Making Art Into Making A Living


It’s not everyday that you hear of people who decide to pursue a hobby – like doodling – as a career, especially when it’s not an obvious need. Have you ever even stopped to wonder why we do things the way we do them? For example, why do we read line by line instead of word by word? Why do we take notes the way we do? Why is there an outline feature on every single word processor but not a sketchnote feature?

Nora Herting and Heather Willems always knew they wanted to pursue art-related careers, but they also knew that it would be hard to make a living. Willems soon found herself waitressing to supplement being a fine artist. “As a waitress, I would entertain myself between shifts by eavesdropping on customers and jotting their conversations on napkins," she says. Willems eventually found herself with enough napkins to make an entire “large-scale mural consisting of the text as image,” which she did, inviting her customers to the corresponding art exhibition.

As it turns out, the customers were less interested in the art and more interested in the artist; and Willemswas offered a position turning meeting notes into graphics. Willems quickly joined the company's Chicago division, while her friend Nora Herting went to the New York division. Herting and Willems continued to work independently until an agency hired them to tandem-scribe (to work together). Not long after, ImageThink LLC was born.”

Clients, including advertising firm Ogilvy & Mather, toymaker LEGO and computer services giant IBM” hired the team at ImageThink to create business-inspired art by “[listening] carefully and objectively to what’s being said, then [capturing] the highlights via bullet points, notes and sketches.” Technically ImageThink is a graphic facilitation firm, which surprisingly wasn't a fully novel idea. Graphic facilitation, also known as graphic recording, started in the 1970's, when a network of consultants based on the West Coast, decided to take an approach inspired by designers and architects to empower businesses.

What makes ImageThink different from its competitors, however, is that the firm was started by two women who wanted to use their knowledge and passions to empower others.

Their newly published workbook, Draw Your Big Idea, includes over 150 drawing exercises to provide readers with the tools to hone their own graphic facilitation skills. Herting and Willems realized that graphic facilitation can – and should – be used anywhere, especially outside the boardroom.

According to the book, “graphic facilitation, sketchnoting, doodling or whatever you want to call synthesizing concepts into visuals, have value beyond the boardroom and SXSW.”

“As a waitress, I would entertain myself between shifts by eavesdropping on customers and jotting their conversations on napkins"

-Heather Willems

The pair are aware of the universal cognitive benefits provided by their business. “Drawing out concepts provides access all 4 learning modalities, visual, auditory, kinesthetic, and tactile," says Willems.

"When you have fun with the sketches, or make a visual note of a joke, you are adding emotion into the mix and are even more likely to remember the experience of capturing the information long after the conversation wraps" says Willems.

Some may be quick to doubt the benefits of visual note-taking. Arguments about the process being a distraction, or a barrier for the brain have been made. According to Willems, while at first, it may be a kind of distraction, it will soon normalize in the brain “Clients often ask us if the graphic recording will be distracting," says Willems. "I usually respond, ‘Yes, it will be… at first but it is a healthy distraction.’” Once the novelty of it wears down, and it becomes part of the usual landscape, it’s no longer a distraction. “Sketching the ideas in your notebook for yourself while someone is graphic facilitating (drawing out ideas for a team to build upon) is a quick way to learn new information and it stimulates cross-cognitive processing," says Willems.

What’s most interesting about visual note-taking is the freedom it brings. The participant doesn't necessarily have to know what he or she is doing while doing it. “Even if I didn’t necessarily understand all of the content that was transpiring, I was good at listening for the key points and capturing them with words and pictures," says Herting. And, after all, isn’t that the point of taking notes?

Photo Credit: www.entrepreneur.com

3 Min Read

7 Must-have Tips to Keep You Healthy and Fit for the Unpredictable COVID Future

With a lack of certainty surrounding the future, being and feeling healthy may help bring the security that you need during these unpredictable times.

When it comes to your health, there is a direct relationship between nutrition and physical activity that play an enormous part in physical, mental, and social well-being. As COVID-19 continues to impact almost every aspect of our lives, the uncertainty of the future may seem looming. Sometimes improvisation is necessary, and understanding how to stay healthy and fit can significantly help you manage your well-being during these times.

Tip 1: Communicate with your current wellness providers and set a plan

Gyms, group fitness studios, trainers, and professionals can help you to lay out a plan that will either keep you on track through all of the changes and restrictions or help you to get back on the ball so that all of your health objectives are met.

Most facilities and providers are setting plans to provide for their clients and customers to accommodate the unpredictable future. The key to remaining consistent is to have solid plans in place. This means setting a plan A, plan B, and perhaps even a plan C. An enormous amount is on the table for this coming fall and winter; if your gym closes again, what is your plan? If outdoor exercising is not an option due to the weather, what is your plan? Leaving things to chance will significantly increase your chances of falling off of your regimen and will make consistency a big problem.

