Ben Crothers / Atlassian / Sydney, Australia / IFVP social media team
"I design with people not pixels...so I never expected to win. It was a bit of a creative exercise.” Ben’s voice swelled with surprise. He wasn’t going to submit an entry, until a fellow IFVP member encouraged him to. "IFVP is a community and I wanted to try to invoke community in the design." A blog post on his website details how the design came about–and features mock ups of the designs in use. "It's all ways good to show and not just tell," Ben said.
His artistic influences include Piet Mondrian, Arthur Streeton but his facilitation identity is rooted in the work of Bill Waterson and Alex Osterweilder.
"Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbes mix of realism and surrealism in a comic form–applying that way of thinking has meant lot to me. Bringing the real and the absurd together helps to look at any conversation or problem from a range of different perspectives. That’s one of the biggest pieces of value we offer a room full of people is a different perspective. Sometimes showing the absurd or surreal shakes people out of robo-think, auto-pilot."
Osterweilder–of business model canvas fame–has equally influenced Ben’s work.
"Sticking things in canvases mentally made a lot of sense to me. I came up with a lot of canvases myself...started inventing my own patterns. If Bill Watterson and Alex Osterweilder had a baby it would be me.”
He developed his metaphorical brain moonlighting as a cartoonist for the Austrailian army which he did for 12 years. During that span his cartoons were featured in many others publications–a fishing newspaper and investment magazine for example. He began facilitating 10 years ago and would implement his sketching abilities in the process. This road ultimately lead him to graphic recording and his membership in IFVP.
"I was starting to see a lot of promise in my work in graphic recording and graphic facilitation. Matthew Magain told me about IFVP as I interviewed him for my book Presto Sketching. I was like, wow, there's more people like me–a tribe out there."
The book is aimed at helping designers, trainers, managers and project managers looking to be more creative in their handling of information, data, and problem solving.
Ben shared with me some of the uniquely Australian visual metaphors he uses:
"Flies! Adding flies to anything says something smells, and is not right," he said with a laugh. "Wide open space with a solitary figure denotes remoteness and isolation. And pouches: Australians–we’re fond of our marsupials characters and a kangaroo pouch comes in handy."
As talented a graphic facilitator as Ben is, his heart is set on developing visual practice skills in other people.
"I hope to make every business leader and…thinker as fluent with a whiteboard as they are with a keyboard. I really want senior management–in particular–to grow their visual thinking muscle. I would love there to be a federal minister for design in Australian parliament and for parliament to use a whiteboard to figure out policy instead of back-door deals and focus groups."