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

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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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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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How to use space in graphic notes

Sketchnotes How to organise space in graphic notes
There are no magical rules to succeed! Only practice will help you to capture the essence of a speech, a presentation, a training, in… a short amount of time and space!

The practice consists in listen for key ideas, then recognize verbal cues that best identify these ideas and quickly replicate them through drawings and visual elements.

Preparation is key! What can you do in advance?

  • Get as much information as possible on…
    • the agenda: timing, talk points, breaks, etc, everything is precious
    • the speaker(s): background, photo, speaking style and pace
  • Prepare a library of possible icons and visuals on the subject by drawing them on a piece of paper from internet or Bikablo books
  • Prepare your sketchnotes:
    • Title, date, place, name of the speaker, twitter account/website, etc
    • You can sketch the speaker from a photo, the location (Paris, Bxl, NY), etc
    • Any footer with your signature?
    • If you are sure, you can already draw lines with a pencil to divide the available space in sections

Before the start

  • Choose a strategic place:
    • To have a clear view [then not the back of the room, nor the first row]
    • Comfortable enough to have your bloc-note and pens handy
  • Like an athlete before a competition, put yourself in the right mental condition:
    • Connect with yourself, with all your means, with your imagination and your fantasy
    • Don’t be afraid, your role is not produce a full transcript [minutes takers are there for that, or not, not you]
    • You can miss elements, don’t worry, your intuition will support you
    • Breathe calmly and relax you
  • Divide your paper in sections corresponding to the schedule but be VERY CAREFUL with that:
    • Speakers are unpredictable:
    • It’s better to capture what they really say, instead of anticipating what they had planned to say
    • Don’t numbered in advance their points, they can skip a point to stay in time or they can forgot to mention it
  • Remember that no law requires that your work is to be confined in one single page

Let’s go

  • Depending on your skills/mood of the day, you can prefer to work in monochrome or using more colours (a maximum of 4 colours is recommended by Brandy Agerbeck). You can also postpone full colourisation for after the event and use my guide How to colour your drawings in 10 steps
  • Depending on your preparation or intuition, you can opt for one of these models:
    • Linear which is the most common, easiest, more secure. It can spread on several pages with a typical start from the top-left corner, then continue to the bottom or to the right
    • Modulus like mind-map or web. Typical start from the center, use of lines to connect containers, any kind of lines and containers
    • Grid like in comics
    • Clouds
    • Columns
    • Timeline
    • Random
      Sketchnotes How to organise space in graphic notes
  • Stay focused on the main message and try to discard details that don’t reinforce it
  •  Forget to capture everything, that’s not the goal. What matters are your takeaways about what you considered important
  • Note great quotes like tweets, represent them visually
  • Draw simple objects in wire mode, especially people, you can come back on them later
  • Use a pencil to write keywords on which you can come back later
  • Use post-its (I use plenty of post-its)

Beforehand practice

  •  Search on sites like RSA,, Coursera for a short but inspiring speech and sketch it
    • Do it alone, or better… with others in order to compare, explain, confront your ideas [community of practice principles]
  • Build your own visual library by drawing in a sketchbook your icons to represent real objects like cup, pencil, doors, etc, and more abstract concepts like collaboration, idea, planning, etc.

Related post: To know what you’re going to draw, you have to begin drawing
In this second post, I expand my answer by talking about the importance of presence and listening.

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12 mois d’illustrations

Que vous inspire le nombre 12?
Les douze coups de minuit? Peut-être un nombre sublime en mathématiques? (peut-être pas, désolé, j’aime bien les maths). Peut-être pensez-vous au nombre de signes du zodiaque, d’étoiles sur le drapeau Européen, de disciples de Jesus, de syllabes pour un alexandrin, de côtes dans votre corps, de travaux d’Hercules? Laissez courir votre pensée autour de ce nombre. Divaguez dans les mythes et les religions où il revient souvent.

Douze, c’est aussi et plus simplement, le nombre de mois dans une année. Eh ben, me direz-vous, toute cette diversion pour en arriver à cette banalité? Oui, car j’avais besoin que votre imagination s’évade en pensant au nombre douze, afin de mieux comprendre ce qui suit.

Ca fait un an, donc douze mois, que j’ai accepté de collaborer au blog de mon amie Florence Bierlaire en illustrant ses billets mensuels. Chaque mois, Florence m’envoit le texte de son prochain billet et elle me laisse carte blanche pour l’illustrer.

La confiance aveugle de Florence me rempli d’une joie immense car elle est le signe d’un respect, d’une reconnaissance et d’une grande amitié entre nous deux. Cette relation privilégiée fertilise le terrain où mon inspiration et ma créativité peuvent s’exprimer librement.

Liberté, certes, mais comme toute liberté il faut l’assumer. C’est pour moi un défi chaque mois. J’ai le trac quand je reçois l’email de Florence qui contient le texte de son nouveau billet à illustrer. De quel sujet s’agit-il? Vais-je en comprendre le sens? Serais-je inspiré pour l’illustrer? Trouverais-je un language visuel que les lecteurs de Florence comprendrons? Qui soit respectueux du sujet, de Florence la psy, de Florence mon amie et surtout de ses lecteurs? Autant de questions, et d’autres encore, qui reviennent chaque mois.

