealed that he'd changed the title of his talk the day of the event. Of course, this didn't only affect me: programs had been printed, the website was live, and PR had already happened. So, the speaker was understanding when I couldn't change the chart the day of.

Another tactic to deal with the speed and tempo is to come up with an icon library in advance of the talk based on the speakers' abstracts. Even if you don't use them, this saves on time spent translating the spoken word into visuals.

Preparing an icon library. Resources include the Bikablo books, Diane Bleck's Discovery Doodles, Mike Rohde's Sketchnote Handbook, and Ed Emberley. Note the pandas. 

Preparing an icon library. Resources include the Bikablo books, Diane Bleck's Discovery Doodles, Mike Rohde's Sketchnote Handbook, and Ed Emberley.

Note the pandas. 

Visual Notetaking recognition

Our visual notetaking class got a mention in the Nysmith Newsletter:

Teachers left for summer last week after a wonderful seminar by one of our parents, Brian Tarallo.  His company, Lizard Brain Solutions, helps companies synthesize complex systems and problems with visual tools.  The Nysmith staff worked on various learning styles and explored ways to engage students in deeper experiences with their subject areas.  It is a pleasure to have so many talented teachers and parents in our community.  And, it is a real joy to be able to concentrate on building the best program possible for these young people who face an increasingly complicated world.  While none of us know exactly what their future holds, we do know that they will need the critical thinking skills to delve deeply into many subjects.  They will need to collaborate, so they need self-awareness and empathy.  They will need to be able to express their ideas in multiple formats, written, spoken, and visual.  These all require confidence and character. 


Kenneth Nysmith

Head of School

The Nysmith School

TEDxFoggyBottom April 2016

Click to enlarge.

Each of the graphic charts from TEDxFoggyBottom in April 2016 had abstract red lines on a black background. When laid out next to each other, the charts formed the red X of the event logo. 

Thanks to Heather Martinez for design inspiration, Ryan Fuhrman for prep work, Heather Lynn Osborn for digital clean up, and Claire Tarallo for sharing the stage and graphic recording with me in front of 1,300 people.

First VR Mindmap

Watch this version in your VR viewer!

Made using Google TiltBrush and the HTC Vive, this is a 3D mindmap of various learning styles and how they manifest.

IFVP 2015 Backdrop


Designed by Heather Martinez, the entire team had a hand in creating this mural for our presentation at the 2015 International Forum of Visual Practioners. The outer space visuals aligned with the theme of our presentation, which asked, "How Can We Orbit Each Other?"

Richard E. Merkling Visual Timeline

In 2015, my grandfather, Richard E. Merkling, turned ninety years old. For his birthday celebration, I compiled all of the stories that he had told me and I had written down over the years. The resulting book, Steady, also gave me fantastic content to do this visual timeline of his life.

Visual timeline of the life of Richard E. Merkling.

I only recently scanned the timeline, which at just over eighteen-and-a-half feet long, is the largest chart I've ever drawn. 

The full-resolution version of the timeline can be downloaded here

Here's a time lapse video of the timeline being drawn:

Time lapse of drawing a graphic of the life of Richard E. Merkling, my grandfather, who just celebrated his 90th birthday

Featured in Trajectory Magazine

Screenshot from Trajectory magazine

Screenshot from Trajectory magazine

This studio piece captures the methods behind OGSystems' Immersive Engineering practice. It was featured in Trajectory Magazine, which is published by the US Geospatial Intelligence Foundation.

Here's a timelapse of the drawing:



Idea Modeling

Test of idea modeling against an environmental scan results using 20 squares. 

Test of idea modeling against an environmental scan results using 20 squares. 

Still a work in progress, the concept behind idea modeling is taking brainstorming or design off the whiteboard and into 3-D space.  Idea modeling uses interlocking squares of whiteboard-safe material to capture and relate ideas to each other.

Idea modeling has application to mind mapping, kinesthetic modeling, paper prototyping, design thinking, images of organization, and vision mapping. 

Thanks to my friends Heather and Ray Martinez for your invaluable design and production assistance!