Youth@Work: graphic recording at an Erasmus+ conference in Turkey

Keynote Discussion

In December 2019, Cooked Illustrations was invited to participate in the final conference of the Youth@Work Partnership, itself part of the Erasmus+ programme

Our inclusion in the event was a welcome surprise that we later learned was a way of injecting entrepreneurial voices from the grassroots, in an effort to diversify away from the youth work and education sectors.

And so we set out from Cardiff to Mersin, via two trains, two flights and one bus ride straight to this seaside city, where we tasted Turkish tea for the first time.

Networking done Right

The conference promotional content emphasised a mission to build cooperation between formal and non-formal youth education providers as well as social and business sector’s employers; however, the reality in the hotel floor was one of pure network-building. 

Unlike other conferences we’ve been to, this one had a lot of time, space, and facilitation created to allow moments of real cultural dialogue. The conference even opened with a dance and music number! All of it provided us, as delegates and reporters, with fascinating and energetic material that would later influence the visual identity of the final booklet. 

Cooked Illustrations believes that often conferences are not truly about the information being shared, but about building connections and friendships through serendipitous encounters, often involving food, booze, comedy, shared tragedy, or dance. For best results, make sure you use all of the above. 

Conferences are, as poet Donald Hall puts it, a Third Thing; not about the conference itself, but about the bridging of different people who would have otherwise never met one another.

Reporting on the floor

As usual, we recorded the events on site via sketchbook and pencil. The use of non-photographic recording stemming from “reportage illustration” is a particular decision we as a company have taken with any kind of Event Illustration or Graphic Recording.

Reportage illustration is the practice of drawing in situ with the intention of capturing some observed subject. It gives us a lot of creative freedom, and results that we think cut through the noise of existing forms of note taking and event reporting. 

Why drawings and not photographs?

Side-by-side comparison of a blue pencil sketch on the left, and a coloured and digitized version superimposed on the right. All in a sprial sketchbook.

When we encounter photographs online, we often glance over them; drawings however have a deeper emotional hold on audiences. 

By drawing a conference in situ, we allow our reporters to make choices in subject matter and approach that results in work that is both evocative and surprising.  Combining this with a specific editorial approach to focusing on aspects of the conference allows us to create a wholly unique record of the event that supports learning outcomes and audience engagement.

How do we translate this into content?

The event is uniquely experienced by our reporter and witness, and the specifics of how and what we focus on during a conference often leads to, as Louis Netter puts it, “a complex summation of what happened.” In other words, a unique visual language can be created. A style! A look that once we return to our studio, will lead to a stand-out piece of content. That is, once we combine sketches with additional research. 

Notes taken in talks are corroborated with external sources. This ensures that the information is not only accurate, but communicated in a language that gets the message across without eliminating complexity. 

Sometimes it is in the supplementary research to support the talks that we discover new ideas that would help communicate what was originally mentioned on the conference floor.

We talk more about the power of a client’s editorial hand in this process in our article about a project with No Fit State Circus in Rwanda.

The result for the client is bespoke, of course. From printed booklets to digital PDFs. Social media promotional material to content marketing for any future conferences. The importance is to create a body of work that can then be shared with delegates, specific audiences, and the general public to increase the reach, awareness and impact of the event.

The advantage of digital PDFs is that we can measure engagement. Below we share some data on the initial reaction to the Youth@Work PDF booklet. This data exists in isolation and only accounts for engagement with this particular product on users’ own time. Without comparison to other sources or engagement with other media, it is simply a way to better understand how users interact with the end product from an event illustration project. Of particular note is how engagement and time spent looking go up depending on how dense the image is, be with text or data. Something to take into consideration for future projects, depending on what the goal will be.

Behaviour analytics after three weeks of the document being shared. No extra promotion or push notifications implemented.