The Power of Enthusiasm & a Sketchbook with Katie Merrien

There are times when my sketchbook is like a co-worker, a friend, a confidence booster, and a brainstorm partner. I use my sketchbook to take notes, jot ideas, and plan out projects, and brainstorm variations. I call this Sketchbook Thinking.

My sketchbook is used when I am out and about to take both visual and verbal notes for clients, for design ideas, and notes in meetings. My sketchbook is my constant companion. It’s my escape and my recorder. Sometimes my sketchbooks have been extremely private and act more like a diary and other times in my life it has acted like a scrapbook.

Have you ever taken a sketchbook with you everywhere? Do you ever feel awkward taking it out? Sometimes at church or when I am at lunch or eating a meal and taking it out sometimes feel inappropriate but it is like a companion. It is often my escape partner. Using it helps me remember. Helps me process conversations.

Do you regularly bring your sketchbook with you where ever you go? Why or why not? How about to meetings? Do you doodle while you take notes? Does it help you remember and retain what you’re hearing?

Our guest this week is Katie Merrien, her story is fascinating and her personality is contagious. Katie is a graphic recorder, she picks things up so fast, and she loves serving others. We dive into Katie’s story and her sketchbooks. We find out how her enthusiasm and amazing personality combined with her sketchnotes led to career opportunities she wouldn’t have imagined.

I hope you will join us LIVE for Episode 472 on Wednesday, June 5, 2024 at 7:30pm BST / 2:30pm ET / 11:30am PT / 8:30am in Hawaii. Signup here to get the link delivered to your inbox.

Questions for Katie

  1. Katie, can you give everybody a little background about your careers before finding graphic recording? 
  2. We talked about how you were always great at taking notes because you figured out that was a way your brain worked. How did being neurodivergent show up in school for you? How did that translate into your role in the workforce?
  3. How has your ability to get on board and enthusiastically learn things help you in your different roles in different companies?
  4. Now these companies are some of your consistent clients, correct? After you went full-time freelance your relationships with your past employers has been a great asset. Can you talk about how you are able to maintain such a great enthusiasm for the places you have worked?
  5. When did you start graphic recording? When did you know you wanted to do this as a bigger part of your business/life?
  6. I am hoping we can get a sneak peak at some of your sketchbooks from early on and then now. Why do you think having a sketchbook with you is important? What does sketching and taking notes do for your life or understanding?
  7. Simplifying content can be really difficult for most people, how did you get skilled in this?
  8. You are an avid learner, you are now working on copy writing and animations. What drives you to add new offerings to your business? 
  9. Do you feel like being neurodivergent is an asset?
  10. What are you working on now?
  11. What is next?

Connect with Katie

Her site:

Listen here


[00:00:00] diane: Hey everybody. Welcome to another episode of Creative Ignite, and I am here with my new friend, Katie Merrien, and Katie’s in the uk and I met her because of my friend Pippa. Pippa had met her at a networking event. But then I met with Katie and her story blew me away. Like she has energy that you would not believe, but she also is, she [00:00:30] doesn’t let things.

[00:00:31] Um, challenges come in, but she doesn’t let them stop her. She just sees ways around it. And I love the way she thinks her brain works differently, and she is a professed neurodivergent, right? Like I’m, I have a DHD, so I, I’m right there with you. But she, the way her brain works and she is magnet, I, when I’ve heard her story, and you guys will hear this in a, in a little bit, but, um, [00:01:00] she has a magnetism to that.

[00:01:03] I felt like just as a listening to her, I was like, oh my goodness, I wanna be friends with you because I can see how people would continue to wanna work with you, continue to make, um, Hey, could you do this or give you opportunities and stuff like that has happened. And I think that sometimes people, as entrepreneurs, we need to remember that we can actually have.

[00:01:28] Some sort of [00:01:30] a connection to people. Um, if we are open to doing more things, we can, we can find or if we’re open to helping them. And Katie, that kind of, to me, I just love your story, so I don’t wanna take anything away. Katie, give us a little bit of your background, um, where you are, what you do now, and then we can go into the nitty gritty of the background, but who, who you are and where you live and what you do right now.

