Artist Imawan Rahadianto Atmosudirdjo aims to tap the full potential that graphic recording has in Indonesia, due to its standing as a novelty in the country. (The Peak Photo/Tunggul Wirajuda)

Rendering Concepts Into Pictures

JULY 22, 2015

By offering flexibility in various media like videos, slides, infographics and posters, graphic recording is slowly gathering interest in Indonesia. Artist Imawan Rahadianto Atmosudirdjo aims to tap the full potential that graphic recording has in Indonesia, due to its standing as a novelty in the country. (The Peak Photo/Tunggul Wirajuda)

Graphic recording Imawan Rahadianto “Adi” Atmosudirdjo listened intently to the proceedings of the Trilian NGO’s Nature Conservancy initiative in Jakarta, his ears perked up at the initiatives and policy ideas being turned out at the forum. But listening is only half the story. Adi instantly put their policies and ideas into pictures and words, rendering hypotheses and theory into tangible facts easily grasped by laypeople.

"[Graphic recorders should] have the ability to capture the main points of the meeting and its ideas, whether they're framed in questions, conversations or debate. In short, we listen to the speaker and transcribe their information in a visual manner," says the 35-year-old.

"We have to capture those ideas in a fast, accurate drawing style. The method is particularly suited to learn new topics instantly; for instance, in a month I could graphically record a goal setting event for an insurance company, a workshop for a city festival, orient the public towards revisions for the constitution, and cap it off with a symposium on wildlife trafficking."

His clients reflect this premise, as they include local powerhouses Pertamina and Bank Mandiri, as well as foreign institutions like the British Council and Oxfam.

Getting into the visual world of graphic recording

Adi started off graphic recording in 2011. Like other people whose passions morph into full-time jobs, the Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB) Fine Arts graduate started off with small steps.

"My mentor in graphic recording was my fellow ITB graduate, Deni Ganjar, who was also my colleague at my old job at Kid’s Magz. As one of the first Indonesian graphic recorders, he taught me a lot of his know-how, which include being a better listener and using visual language as an effective communication  tool,” he recalls. “Back then, I did graphic recording projects on the weekends, before I got the bug and did it full time in 2012. Then as now, I was motivated by the notion of rendering into pictures ideas and thoughts as well as the inspiration behind it.”

Most of all for Adi, graphic recording is the ultimate in combining business with pleasure.

“[Graphic recording] is a lot like doodling in class during high school. But instead of getting punished, you get paid,” he adds with a laugh.

While he makes the job sound whimsical, his first steps in graphic recording were anything but fun and games.

“At first, I translated meetings or seminars in English using Post It, before I learned to do graphic recording by watching how a graphic recorder does a drawing of the subject matter that I jotted down on it. By doing so, I know what information can be connected to one another or what kind of icon can represent a sentence according to a visual language,” he says.

“Sharpening skills or learning [about graphic recording] is an ongoing process, as I learned from any source at hand, including discussions on graphic facilitation/recording groups, books by graphic recorders around the world, as well as YouTube videos. Another invaluable source of information about current projects and our progress, as well as know-how and feedback, comes from graphic recorders from the Asean region, among them Tim Hamons from the Singapore-based ‘Art of Awakening’ graphic recording company."

Raising graphic recording’s profile in Indonesia

Adi’s persistence, open mind, and willingness to learn got him far, as he’s perhaps the only graphic recorder in Indonesia with the know-how to draw the proceedings of seminars and symposiums in English. But as a relatively new skill in Indonesia, he is all too aware that he has his work cut out for him.

“Graphic recording in Indonesia has yet to reach the same scale as other Southeast Asian countries like Malaysia and Singapore. As a result, many of the items that I use for the job have to be bought in Singapore or brought in by air freight,” Adi says. “These include markers with more finely chiseled tips that are equally good for both drawing and writing, as well as foam board paper. As paper with a layer of foam, they’re well designed for the wear and tear of drawing and transcribing for hours on end."

Despite the limitations, Adi noted that his work continued to garner more interest.

“The Graphic Recorder Indonesia community only has about seven full-time members. But the real number of practitioners may be higher, as I met a number of practitioners who didn’t join the community, including those who do graphic recording as a side job,” Adi says. “I’m certain that it will continue to grow, as I continue to meet new clients that are interested in [graphic recording]. The eye-catching illustrations in real time do more than generate interest in graphic recording; they can be used as mementos or used for further discussions and meetings, as well as material for their annual report."

Passing graphic recording skills

The increasingly high profile that graphic recording has had in Indonesia, particularly its flexibility in various mediums like videos, slides, infographics and posters over the past few years, prompted Adi to pass his skills.

“I have been passing some of my knowledge and knowhow to a number of aspiring graphic recorders. The chance to share this visual language to more people, even those who are averse to drawing, is an opportunity that’s too good to pass,” Adi points out. “For practitioners, graphic recording’s benefits extend beyond putting the outcomes of seminars, symposiums or meetings.  As a method that visualizes thought processes or the ways and means to bring things about, graphic recording can be used by practitioners and lay people alike to tap their ideas and get a better perspective on how policies or decision making gets done."

Adi aims to tap the full potential that graphic recording has in Indonesia, due to its standing as a novelty in the country.

“Our knowledge often surpasses our drawing skills, so I hope to narrow this gap in the future," he says. “I’m still itching to find new fields to draw and visually record, and I hope that other graphic recorders will do the same."

He also hopes that aspiring graphic recorders will approach their craft with his brand of intensity, namely to “keep practicing the visual language [of graphic recording], keep a sharper ear, and stay hungry and curious for more knowledge." Whether graphic recording will continue to live up to its promise in Indonesia remains to be seen. But if Adi’s example or those like him is any indication, then it's not too much to say that the craft of graphic recording has a bright future in Indonesia.

The Peak