We are all storytellers. As human beings, we have experiences to talk about and share with others, and it has always been vital for us as a species to communicate with our peers. Storytelling can take different formats such as poems, songs, written letters, films, documentaries and so on. We can express ourselves and our messages through these mentioned media. Sketching also becomes a medium to tell our story, since it helps us represent a scenario or a concept to our audience via visual storytelling. Before creating a piece of visual storytelling, we need to have a story to tell. Then, we need to write a narrative, i.e. a series of events that act as a foundation for our visual story. Once the narrative is ready, we need to come up with the concepts that will convey our story in a visual manner. Although visual storytelling can be a solitary activity, we create much more meaningful stories through collaboration than if only one person was coming up with all the ideas by him or herself. This is when co-visual storytelling comes in.
As a digital pod in the Wipro Digital ecosystem, we are constantly experimenting with new ways of working, collaborating and problem solving. We wanted a new way to communicate what, why and how we work to anyone who walks into the studio, be it senior management, studio visitors such as partners and potential clients, or our own new hires. After two meetings, we decided to co-create a visual narrative within the team that would become a 6m x 2.5m mural on one of our studio walls.
Every day at Wipro Digital Dublin, we advocate for collaboration between design, engineering, delivery and client departments. Therefore, it made complete sense to use our entire team to collaboratively tell our story in a visual way rather than commissioning an artist. The challenge was determining the best way to visually communicate the concept of collaboration. Guided by Rosanne Simon, a Visual Designer in our pod, we chose to make team members attend co-ideation sessions in which concepts were generated in two-person teams—pair design—that mixed engineers, designers and agile coaches. We were amazed at the level of concept quality from our team. Although some concepts were discarded, we would not have come up with some of these ideas had we worked alone.
Right from the beginning, we had a vision: a sketchnoting-style mural that would tell the Wipro Digital Dublin Studio story. Sketching our story on a wall would express our collaborative and human side in a natural way. In parallel, the act of sketchnoting at a large scale has been in vogue for a while; thus, it also reinforced the idea of using a sketchnoting style. Since a sketch remains true to its creator, it was the perfect medium to express our message to a wider audience. When we have a vision, we know which direction to pursue, and we need to persevere until this vision is fully reached.
Crafting Our Story
Speaking to internal stakeholders, we arrived at a narrative that we wanted to depict. Every Monday, Rosanne ran a 45-minute lunchtime co-creation session called “Sketch n See” during which the team practiced creative thinking and idea-sketching skills. Two such co-creation sessions came in very handy to create visual concepts which were printed into paper cut-outs and sometimes photocopied at different scales. This step of playing with paper cut-outs allowed us to view how the overall story would unfold. Once all the concepts were collected from both co-ideation sessions and their montage, we set to place them in an Adobe CC Illustrator vector file where they could be traced. Within this tool, the magic happened: typography choice, brush that imitates ink on paper like sketchnoting style, composition, and colour choice (monochrome by design, as black and white works for our brand).
Our paper cut-outs are shown below. This allowed us to create a montage before using a vector tool to make sense of the story and decide which concepts to keep.
On top of our co-creation sessions, team members could also help sketch the artwork on our studio wall once the overall design signed-off. Thus, the overall concept of showing our human side and teamwork was being reinforced by the medium: in this occurrence, sketching.
Let’s go back to the basics for a minute: without content, design is non-existent. Having strong content where ideas come from a diverse team makes the story so much more captivating to the audience. In this case, the team sketching the visual concepts never knew that their artwork would end up on the wall as a mural. This was a deliberate move to create authentic and raw sketches, allowing their tone of voice to come in. According to Rosanne, “What you feel is what you draw, and what you see is what you get.” Telling the story this way reinforces the authenticity and the human side of the Dublin team. It’s a win-win situation.
During our co-ideation sessions, each team of two focused on one section of the narrative. We had six sections to work on for our first session, and mostly the technical part of the story for our second session. Despite all the experience and research carried out before writing the narrative, each participant brought his or her own views on the Studio’s story through their sketches, as well as clarifying any aspect that may be difficult for others to understand. In the end, our story became much more complete and meaningful thanks to every team member’s participation in our co-creation workshops.
For example, let’s examine some of the primary sketches, i.e. visual concepts, below:
The concept above depicts a release train within an end-to-end view. To reflect the full concept properly, some modifications were made such as adding arrows that shows each end of the track and changing the steam train to a bullet train to make it more modern. Question marks were removed on both ends since it showed a negative aspect and did not express the right meaning.
In the concept above, a great sense of humour comes through the sketch. Why would you change anything? All the elements are there: title (Map of Ruthless Execution), lake of unstructured data, mountain of technical debt, caverns of tacit knowledge, problem and solution. We get the picture, right? The only element added is the sentence from the narrative: “We care about your problem,” although this copy changed toward the end to the one depicted above on the right-hand side.
Although the style of this sketch may seem out of place compared with the rest of the concepts, we left it as-is. Indeed, it added a great sense of humour and human touch to the overall story that could have been missed in an individual process. Once traced over on the wall, it blended in quite well. People taking the time to spot all of these details generally have a smile on their face. It is all about communicating the right message, and in this case, it does the trick.
In the concept above, this team of two did a great job conveying automation and deployment. The simplicity in the sketch is enough to communicate effectively the idea. It is proof that some of the best ideas can come from team members whose roles may not be directly involved in technical subject matter yet who are able to come up with some of the best visual representations.
These examples show evidence that concepts for content design can come from other team members who are not especially designers. Since we are all storytellers, we all have our own experience of working at Wipro Digital Dublin. And in this case, we were all able to add to the visual story.
Even if these images may look inconsistent, harmony was achieved thanks to the consistency of elements such as connectors, typography, brush tool and composition. In this case, the artwork did not have to be fully perfect in vector, as the idea was to trace it on the wall with the help of a projector.
During the work in progress, the artwork was shared everyday with the team on an online collaborative tool. Team members could leave their comments about the copy and visuals. Overall, people seemed happy with the way our story took shape day after day. Refining copy details polished the visual narrative and its message.
Here is a screenshot of the earlier work in progress, where we can see all the comments added by team members.
Some further feedback was taken into consideration once the artwork was traced over on our wall. For example, we modified the world map to include all countries so potential Studio visitors would be sure to see theirs.
Each one of us lives various experiences, and through these come our stories. Imagine tapping into the potential of each individual in your workplace on a visual storytelling project like the one we did at Wipro Digital Dublin. The result becomes so much more rewarding. When achieving such outcome as a team, each one of us feels a sense of satisfaction and usefulness. As well, co-ideating on such project allows team bonding. Storytelling is part of our lives; co-visual storytelling is the key to make our stories even more significant and fascinating to our audiences.