February 23, 2023
Alan Chen and Diana Ayoub

Illustration and Facilitation: A Beautiful Partnership

A lot can happen in three years. In 2019, our offices were inflated, co-working was in full swing, and all trends suggested that business would continue getting busier. Fast forward to today, and you wouldn’t be blamed if you thought you were watching a Netflix dystopian sci-fi series…except it’s our reality. Empty offices. A remote workforce in pajamas. A mass global resignation and now we’re seeing signs of the next economic crisis.

Facilitation as a way to engage

With employee satisfaction being a key metric for success, companies are scrambling to find ways to enhance engagement. Professional development is at an all time high in spending with 2022, reaching a 48% increase in budget, according to a recent LinkedIn Learning report.

As part of this, we have noticed that facilitation has become an essential ingredient in making sure meetings have impact, and learning sticks. The added engagement activates us, giving us the ability to focus our limited attention. At the same time, it brings teams out of their silos and creates a collaborative space where discussion happens and true action begins.  It’s no wonder that so many facilitators we know  find themselves in government departments and large organisations. 

Lydia Moussa, Diana Ayoub and Alan Chen - Facilitation & Graphic Facilitation working hand in hand

“Leaders who understand how to invite people into a participatory environment, and use the group energy to innovate fit well into today's context. With the world calling for more inclusion and equity, tomorrow's leaders need to be facilitators.”
- Vinay Kumar, Chair of the International Association of Facilitators (IAF).

Drawing helps people remember and understand

Facilitators are usually equipped with post-its, whiteboard markers, butcher’s paper and apps like Miro to make their sessions visual. It’s an integral part of engaging participants in the conversation and the co-design process. They aim to run workshops that drive actual outcomes by being strategic and people focused. Their sessions are active, often full of energy and ideas. To capture that energy and turn those ideas into action, they team up with graphic facilitators, like our team at Sh8peshifters.

As graphic facilitators, we are communication specialists, taking complex ideas and representing them in accessible and memorable ways, removing the fog from the process. We are tasked with creating illustrated notes in the moment, which bring the conversations to life with the rich imagery we draw. These visual records always prove helpful to both the participants and facilitator. They serve as strategic artefacts that anchor the discussion and visual summaries to be used and referred to after the workshop is over.

Live digital graphic facilitation for Women in UX by Sh8peshifters, connecting UX practitioners from around the world 

A complimentary service

"Facilitation is both an art and science- a delicate balance of capturing hearts and minds"
- Lydia Moussa, Leading Change at Canva and founder of The Change Hub

We’ve been fortunate enough to work with some amazing facilitators over the years. We plan the sessions together, which allows us to genuinely make use of our complimentary offerings. Every time, we experience the sparks of creative collaboration. In two projects for The University of Technology Sydney, we partnered with Dr. Lydia Moussa, a master Change Facilitator.   

From left to right: Jomar Mandingiado, Alan Chen, Diana Ayoub & Lydia Moussa - Graphic Facilitation Team 

The workshops were challenging, in their own respect. One was around gathering rich feedback on content for an online course, while the other looked at improving the experience of students in lower socioeconomic regions. Both required expert facilitation to guide the discussions, and gather timely feedback.  The insights that came out of the workshops were complex and sensitive, and the benefit of having a team of facilitator and graphic facilitator working together was obvious. Lydia was able to focus on guiding the conversation and engaging the attendees, while  we captured the insights and surfaced patterns in drawings that the attendees could refer to and follow as the session went on.

Graphic Facilitation Output - A reusable artifact, markers on paper by Sh8peshifters 

The visuals went on to become graphic road maps, forming blueprints for action, helping to highlight discussion points, and some parts even became reusable artifacts in reports and presentations. However, one of the great values of graphic facilitation is that the synthesis of insights is happening live; this invites the audience to take a different perspective, to engage and interact with the topic as they watch the visuals unfold in front of them.