[00:01:57] Sure. Thank 

[00:01:58] Katie Merrien: you. That’s such a great introduction. [00:02:00] Um, so hi everyone, I’m Katie. Um, I am Ian Brighton in the uk. So nice and seaside. You might hear some seagulls in the background at some point. Really like, I dunno, setting the environment or whatever. Um. So now I have my own business communicate, design with a K ’cause I love a pun.

[00:02:15] Um, and I have been doing that for five years. And I am a visual communicator, so I create animations, I do graphic design, infographic, something called graphic recording, which is, um, something we’re gonna be delving into a little bit today. Um, [00:02:30] and all my work is focused around accessibility and inclusion.

[00:02:33] So I tell people in a, in a, I guess in a nutshell, I get to color in for a living, um, which is joyful. And yeah, I think that’s me. I love 

[00:02:41] diane: that. So when did you start on your own? Like what, when did your entrepreneurial journey begin? 

[00:02:49] Katie Merrien: Um, 2019. So I’m coming up for five years in my business, which is really cool.

[00:02:55] Um, I’m gonna, definitely gonna get a cake. I feel like I need to get a cake to celebrate any excuse for a cake, to be [00:03:00] honest. Definitely. Uh, just be me and my party hack. I’m a business of one. Um. But yeah, it was 2019 a little bit by accident. Um, and my background’s in something completely different to what I do now, so I’ve worked in lots of different places before now.

[00:03:12] diane: So tell him, so tell him about, like when you, you weren’t from Brighton originally, right? You moved to Brighton and you started working. So kind of give him a little bit, ’cause this is the, you have such a beautiful story. So tell ’em a little [00:03:30] bit about how you got to be willing to do some of the jobs that you were, you were asked to do.

[00:03:38] Katie Merrien: Sure. Absolutely. So, yeah, um, I guess my story not somewhere slightly less beautiful, no offense, but Bogner Reis just along the coast, um, in the uk, for those of you that dunno it, it’s not the most exotic of places. Um, I think that’s a fish and chip shop and that’s kind of it. Um. I was, uh, 18. So I’d finished school, I’d done my A Levels, I’d done quite creative A levels and I didn’t really know [00:04:00] what to do with those.

[00:04:00] I was thinking about going to, um, university, but I couldn’t decide what I wanted to do. I was thinking about fashion design at the time, which is kind of hilarious. I’d done lots of little sketches of like quirky T-shirts and I thought, oh, maybe I can do that. But then going to look at universities, I thought, not so sure.

[00:04:14] So then I’d come to Brighton, like historically kind of doing shopping, you know, as like a teenager or whatever. And I thought it’d be a really cool place to move. And then a friend of mine was gonna move here anyway for university, so I moved with her. Um, I was 18, didn’t we know what to do? I sent out [00:04:30] a bunch of cvs.

[00:04:31] I think I had one response, like I went around like handing them out kind of thing. Um, ’cause I’d worked in retail while I was at school. Um, just doing like clothes shops and stuff. Um. But then I didn’t really get any responses, so I went and signed up a temp agency and from there I got assigned to do lots of different, kind of very short term contracts at different offices and bits.

[00:04:49] And one, one day I spent just making up boxes at a company, just like, literally just folding cardboard boxes for a day. So really have tried all the things. Um, uh, and then I got offered [00:05:00] two jobs on the same day. Um, there were like permanent jobs, so, uh, one was, uh, a super cool clothing shop and the other one was at a council, which didn’t sound as exciting, but I got to sit down and the pay was better.

[00:05:13] So I was like, that’s, that’s the one, the sitting down one. So that’s kind of how it started. Laziness, maybe 

[00:05:18] diane: the, the council one for us in the America and maybe, um, Maya and Norway Council. Is that like a government, like a city kind of job? 

[00:05:29] Katie Merrien: Um, so this [00:05:30] one was actually a specialist council that looked at education.

