MARKUS ENGELBERGER IS THE CREATOR OF THE TERM ‘VISUAL CATALYST’. ‚VISUAL‘ REPRESENTS CHANNELLING THE UNTAPPED POTENTIAL OF THE PHYSICAL AND SPIRITUAL EYE. ‘IT’S ALL ABOUT THE ENTIRE PROCESS: SEEING, ANALYSING, AND UNDERSTANDING,’ SAYS ENGELBERGER. ‚CATALYST‘ REPRESENTS A VESSEL OF CHANGE. A PERSON WHO, BY ACTING, FAVOURS, SPARKS, AND SUPPORTS POSITIVE CHANGES.
Some of the most important thinkers and doers of our time from the world of economy, politics, and academia rely on his skills as a Visual Catalyst. In an exclusive interview, Markus Engelberger tells us what Graphic Recording is, how he started in the profession, and why a good Graphic Recorder has to do more than ‘just’ draw.
Markus Engelberger is known as a pioneer and innovator in the visualisation scene.
Mr Engelberger, could you tell our readers how you work?
My job as a Graphic Recorder is to make dialogues, ideas, and knowledge visible in real time. I need to be a keen observer, a curious analyser, empathic listener, sharp thinker with specific knowledge and a quick ‘doer’ (drawer). Drawing is just one of the many elements in the creative process. If you were to hear the word ‘innovation’ and then draw a light bulb, well, that’s not enough. A machine can do the same. Thanks to my education and vast experience, I bring a deep understanding of the learning process in a company, besides the skill of quick graphic implementation. Moreover, expert and relevant understanding for the complex subjects my clients operate in are necessary to create pertinent pictures. In this case, I’m rarely the expert on the subject. The experts are those people who work day in, day out with these topics. However, I am an expert when it comes to accompanying the development, transformation, and creativity of a client. Visualisation is a work tool I use to support these processes.
Im starting to understand why Graphic Recording is more than just drawing…
Precisely. There’s a lot more behind the process. Graphic Recording is, incidentally, more diverse than one would think. The scope of this method is as varied as that seen in pictures. If I record the core messages said by the keynote speakers and panellists at a big conference in front of hundreds of people, my approach will be different from, say, an intimate setting with three members of a company Board who’ll use my pictures to create new strategies and communicate them easily and understandably. Regardless if the process takes place in a meeting room or during a conference: by precise listening, observing, feeling and condensing the content, I transform verbalised content heard during the event or meeting, as well as non-verbal layers, into stories and images.
At the end of the day, a minute of words and images surface and these contain the most important contents of one or more days, cementing experiences and events lived by the participants. As a refreshing counterbalance to our digital world, clients often even use analogue inspirational milestones, scientific data, and strategic pictures. Of course, depending on the project, I can also work digitally.
Which clients mostly use your services?
Every human being has the potential to become a Visual Thinker. Seeing something helps us grasp concepts. Thanks to my contribution, I create an additional layer of interaction and understanding: my work makes sense even across so many different settings. I work for innovative organisations in the whole world. From Uganda to Latvia, from Dubai to Alpbach in Tyrol. I’m constantly learning something new, which then flows into my work. Around 20% of my projects are dedicated to Graphic Recording events. 80% of my work happens behind closed doors. I’m booked by whoever needs me the most as a supporter and overseer of communication, reflection, creativity, innovation, development, and transformation processes.
How do you become a Graphic Recorder?
The best option would be for you to enrol in my ‘Vienna School of Visual Communication’. (Wink). No, jokes aside, there is no specific way. Some people, like myself, come from working with people and learn how to channel their natural talent for visualisation. Others are trained illustrators or designers and understand that visualisations are useful communication tools. The novelty for them is the speed of live drawing, the themes, the organisations requiring their services and, above all, direct interaction with people.
Well then, how did you get into the job?
I’m a trained facilitator. For more than 17 years, I accompanied and supported people, groups, teams, and organisations in their learning and development processes. As pictures speak louder than 1,000 words, I always set visual aids to words, sentences, numbers, and nonverbal forms of communication to support dialogue and creativity. It was never my intention to become a Visual Facilitator or Graphic Recorder. However, I also believe life is made for living and can only be understood in hindsight: that’s why I try a lot of new things out.
Due to my curiosity, I stumbled upon the recently coined expression – at least in Europe – of ‘visual facilitation’. At last I’d found a term for what I’d been doing all the time. For the last 4 years I’ve been working all over the world as a Graphic Recorder. The difference between terms is, incidentally, that ‘recording’, as the name says, focuses on the documentation. Visual Facilitation is the active organisation and moderation of group processes supported by pre-prepared or real time visualisations. Only few people in Europe have the dexterity required by this master skill. Most of the times, facilitators and Graphic Recorders work together. I see myself as a Visual Catalyst, as this concept truly reflects and describes my skills as well as my will to be a vessel for positive change.