Innovative Meetings

The Big Picture

Whole Foods Market Vision Day drew inspiration from graphic recorders who documented the event - and added a ‘new dimension’ to how attendees engaged with the conversation.

At Whole Foods Market Vision Day 2012 for its Florida sales regions, the natural-foods supermarket chain wanted to ensure that attendees got the most out of each conversation – taking with them new lessons, innovative sales methods, and fresh ideas that would resonate for a long time. To do this, Whole Foods enlisted the help of Ink Factory, a Chicago- based “graphic recording” company, to illustrate the conversations going on throughout the conference.

Jan Vandervort, Whole Foods’ education coordinator, had experienced meetings and events that utilized graphic recorders, and found that “it added a new dimension to how we learn, communicate, and engage.”

In real time, Ink Factory translated discussions among the 400-plus attendees at Market Vision Day – held on April 25–26 at the Signature Grand in Davie, Fla. – into hand-drawn pictures, rendered on a biodegradable 32-foot-wide, six-foot-tall “living wall.” Attendees could engage with the material throughout the conference from several different perspectives: standing up close to the wall taking in individual details, or standing farther back observing the ideas from a distance.

“The goal of the living wall was to bring the conference to life for the participants as it evolved,” said Lindsay Roffe, founder and graphic recorder at Ink Factory. “It allows for participants engaging in different tracks to get a wide breadth and depth of what is going on.”

Whole Foods consulted with Ink Factory beforehand to give the graphic recorders an idea of the overarching themes and goals of the meeting. With those in mind, two Ink Factory artists then generated images based on the conversations and presentations occurring at Market Vision Day, distilling the information into drawings highlighting key takeaways. “We do our best to synthesize the information into salient points,” Roffe said, “and if a visual can be paired with it, great.”

To help organize the takeaways, Whole Foods divided the living wall into sections for each sales team. “All of the regions gave a five-minute overview of what’s going on in the region,” Roffe said. “The artist [created paper] leaves that represented all the points of each region. At the end, each region got to take their leaf back with them to their home-office headquarters.” This way, she said, attendees could literally see the lessons they walked away with, which supported further knowledge transfer.

Participants could talk to the graphic recorders at the event to get a deeper understanding of the images. “I think that added to the interest and engagement,” Vandervort said. She added: “Ink Factory did a fantastic job of capturing each team’s presentation content as well as their energy.”

Which is the point. “[Attendees] are able to participate audibly, engage visually, and react cognitively with the graphic capture,” Roffe said. “It allows participants to link complex information with an easily digestible image.” And while many people approach the idea of graphic recording with skepticism, Roffe said, that almost always changes into “awe and inspiration.”


3D Discussions

Ink Factory ventured into uncharted territory at the 2012 Chicago Ideas Week (CIW) – an event held last month that featured speakers in the areas of art, science, and technology – by creating the first-ever three-dimensional graphically recorded “living wall” in the form of a large sculpture. When Convene  spoke to Ink Factory’s Lindsay Roffe before CIW, she said her team was thinking of “doing a large sketchbook, nine by six feet, that will be open every day for group drawing.”

The plan was for CIW organizers to provide topics, ideas, and questions for attendees to build off, allowing them to take on the role of graphic recorder and engage in a much wider conversation. “Participants can come,” Roffe said, “and doodle to their hearts’ content.”


Sarah Beauchamp

Sarah Beauchamp was formerly assistant editor of Convene.