[00:05:34] So it was at the time called the Learning and Skills Council. Um, and they were focused on education for people that had lower levels of literacy and language, and they were kind of encouraging that adult education for people that wanted to get those qualifications later in life. So it was, um, UK wide from what I can remember.

[00:05:50] So a council that was definitely like doing lots of good, you know, kind of like supporting people, which was really lovely. Right. So like 

[00:05:57] diane: a nonprofit we would call that? Is [00:06:00] that maybe, I think they were still government funded. Okay. But they 

[00:06:03] Katie Merrien: have specific, like funding grants they were using to provide educational courses for adults that wanted to kind of get those sort of, um, low, um, I guess more standard level qualifications.

[00:06:15] diane: So were you an artsy kid? Were you a doodler? 

[00:06:20] Katie Merrien: Um, doodling. I, I definitely was quite an artsy kid. I mean, I did art at school. Um. And I did like media studies and things as [00:06:30] well, and I did textiles. That was say what I thought I wanted to kind of like, I’ve always been quite creative in that way, I guess. I used to sew, um, I was sew, wearing own like clothes over time.

[00:06:38] That sounds a lot fancier than it is in reality. It’s basically just a massive T-shirt with two pockets made outta a diva cover. And I’m like, asset dress, that’s definitely a dress. Um, but yeah, I think historically maybe more collage. I think interior design is one of my like, key passions. And I remember making collages out of the Argos catalog, which is like a very much a UK thing.

[00:06:57] It’s like a big free, I guess your equivalent would be [00:07:00] like Target maybe if they had like a massive catalog Yeah. Like ripping out page of that and being like, this is what my bedroom’s gonna look like. It’s gonna be Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. 

[00:07:09] diane: Okay. So, so from there you get a, you get to, you offered two jobs. They had just received your CV and they were responding.

[00:07:18] Um, 

[00:07:19] Katie Merrien: so the, the CV I’d handed in to the cool clothing shop, and I’m pretty sure you, you shouldn’t be allowed to do this, but you also have to send a photo for that one as well, which felt very not okay. [00:07:30] Um, and the CV that went to the council was sent via my temping agency. So yeah, that, okay. So, 

[00:07:37] diane: so you get these, are you still 18 at this point?

[00:07:40] Yeah. Okay. So then what was the council job? You were gonna be able to sit down. Did you know what you would be doing? 

[00:07:47] Katie Merrien: Yeah, it was administration, so it was kind of admin support for a, a team there. So it was meetings, taking minutes, I, I, you know, that kind of thing. I hadn’t really, um, done a lot of stuff like that before in [00:08:00] an office, but I think they had a, a bunch of cvs come in and they decided that I was the one, maybe I’ve got, um, an English A level.

[00:08:06] So maybe they thought that’ll, that’ll do, you know, she’s working with words. She’ll be fine. So, and then I’d done some, something 

[00:08:12] diane: in school when you were, um. What we would, our equivalent of high school at the end of all your schooling. Mm-Hmm. What were you, um, you decided not to go to university, but what were you like, were you really good?

[00:08:29] Did [00:08:30] you take great notes in your classes? Um, was that something that was all like, we are both neurodivergent, so sometimes I can be like, bing, I’m off and I was not paying attention to whatever the teacher was saying. But I also, if I was interested, if it was a good teacher, I could take good notes, but I wasn’t.

[00:08:52] I didn’t really know how to take notes, uh, to be honest. Like I wasn’t, I, if they had told me, like, if they’re repeating it, write it down, that must be important. You [00:09:00] know, like there are nine cues I guess, that we use. But I, if somebody include people in on those nine clues, that would’ve been helpful. But it wasn’t, it didn’t mean that I was, uh, ’cause I wasn’t trying to get every word down.

[00:09:11] But was that something that you were always good at and you scored good in school? ’cause a levels in English? Must have been? 

[00:09:20] Katie Merrien: Um, yeah, I think I, I, I was very lucky. I guess I got grades throughout school. Um, I was like, you, I thinking that. If I didn’t find [00:09:30] it interesting, I wouldn’t necessarily pay attention and I’d try and find a way to get out of it.

