EU DataViz 2019

What a great experience it was to be graphic recorder at the “EU interinstitutional workshop on data visualisation” organised by Publications Office of the European Union on 13 November 2019 in Luxembourg. With Célia Pessaud, Catherine Focant, and Vincent Henin, we lively scribed the parallel sessions of the conference.

Graphic recording at EUdataviz 2019

It was exciting to visually scribe workshops and talks on data visualisation. We – graphic recorders and data visualisers – speak the same visual language, use the same visual grammar, rely on the same conviction that visuals are one of the most powerful mean to explain complex ideas. As as said to some speakers:

We find that there are many similarities between our practice of graphic recording and yours of data visualisation. If the raw data that you visualise is often – if not always – numbers, and more and more big data, for us, raw data is what is said and what is happening in the conference room. Both can be complex and be meaningless at first glance. Our common goal is then to make sense with what does not seem to have any, to offer this sense/meaning to our clients so that they can make good use of it, so that they can benefit from this knowledge unveiled with more clarity. One difference that I see between our practices is that while during the process of DataViz there is time to test and adapt the final visualisation (and it’s recommended by the speakers here), in the graphic recording process everything is done live on the spot: listening, then filtering, then summarising, then translation to the visual language. Without opportunity to test and adapt. 

To conclude

There are certainly synergies that can be established between our two communities to learn from each other’s. 

Graphic recording at EUdataviz 2019 Graphic recording at EUdataviz 2019 Graphic recording at EUdataviz 2019 Graphic recording at EUdataviz 2019

The day ended with a fascinating session on how #dataviz helps us to better “see” black holes. Big thanks to Barthélémy von Haller and Jeremi Niedziela from CERN and Oliver James from DNEG. They guided us through this wonderful journey from the smallest elements of quantum physics to the black holes and their representation in the Interstellar movie. Magnificent presentation that shows that synergies between science and art can increase our knowledge about the unknown.

Graphic recording at EUdataviz 2019 Graphic recording at EUdataviz 2019


More information about the conference with all graphic recordings of the team is available on op.europa.eu/en/web/eudataviz/home

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My Inktober 2019

I decided to go through the 2019 edition of #inktober using just straight lines for my sketches. Oh, you may ask “what is Inktober?” See on the official website what is all about and the prompt list. If you are very curious, you may also want to know why I decided to go with straight lines. This follows a workshop at #ISC19FR with Eva-Lotta Lamm on Freedom on paper, see my related tweet.

All my 2019 sketches, mainly done in the train early morning while commuting to work.

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A “beautiful” encounter with David McCandless

I had the privilege to meet David McCandless, data journalist and founder of Information is Beautiful, at the European Commission 2019 #EUknowledge week.

David gave the opening keynote speech “Making complex knowledge meaningful – the power of data visualisation”. This is my live sketchnotes of his presentation.

Sketchnotes David McCandless

One of my colleagues summarised his speech as follow:

“We are engulfed in a sea of data. Using graphical images that everybody understands, helps to tell the story behind numbers. […] The story behind data doesn’t lie behind the numbers but in the message that the visualisation brings. […] Visualisation has the power of analysis, it turns data into a landscape that is ready for you to explore […] Data visualisation is like taking a photo, it brings into contrast what is in or out of focus, what is in the background, what is on the forefront. As a data journalist David feels close to photography journalism. You can zoom in or you can go wide to tell your story […] Visualisation unlocks what needs to be known, it gives clarity to big data.  […] To be better understood you convert to a visual language. When you can encode the message in visualisation you bring clarity and there is beauty in clarity. “

I am so happy and honoured that David signed my sketchbook with “Beautiful”. It means a lot to me from the man who wrote “Information is beautiful” and “Knowledge is beautiful“.

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The power of canvasses for better conversations

On 16/09/2019, more than 300 colleagues from DG REGIO and DG EMPL were in an away-day to reflect on “how to better navigate to the future” for beautiful operational programmes. I was asked to prepare the templates, or canvasses, to harvest the ideas and conclusions from the discussions. There is nothing better than canvasses to put participants in another mental state conducive to better conversations and exchanges.

The power of canvasses The power of canvasses The power of canvasses The power of canvasses

I was not asked for that, but I can not help but capturing the essence of the day with visuals. Inspired by the energy in the room, a tent to be exact, I mixed sketchnotes and scrapbooking.

Graphic recording of the REGIO-EMPL geographical officers away day
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Linked Data, Semantic web, sketchnotes and online collaboration

Recently I had the privilege of attending a course on Linked Data and Semantic technologies. It was a 2-day intensive course given by a brilliant Ivo Velitchkov to people working in the European institutions.

I cannot yet say that technologies like RDF, SPARQL, OWL or SHACL have now no secrets for me, far from it. At least I better understand their potential and possible applications. Especially now that I had the opportunity to deepen these technologies with the help of Kingsley and Margaret on social media. This is what I will share with you here below.

Of course, everything started with sketchnotes. Because I couldn’t help but take visual notes during the two days of the course.

Linked data course skecthnotes

Someone asked me if I drew these notes after the class, after having put my thoughts and ideas in order. Well not at all! First because I don’t have time after. Rather because taking visual notes live is my best way to understand what is said during the course, to assimilate and to remember later.