Mes inquiétudes laissent toutefois rapidement place à l’appétit et à l’excitation.

J’entre alors dans le texte, un nouvel espace à découvrir, un autre renard à apprivoiser, une nouvelle semence à planter.  Mon procédé est pratiquement toujours le même: lire le texte, comprendre, relire, ne pas interpréter, rester dans ce qui est dit, digérer, attendre, laisser reposer, relire ça et là le texte, le butiner, garder en mémoire ou esquisser mes idées visuelles, surtout les premières qui s’avèreront souvent être les meilleures, surligner dans le texte les mots ou les phrases qui me marquent, croquer au crayon les liens mentaux entre ces idées fortes. Puis, faire le point lentement. Décanter. Méditer sur les mots, les idées, les visuels, les connexions, les couleurs, mes émotions, mes ressentis.

A la fin vient mon carnet de dessin où j’y agence mes idées en traits de crayon d’abord, en courbes, en couleurs et en ombres ensuite. Parfois simplement en noir et blanc.

Voici les 12 illustrations de l’année 2017. Vous pouvez cliquer les images pour les agrandir et le lien en dessous pour lire l’article dans son entièreté:

"Comment garder ses bonnes résolutions"
Janvier 2017: Comment instaurer de nouvelles habitudes dans votre vie?

"Comment déborder d'énergie?"
Février 2017: Comment avoir plus de jus au quotidien et déborder d’énergie?

Comment définir et identifier le burnout
Mars 2017:  Le burn out: Comment définir et identifier ce mal qui nous consume?

Comment faire des choix éclairés
Avril 2017: Comment faire des choix éclairés en 10 étapes?

Comment s'affirmer et poser des limites
Mai 2017: J’apprends à m’affirmer et à poser mes limites

Sketchnotes: Comment sortir du burnout?
Juin 2017: Le burn out: Comment en sortir, comment se reconstruire ?

Sketchnotes "La slow attitude"

Juillet 2017: Retrouver l’art de flâner et adopter la slow attitude!

Sketchnotes: Comment vivre motivé et de meilleure humeur
Août 2017: Comment vivre motivé et de meilleure humeur !

Sketchnotes "Comment se simplifier la vie?" Sketchnotes "Comment se simplifier la vie?"
Septembre 2017: Apprendre à se simplifier la vie !

Sketchnotes "Comment réveiller son charisme"
Octobre 2017: Comment réveiller le charisme naturel qui est en vous ?

Sketchnotes "Le bore out"
Novembre 2017: Le Bore Out ! Un phénomène aussi destructeur que le Burn Out?

Sketchnotes "Les fêtes, du bonheur ou un calvaire?"
Décembre 2017: Les Fêtes de fin d’année : bonheur pour les uns, calvaire pour les autres !


Illustrer les billets de Florence qui traitent de psychologie ne fut pas chose aisée, même si l’humain et ses relations avec les autres et avec lui-même sont un domaine que j’apprécie particulièrement.  Je constate, outre l’aspect purement technique du dessin, que cela m’a demandé de la concentration pour bien comprendre ce qui est dit, et juste ce qui est dit, sans extrapoler. Une juste balance entre la méditation nécessaire pour digérer le sujet et … laisser courir mon imagination autour de ce dernier. C’est cet équilibre qui aura représenté la plus grande difficulté. M’en tenir au sujet mais imaginer loin comment le visualiser.

Les douzes articles de 2017 auront été un défi où, à chaque mois, j’aurais appris quelque chose. Ce fut avant tout une très belle expérience humaine entre Florence et moi. Je suis sûr qu’elle va grandir encore lors de cette nouvelle année (retrouvez les nouvelles illustrations dans mon album Flickr). Cette collaboration m’a aussi et surtout aidé à progresser dans ma pratique de l’illustration, dans celle de la lecture attentive ainsi que dans mes autres activités où j’utilise le language visuel.

Merci Florence!

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A loop of gifts (on social networks)

Connections on Twitter have something incredible (probably on other social networks too, but Twitter is still my favorite). I am always amazed by Twitter ability to connect strangers who share the same interests, passions, and offer them this opportunity to enrich each other. The necessary condition is to work out loud. See for yourself.

One day, I read “Thinking Like a Network 2.0” Curtis Ogden’s article on the train while going to work. Each of the 10 principles resonated with me that I took my sketchbook and started to quickly illustrate each of them (despite the vibrations and discomfort). It’s my way of memorising things that matter or that I like. As per usual, I shared my sketchnotes on Twitter mentioning the article and its author:

The author, Curtis Ogden, contacted me to ask permission to post my sketchnotes. I of course gladly accepted, and “we both agree it is a wonderful example of what happens when you work out loud“.

Some weeks later, Curtis published my visual notes in a blog post of the Interaction Institute for Social Change (IISC), along with… a revised version of the 10 principles that I hastened to reread!

That’s the loop of gifts on social networks, and on Twitter in particular.

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