TypewriterFrom The Urbach Letter February 2013

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Power Doodling

Meetings. We hate them. A big waste of time. And boring!

But sometimes meetings are good. Really good. Brilliant ideas bubble up and major progress is made. Too bad most of that goodness evaporates into the air within days. After just a short time, we struggle to remember even the biggest ideas and the best points. Notes, when we take them, are usually inadequate. There's a tendency to jot only the facts and figures rather than truly synthesize the major concepts -- and words alone don't always get the job done.

We humans are able to consume vast amounts of visual information quickly and efficiently. Unfortunately, most of us lack the ability to PRODUCE that visual info. Very few are able to sketch and think visually while we're listening to someone speak.

Luckily, there are gifted individuals with that special ability. I was first exposed to some of them at the Maker Faire I've been writing about for the past several months.

During Seth Godin's thought-provoking presentation "Art and Science and Making Things," there was an easel with a big piece of white foam board on the stage. A young woman stepped up with a holster full of colored markers and began to turn Seth's words and ideas into pictures.

The artist was Kelly Kingman, from the Brooklyn-based firm ImageThink. Along with firm principal Nora Herting, Kelly rendered the day's sessions in real time, creating a unique visual record for each talk. To explain ImageThink's process, there's no better way than to show you an onomatopoetic diagram:

(Click to Enlarge Photos and Diagrams)

EXAMPLE #1 With that as background, here is the completed art board for Seth Godin's presentation:

And here's a video of the talk should you wish to view it (highly recommended)

Seth Godin, "Art and Science and Making Things" (27:14)

When Godin's talk was finished, the board was placed on display in the lobby, along with those drawn at other presentations that day. I was amazed that just by viewing the boards of the talks I missed, I could get a pretty solid grasp of what was discussed. By studying the artwork, my take-away was likely just as good as that of someone who sat in on the talk but "dropped out" from time to time to check their phone, daydream, think about what to pick up on the way home, etc. (e.g., normal meeting behavior).

Let's see if you can do the same.

EXAMPLE #2 John Dudas is a founder of FIRST (the robotics competition in schools). He spoke on how FIRST and the Maker Faire share the same spirit: stressing the importance of collaboration, and helping young people find their passion for science, technology, engineering, and math.

If you're so inclined, spend a few minutes reviewing the (enlarged) chart, then see how you experience the presentation video.

Jon Dudas, "FIRST for the Future" (24:54)

EXAMPLE #3 In a similar vein, AnnMarie Thomas' talk was about the Maker Education Initiative, empowering very young kids to produce original creative work:

If you work with young children (or have little ones of your own), then you'll likely find AnnMarie's talk to be of great interest.

AnnMarie Thomas, "Every Child a Maker" (27:44)

EXAMPLE #4 Chris Anderson (former editor in chief of Wired Magazine and serial entrepreneur) and Bre Pettis (Co-founder and CEO of MakerBot Industries) delivered a keynote on the future evolution of the Maker movement:

Close to an hour, but a very interesting, worthwhile hour indeed.

Chris Anderson & Bre Pettis "Maker Movement to New Industrial Revolution" (54:41)


I had the opportunity to talk privately afterwards with both Anderson and Pettis and was greatly impressed by their dedication to their respective ground breaking enterprises, their passion to effect positive change in a broad sense, and their humility. As I mentioned in the last letter, I highly recommend Chris Anderson's new book "Makers: The New Industrial Revolution," as well as his two earlier books, "The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More" (2006) and "FREE: The Future of a Radical Price" (2009).

But now back to ImageThink. I hope this goes without saying, but I never recommend anything or endorse anyone in this letter because I'm being compensated. The ladies at ImageThink have no idea I'm even writing this. My once-a-month "job" is to bring you good stuff, and I'm happy to come across interesting people doing original, creative work in that process.

As a fitting close, I'll share this last video. I don't know about you, but to me, it's fascinating to watch talented people (especially artists) practice their craft:

ImageThink in Action (3:07)


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(c) Copyright 2002-2013 Victor Urbach
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