The key to remaining consistent is to have solid plans in place. This means setting a plan A, plan B, and perhaps even a plan C.

Tip 2: Stay active for both mental and physical health benefits

The rise of stress and anxiety as a result of the uncertainty around COVID-19 has affected everyone in some way. Staying active by exercising helps alleviate stress by releasing chemicals like serotonin and endorphins in your brain. In turn, these released chemicals can help improve your mood and even reduce risk of depression and cognitive decline. Additionally, physical activity can help boost your immune system and provide long term health benefits.

With the new work-from-home norm, it can be easy to bypass how much time you are spending sedentary. Be aware of your sitting time and balance it with activity. Struggling to find ways to stay active? Start simple with activities like going for a walk outside, doing a few reps in exchange for extra Netflix time, or even setting an alarm to move during your workday.

Tip 3: Start slow and strong

If you, like many others during the pandemic shift, have taken some time off of your normal fitness routine, don't push yourself to dive in head first, as this may lead to burnout, injury, and soreness. Plan to start at 50 percent of the volume and intensity of prior workouts when you return to the gym. Inactivity eats away at muscle mass, so rather than focusing on cardio, head to the weights or resistance bands and work on rebuilding your strength.

Be aware of your sitting time and balance it with activity.

Tip 4: If your gym is open, prepare to sanitize

In a study published earlier this year, researchers found drug-resistant bacteria, the flu virus, and other pathogens on about 25 percent of the surfaces they tested in multiple athletic training facilities. Even with heightened gym cleaning procedures in place for many facilities, if you are returning to the gym, ensuring that you disinfect any surfaces before and after using them is key.

When spraying disinfectant, wait a few minutes to kill the germs before wiping down the equipment. Also, don't forget to wash your hands frequently. In an enclosed space where many people are breathing heavier than usual, this can allow for a possible increase in virus droplets, so make sure to wear a mask and practice social distancing. Staying in the know and preparing for new gym policies will make it easy to return to these types of facilities as protocols and mutual respect can be agreed upon.

Tip 5: Have a good routine that extends outside of just your fitness

From work to working out, many routines have faltered during the COVID pandemic. If getting back into the routine seems daunting, investing in a new exercise machine, trainer, or small gadget can help to motivate you. Whether it's a larger investment such as a Peloton, a smaller device such as a Fitbit, or simply a great trainer, something new and fresh is always a great stimulus and motivator.

Make sure that when you do wake up well-rested, you are getting out of your pajamas and starting your day with a morning routine.

Just because you are working from home with a computer available 24/7 doesn't mean you have to sacrifice your entire day to work. Setting work hours, just as you would in the office, can help you to stay focused and productive.

A good night's sleep is also integral to obtaining and maintaining a healthy and effective routine. Adults need seven or more hours of sleep per night for their best health and wellbeing, so prioritizing your sleep schedule can drastically improve your day and is an important factor to staying healthy. Make sure that when you do wake up well-rested, you are getting out of your pajamas and starting your day with a morning routine. This can help the rest of your day feel normal while the uncertainty of working from home continues.

Tip 6: Focus on food and nutrition

In addition to having a well-rounded daily routine, eating at scheduled times throughout the day can help decrease poor food choices and unhealthy cravings. Understanding the nutrients that your body needs to stay healthy can help you stay more alert, but they do vary from person to person. If you are unsure of your suggested nutritional intake, check out a nutrition calculator.

If you are someone that prefers smaller meals and more snacks throughout the day, make sure you have plenty of healthy options, like fruits, vegetables and lean proteins available (an apple a day keeps the hospital away). While you may spend most of your time from home, meal prepping and planning can make your day flow easier without having to take a break to make an entire meal in the middle of your work day. Most importantly, stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water.

Tip 7: Don't forget about your mental health

While focusing on daily habits and routines to improve your physical health is important, it is also a great time to turn inward and check in with yourself. Perhaps your anxiety has increased and it's impacting your work or day-to-day life. Determining the cause and taking proactive steps toward mitigating these occurrences are important.

For example, with the increase in handwashing, this can also be a great time to practice mini meditation sessions by focusing on taking deep breaths. This can reduce anxiety and even lower your blood pressure. Keeping a journal and writing out your daily thoughts or worries can also help manage stress during unpredictable times, too.

While the future of COVI9-19 and our lives may be unpredictable, you can manage your personal uncertainties by focusing on improving the lifestyle factors you can control—from staying active to having a routine and focusing on your mental health—to make sure that you emerge from this pandemic as your same old self or maybe even better.