[00:09:33] I remember in science, GCSE in physics, they were teaching us how to wire a plug and I was like, I don’t care. So I got one of the boys next to me to like wire the plug for me basically. So I still can’t do that. I’m sure it’s not that hard. Like I’m sure I could have learnt and it’s colorful, maybe I’ve really enjoyed it, but I was like, I don’t care, Nick, can you buy my plug for me?

[00:09:50] Thanks, Nick. Um, but I was like, if I did enjoy it and pay attention, I would take notes. I think writing stuff down, because I, my [00:10:00] memory doesn’t seem to be great, so writing stuff down is how I remember things. And I remember, um, studying for my GCSEs. I think most of the subjects I felt like I was, I, I felt like I was pretty confident going into those exams, but my history, one, I had scored much lower on my tests throughout the year than the other subjects.

[00:10:21] So I really focused on studying for that one and that one. I found the best way to study, actually, I wrote my notes out over and over again, but each [00:10:30] time I made them all succinct. I remember going to study with my, um, the, like, the day of the exam and I’d gone from like six, you know, eight, five notebooks from out the year to one little one, um, with kind of like, um, shorthand in it that I guess I kind of created for myself and put little highlights in and stuff.

[00:10:47] So I don’t have that notebook anymore and I probably can’t remember any other history, but I’m sure it looked lovely. And that one, I think I, from that repetition of the writing down, I definitely kind of absorbed that information more than maybe, [00:11:00] um, the other subjects as well. 

[00:11:01] diane: That’s cool. That’s a good way.

[00:11:03] So, but it’s what I always tell, um, my students when I’m in class, I’m like this taking note thing. You have to continue it when you have clients because. You need to write down what your thoughts are, or a question that you need to ask them or what they’re saying, or even like, whoa, they just reacted really poorly with their facial expression to this.

[00:11:25] You know? And maybe you don’t wanna write all those words down, but you need to be able to pick up on [00:11:30] those visual cues that the client is giving. Especially if it’s not a, a verbal cue, right? Like when a client reacts and they’re like, I love it. Or, you know, like, you, you have to be able to pick up on that.

[00:11:44] And I think some of that is really, it really can be a superpower. So you get this job and how long did you end up, I can’t remember this, ’cause I know one company you were at for like, they were like, okay, [00:12:00] you wanted to leave. And they were like, no, we’re gonna make you a position. And then you did something and you kept just moving up and using and really getting new skills.

[00:12:08] But also they saw that you could like. You could just sit next to something and you’re like, I’ll figure it out by lunch. And you would, and so to me it’s like, maybe that’s why you had Nick do the plug. You’re like, I could figure this out on my own. So maybe what, what was this? Um, when, tell us a little bit [00:12:30] about how we get to that position at that.

[00:12:32] Katie Merrien: Yeah, that you’re right. That this council one was the one where I think I’ve been there for a year and a bit, and I, I think part of, I guess probably my neurodivergence is I do stuff really quickly, whether that’s talking, so hopefully I’m not talking too fast today or kind of processing or figuring stuff out.

[00:12:48] Um, so I’ve been there for about a year and a bit and I basically was getting all my work done in very short windows of time. Probably shouldn’t be admitting, you know, they used to pay me to a salary for the whole time. But I, I ended up spending a lot of time on Facebook as like a [00:13:00] teenager basically.

[00:13:00] And my boss is like, have you done your work? I’d be like, yeah. So I wanted to go and do something else. So I wanted to go and find something that was a bit more challenging. Um. And I went to an interview and I came back and said, I’ve just gone for a job interview and a sort of, you know, a conversation happened or whatever.

[00:13:16] And then the next day I came back in and he, he took me into the meeting room and he said, we don’t want you to leave the, this position opening up. And then he did that really cool thing they do in the movies where they like slide a piece of paper across the table with an amount of money on it. And he was [00:13:30] like, I probably should pay you this, but I’m actually gonna pay you this.

[00:13:32] And I was like, okay, I will stay for, you know, I don’t think I sold out, but I was like, I’ll stay for this amount of money. That’s great. ’cause as a, you know, like a 19-year-old or whatever. No, but very exciting. That’s a lot of, you know, club nights or whatever it is that I wanted to spend that money on at the time.