I usually publish my work, whether drawings or photos, on the Flickr platform. So I published this series of visual notes in a dedicated Flickr album that I tweeted.

Linked data course (sketchnotes 4/5)

On Twitter, I was quickly asked by Kingsley Uyi Idehen for the URL/URI per image. Kingsley was unknown to me until then.

Gosh…. I was forced to put into practice the concepts learned during the course!

The Uniform Resource Identifier (URI) is the string of characters that unambiguously identifies a particular resource.
The RDF Triple, or semantic triple, is the atomic data entity in the RDF data model that codifies a statement about semantic data in the form of subject–predicate–object expressions (e.g. “this image is sketchnotes”, or “this image depicts semantic web”).

Aussitôt dit, aussitôt fait! Enfin presque! (No sooner said than done! Well almost!)

Still on Twitter, Margaret Warren asked me to post my images on her imagesnippets.com platform.

ImageSnippets is a complete metadata editing interface that enables someone who knows little to nothing about RDF, OWL, ontologies, or even URIs to create descriptions for images using Linked Data (also known as structured data) which is written in RDF.

I took the challenge and added my images on the platform. I also had fun to enrich them with meta-data, RDF triples and annotations. This was a great exercise after the Ivo’ course where I put into practice what I had learned. Margaret was also unknown to me until then.

I’m proud to give you here the URI of my images on imagesnippets.com :


Resolution: 775×623

Resolution: 775×626

Resolution: 775×621

Resolution: 775×623

Resolution: 775×623

Like me, you can ask what is the added value of publishing photos, or pictures, on a RDF platform such as imagesnippets.com rather than on a platform like Flickr entirely dedicated to photos.

If your goal is to organize, retrieve and look at your photos, then Flickr does the trick. If your goal is to share your photos with friends and people with the same interests as you, eventually to comment and like, then again Flickr does the trick.

But if the final goal is that your images can be semantically connected to related content on the web – be it words, paragraphs, documents, other images, people or objects – then the “RDF” approach is required. For this to be possible, your images must become nodes of the graph of Linked Data. This way both humans and machines can find them and link them to other pieces of information on the web. What I did on imagesnippets.com.

Having content, like your images, semantically connected on the so-called Semantic Web will help to create and make more sense (to current chaotic web). Is it not a noble cause to change the messy web where the search results don’t provide real answers to the questions, to a place where answers make sense?

Linked Data and the Semantic Web have of course other benefits. You can find out more by watching the first 13 minutes of this webinar :

Check out Kingsley’s thread on Twitter to see all of that in action (from a human perspective, which is not equal to the machine one):

Thank you Ivo for your support, your help to review the text, and your suggestions.

Thank you Margaret and Kingsley for these great interactions for the benefit of my understanding of the semantic web! I hope this post will help others to better understand it too.

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To know what you’re going to draw, you have to begin drawing

In this second post on the same topic, I will deepen my answer to the question “How to start with an empty blank page when taking live visual notes?

In my previous post “How to use space in graphic notes“, I explain what you can do to prepare yourself before an event to feel more comfortable with the practice of taking visual notes.

Much before the drawing skills, the logistic, and before any other practical aspect, what will really influence the outcome of your work is the quality of your presence and the quality of your listening.

Presence and listening

Quality of your presence

You really need to be fully present when taking live visual notes at an event. Firstly, this means that you have to be connected as much as possible with all of “you”, with who and with what you are. Simplifying it a little bit, you need to access both sides of your brain and let them work together. Or – I prefer to say it like that – let the two sides of your brain “make love” in you. You need also to be connected with the surrounding world. This last point seems obvious but if your focus is on the choice of the marker’s color or on your space consumption on the paper sheet….you risk to not being connected with what is happening around you, and with what is said.

What is said? What is really said and what do I hear?

Quality of your listening

Like with traditional text notes, how you listen and to what you listen will bring you to very different results. Except that with visuals, the difference will be felt even more than with just text.

I recommend the following material from experts to know more about “Listening”:

4 Levels of Scribing

Listening is good for you: Four steps to mastering active listening

A better presence and a better listening

The quality of both your presence and your listening will greatly influence your ability to take visual notes and, finally, your outcomes. Therefore it is worth to prepare yourself a minimum before you start. Some minutes before you jump on your markers, take the time to do some exercises of meditation, or mindfulness, or yoga, or relaxation. Whatever can help you is welcome. And if nothing comes to you, just try to close your eyes, breathe slowly and deeply, and have at least 10 of these breaths.

Last but not least…

The more you will practice, the better!

My last recommendation is to start to practice as soon as possible, then to practice and to practice again.

I would like to conclude with two quotes. First is this Pablo Picasso’s answer to the question whether ideas come to him “by chance or by design”:

“I don’t have a clue. Ideas are simply starting points. I can rarely set them down as they come to my mind. As soon as I start to work, others well up in my pen. To know what you’re going to draw, you have to begin drawing… When I find myself facing a blank page, that’s always going through my head. What I capture in spite of myself interests me more than my own ideas.”

Then – to keep you from believing that the Picasso’s reference implies that we treat art here – this Mike Rohde‘s quote applicable to all visual notes in general:

“Sketchnotes are about capturing and sharing ideas, not art. Even bad drawings can convey good ideas.”


Related post: “How to use space in graphic notes


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