Working at a design firm surrounded by creatives, I get to witness some of the freshest designs and copy come together on a daily basis—though my role is focused on keeping people and projects on time, not designing. Although my lack of current design program knowledge may make some cringe (I am so CS4), at least there is one place where I feel I am on a level playing field— at meetings during the doodle session.
It is true, everyone at BMSD does have one thing in common…we all doodle during meetings. In fact, at every company I have worked for, I can recall many coworkers doodling at meetings. Some draw the amazing portrait…some work on their typography of a word that has been said over and over during the meeting…and some draw some really warped, incomprehensible images that we shall never speak of again. I am more of a cartoon face, cat face, squiggly line, loop-to-loop kind of doodler. And when there is a lack of inspiration, I can always fall back on perfectly writing Metallica, Iron Maiden or Black Flag or sketching the Golden Gate Bridge.
So what is the issue? Why write about this, other than I was scheduled to have a blog post due this week? It’s that some see us doodlers as non-attentive, half-assed participants at their meetings. The perception of many is a person who doodles is a person who does not listen—and this doodle-doubting crew may be growing. Now with smartphones taking over everything, more and more people just see any distraction as a negative.
So is doodling at a meeting the same thing as checking things on your smartphone? I would say no. When people are on their phones at meetings, they are usually checking emails or texting—which clearly shows they are paying attention to something else…often a crisis or timeline with another project. Doodling is something quite different.
In 2009, Jackie Andrade of the University of Plymouth conducted a study (you can read the abstract here) and found that doodlers actually remember more than non-doodlers when asked to retain tediously-delivered information. For example, during a boring meeting, she found that her doodling subjects retained 29% more information than those who sat through the meeting unoccupied.
For me, the best part of the information she presented was that the end result of the doodling (how the images really looked) had no bearing in the retention. So if you can sketch a perfect portrait of the person across from you, you sadly have no leverage over me at the other end of the conference table making Iron Maiden look rad.
Since times are changing and many are now bringing their tablets to meetings, there are actually some excellent doodle apps, as well the capability to doodle in some of the note-taking apps. If you are just bringing your phone to meetings, I would suggest you keep your doodling to a piece of paper—too many people in the room will question what you are doing, and more and more companies are making it mandatory to turn phones off at meetings.
So doodle at meetings. Make a doodling wall at your office. Keep employees happy with their doodles, and they should help the company by getting more out of meetings.
For some inspiration for your own doodles, check out this cool blog about doodling at work.
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