Tanya Gadsby is founder of Fuselight Creative (previously named “Drawing Out Ideas”), and has been graphic recording and animating since 2010. Born in New Zealand (and part Māori), Tanya grew up in Canada’s far north in Iqaluit, Nunavut, and Whitehorse, Yukon. Project manager Leslie Teixeira had a conversation with Tanya to find out more about how she got into graphic recording and why her theatre background is an excellent foundation for this work.
How does growing up in Canada’s Arctic influence your work?
I think growing up in Nunavut and the Yukon taught me from a young age to be self-reliant and resilient. The tundra is a stunning environment, but the winters are harsh — doors to houses would freeze shut when it was -30 or colder!
Living in the arctic exposed me to different cultures and world views from an early age. Inuit teachings, language, and ways of life were more integrated in schools in Iqaluit. We had days where we learned to clean fish, bead, sew moccasins, and work with Elders. When I went “south” to Victoria, BC for university, I was surprised to discover the majority of my classmates had very limited knowledge of Canada’s north and First Peoples.
What’s your background and education?
I’m a theatre and creative writing grad (BFA, University of Victoria), which is actually a really good fit for graphic recording!
Graphic recording is very similar to a theatrical production. You’ve got to plan the details ahead of time and design an approach that will work well for the client and participants. You have to understand the material on a deep level, just as a director or actor studies the script in depth ahead of time. You have to improvise in-the-moment when presenters go off track or the agenda changes. And above all, you have to listen deeply to others, just as actors listen to understand a character and react in real time to each other or the audience. A graphic recorder is a blend of stage manager / actor / writer / designer / director …. all rolled into one!
How did you get your start in graphic recording?
After university, I went into project management in health care. I spent five years working in mental health and addictions, community engagement, and system improvement for Island Health in Victoria, BC.
One day my manager, Caryl Harper, was having difficulty finding a graphic recorder. I’d never heard of graphic recording before but knew immediately I wanted to give it a try. For the next year I graphic recorded for team meetings and community workshops within Island Health, honing my skills and researching as much as I could about graphic recording before launching my business.
I’m completely self-taught and am always keeping up to date on the latest advancements and techniques in graphic recording and animation. In August 2018 I attended the annual conference for the International Forum of Visual Practitioners (of which I’m a member) in Denmark where the great minds in our field shared ideas and innovations in graphic recording/facilitation.
What excites you about graphic recording / graphic facilitation?
There are so many ways of customizing graphic recording to help organizations of all sizes work through challenges. I’m excited to try new approaches to graphic recording – whether it’s creating a more interactive and immersive experience for participants, digital graphic recording during webinars, exploring new ways of facilitating meetings, or embracing technology like virtual reality and experimenting with how it changes graphic recording. I’m a firm believer in not getting stuck in the same way of working!
What’s your favourite part about being on the Fuselight Creative team?
We all share a similar work ethic and a commitment to “getting it right” for our clients — whether it’s an animation, graphic recording at an event, or taking time to meet up for coffee!
Working on a team is also a huge asset. I was a solo graphic recorder for quite some time; having teammates now to brainstorm with and see a project from different angles has been invaluable to delivering truly excellent service to our clients.
What has been your favourite project to work on?
I’m excited by any project where the client is keen to use graphics in new and innovative ways – where we aren’t “just graphic recorders.” We’re visual strategists: we help facilitate group work through visual templates, get people to open up through unique visual ice breakers, or we integrate other visual design services at the conference such as animations, infographics, or graphic design.
Our work with Delaney & Associates in Vancouver always includes new ways of using visuals and graphic recording. We also recently collaborated with Vanderbilt University in Nashville to fully integrate graphic facilitation with breakout groups at a National Roundtable.
What do you hope to explore next with graphic recording / graphic facilitation?
I’m excited to see how technology becomes more integrated into our built environments. For example, entire walls in a conference space as interactive touch display screens. Or the virtual meeting space will become more intuitive and natural — and I believe graphic recording and supporting visuals will be an essential part in creating an engaging virtual space.
I’m also optimistic that meetings will evolve to include people of all voices and backgrounds, not just executives “at the top” or the people present in the room. Diversity and inclusion is so important for the success of organizations.
Finally, who would your dog be if he was human?
If my dog Hudson were human, he’d probably be a camp counsellor because he loves kids and adventures. But he’d secretly eat the kids’ lunches.