We recently caught up with Erin Gordon, who will be leading the upcoming Digital Graphic Recording Intensive. She talked about her professional journey in visual practice and shared helpful tips for those starting out.
How did you get into this field?
I was a consultant—on paper—for the majority of my early career. I enjoyed the partnering piece of my projects but quickly learned advising didn’t work. My curiosity led me to other ways and methods to best be a thought partner with my clients, which led me to facilitation. I grew into data visualization and analytics and started training others. I particularly loved helping folks visualize their ideas and concepts.
While consulting with the U.S. General Services Administration, I stumbled upon graphic recording by another consultant, Trent Wakenight, and was intrigued. He encouraged me to “help out” with a recording on a wall, but I thought the paper and markers thing was pretty cumbersome. I ended up taking a class in graphic facilitation with Deirdre Crowley and started working with a Surface Pro and stylus. It was love.
Speed up to 2021. I now work as a graphic facilitator and recorder with an iPad Pro and Apple Pencil. I keep a Surface Book close by as my backup.
How long have you been in the field of visual practice, and how has it changed during this time?
I’ve been active in the field since 2012 and still feel like a new face in the growing global community of practitioners. I remember going to my first IFVP conference in Austin, 2015. It was the 20th annual gathering and there I was with my little Surface Pro and stylus surrounded by a sea of ink and paper. During that conference, a few others had tablets and scribed digitally, but this was met with little interest from the rest of the crowd.
Until 2020, the following of digital and virtual extensions of this practice seemed to grow only in small, isolated pockets. There is an opportunity for the whole field to grow and explore in this direction. Digital recording does not replace analog recording. It’s just another tool that aids in continually evolving, adapting, and growing our practice to meet client needs and serve others well.
I’ve personally witnessed an increase in overlapping disciplines with growing interest in exploiting visual thinking or “the power of visuals” in many fields. We are a visual-tending species, with more and more visual reinforcement (or bombardment if you prefer). As the need to sensemake rises, so will the need for a robust visual toolkit.
What or who has influenced your work?
My biggest influences are fine art, international studies, missions work, and very profoundly, the study of and experience with muralism. In more recent years, I’ve been interested in public sentiment juxtaposed with my love of natural movement and water.
What do you love about your profession?
It is a creative act.
What do you find challenging?
When it shifts from practice to performance.
What advice would you give someone starting out in the field?
- Step in (dive in, experiment, and try things on)
- Step up (get out there, do the work, and give to the community that gives back)
- Step back (reflect on the learning, choose to grow, and remain humble)
- Repeat. It’s a practice.
Figure out what you’re curious about and follow that thought trail to find the people and the passions that fuel your curiosity further. Keep in mind that the practice is meant to be shared.
What advice did you receive that was most helpful?
- Level with your inner critic.
- Find your sweet spot and go with it.
- When you think it’s going terribly, it’s magic to everyone else.
- Experiment and continuously iterate.
- We are meant to create.
How did you prepare to teach this new workshop Digital Graphic Recording Intensive?
I really had to step back in time to codify my own learning and practice. I evaluated tools and equipment and jumped in as an online learner with others in adjacent fields to get a feel for the participant experience. I interviewed other practitioners with an eye toward the two extremes of brand new and seasoned digital recorders.
What excites you most about this new workshop?
What I heard from the community over and over was that there was never enough practice time. So I’m really going to make sure there’s time to practice and learn from others in the room. I’m really looking forward to this shared learning journey. We’ll roll out the mat and wrestle with our saboteurs (whether it be the inner critic or digital demon of unfamiliar tools).
Learn more about the Digital Graphic Recording Intensive.
Erin Nicole Gordon is the founder and executive director of ENG Consulting (ENG LLC) operating as WAYFIND, a Washington D.C.-based facilitation and strategy consultancy. Wayfind’s vision is to inspire a world of creativity on purpose. It does this by helping clients find their way using an appreciative approach and holding the space for success.