Friday, August 8, 2008

FGI roadshow Part II

Last Wednesday, the FGI Fashion Flash decamped to Melbourne. I wish I could report that the trip involved a tour bus, singing to Tiny Dancer, with Ivan Gomez astride the roof of the vehicle, arms outstretched, screaming “I am a golden God" (Almost Famous joke).

Instead it involved a very pretty aerial view of the snow-clad Australian alps, followed by an arrival at Avalon airport – which, for the benefit of anyone who has never flown Jetstar to Melbourne, is a tin shed in the middle of a paddock located approximately 45 minutes out of the city. You could be forgiven for thinking you had arrived in Dunedoo, not Australia’s second biggest city.

En route I did a Sunster and snapped the view from above:

The second Flash was staged inside an auditorium at RMIT. It was a much smaller setup than the Sydney affair.

The show nevertheless ran to the same format as the Sydney event: the video, topped and tailed by a presentation from FGI's Sydney regional director Mary Gualtieri, followed by the panel discussion.

The Melbourne panellists were Ivan Gomez and Adelaide-based eveningwear designer Razak Mohammed who designs the Razak label. Razak also operates the multibrand emporium Miss Gladys Sym Choon - an Adelaide fashion retail landmark which was opened by its Chinese namesake, Miss Gladys Sym Choon, in 1928.

(L to R) Razak, Mary Gualtieri, Ivan Gomez and me at RMIT:

Razak arrived in a bit of a fluster, nervous about the prospect of facing the audience.

Razak was really very nervous – so nervous that I assumed the entire presentation would have to be carried by Gomez and myself, with Razak trembling in the corner in fear of public speaking.

Once we started however, you couldn’t shut him up.

To one side of the auditorium, as we spoke, a woman furiously scribbled notes and drawings on a couple of large pieces of white paper that had been stuck to the wall.

Mad RMIT professor?

No – graphic recorder.


Launched in San Francisco in the late 60s/early 70s, the fascinating little world of graphic recording apparently boasts some 500 exponents worldwide.

That's according to Donna McGeorge, the woman with the pencils at the RMIT Fashion Flash.

McGeorge, who normally works as a facilitator, is attempting to kickstart the graphic recording industry in Australia.

The industry Grand Poobah is apparently an American by the name of David Sibbet, who founded "the mecca" of graphic recording in San Francisco: The Grove.

Call them modern-day cave painters, idea mappers - or as McGeorge suggested, "minute-takers on steroids" - graphic recorders capture ideas and expressions as they are being spoken, in the moment.

Just don’t call them cartoonists. Apparently graphic recorders believe the latter term trivialises their work.

The recording instrument of choice is in fact not a pencil, but the Charters brand of felt-tipped pen – purchased from, where else, The Grove.

Here are some before and after shots of the FGI graphic recording, which I gather is later going to be auctioned by FGI for charity.

McGeorge started with an almost blank canvas, save for renderings of a runway and a dress dummy:

Here's the final work. Anyone (such as Jodes) who is interested in a precis of FGI's take on the FW0809 runway trends, click to enlarge - it contains the main points of the video presentation:

Although I did not take any video of McGeorge while she was recording, here is a YouTube video of a graphic recorder in action in the US:

McGeorge and her business partner Deb Dalziel are in Chicago this week attending the 13th annual International Forum for Visual Practitioners conference.

In November in Melbourne, McGeorge will graphically record a presentation by Sir Bob Geldof who is being flown out to Australia by Diversity at Work.

deb dalziel (L) and donna mcgeorge

I was interested to learn that GR guru David Sibbet was originally a journalist - with urban planning ambitions.

I was reminded, for some reason, of the partnership of Hunter S Thompson and illustrator Ralph Steadman. And smiled, when McGeorge mentioned that there’s a point at which a graphic recorder may find themself at risk of no longer recording impartially - but becoming too involved with the story.

Graphic recorders call this “being hooked in content”. Call it the graphic recording equivalent of “Gonzo” journalism.

McGeorge reached it at one point during the FGI trends video presentation, when a series of Prada handbags flashed up on the screen.

"I began salivating" she told me after the presentation.

Noted Dalziel, mimicking McGeorge gobsmacked by the Pradas in mid-record:

“Suddenly you realised, 'OMG I’m in content!'”


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