[00:13:46] diane: So what I love about that, one of the things about that story in particular is that you would, and this happened multiple times, it wasn’t just once they, would you, what I heard you say is you liked the challenge. You got Bo, you were [00:14:00] getting bored. You maybe didn’t use this word, but you were getting bored, you were getting all your work done, you were looking for another challenge.

[00:14:06] You want to do this for someone. You want to help the companies that you’re working for, but if there’s not anything challenging, if they can’t, then you’re gonna fill your time with something else challenging. You’re gonna figure something else out to do. And there was a story that you told me they were like.

[00:14:23] I think it was, they had given you a program they had dis, and maybe this is later on in the council, but they were like, we [00:14:30] don’t know. We’ve been working on trying to figure this thing out. Like some people that was like, they were gonna have to start using it because you were just good at figuring things out.

[00:14:40] So this is, to me, design thinking like you’re, you get to help the user, which is not gonna be your job. This, to actually use this program was not gonna be something you were gonna be doing. But I loved this story. Do you know what story I’m talking about? 

[00:14:56] Katie Merrien: Yeah, I think, yeah. You’ve got the chronology.

[00:14:58] Absolutely right. So this was the [00:15:00] next, so the, the new job with the snippets of paper, a slid piece of paper that’s, um, is, um. I start this job and it turns out this is like contract writing, contract letters. There’s a team of us, this is a national thing. It’s a team of us that are writing these letters.

[00:15:16] And I’m probably, again, lot of trouble. Glad the Learning Skills Council doesn’t exist anymore. And I’m like, oh. So basically what happened was I joined this team. I was like six of us, we spend every day writing these letters to clients and so on. And I was like, guys, you, you know about mail merge, right?

[00:15:29] Like, [00:15:30] I mean, I grew up in the time where like it kicked in when I was at high school. It’s like, you know, word’s got this thing where you can just like plug in and generate letters. So I basically made this all redundant overnight, but we didn’t actually get made redundant. So then I was like, what else can I do?

[00:15:46] Um, and then this, yeah, that we had this funding grant that, um, that was again another national scheme that had been given to us. Um. And as part of this, we had to do monitoring and return kind of, [00:16:00] I think it was quarterly figures on what we’d spent this on and which, um, you know, how many people we’d trained and all this kind of stuff, but it was all on this online platform that no one had ever used before.

[00:16:10] And so I basically was like, right, and just logged on and started pressing all the buttons. I was like, I can’t send the money back. I can’t delete everything. That’s like, those are the two things that could go horribly wrong. I’m just gonna try pressing all the buttons and see what’ll happen. And somehow it went from that to being asked to go up to national office and like train everyone else on it when I was just like, I don’t know what I’m doing.

[00:16:26] So, but I’ve managed to figure it out, trial and error basically. [00:16:30] Um, yeah, knowing, I guess I had that safety net of I can’t actually mess this up. I’m just working out the best way to report on all this information. And then going and teaching other people as well, which I think felt very, very grown up at the time.

[00:16:41] I guess, you know, I was like, got my, got my smart first work skirt, you know, kind of thing. Like, and getting to go up to, well I think it’s the likes of Coventry to, um, do this training thing. 

[00:16:51] diane: But it was also that those people didn’t know how, but they also didn’t have time to just figure things out. You also, that was just, this [00:17:00] is one of your superpowers that you’re like, Ooh, I want to try, I want to figure this out.

[00:17:05] Even in contracts, you were figuring out like, there are other ways to be doing this because you’re have your hand and you’re listening to other things. Your hands going in lots of buckets, you know, figuring things out. I think that that is one of the things that makes, um, you so irreplaceable. Now my sister’s calling me.

[00:17:29] [00:17:30] I swear I’ve been doing this. Oh, today is our 12 year anniversary for the podcast. So it was good. My sister’s calling, I was telling Katie like my husband scheduled something at this time. We do it at this time for the last 12 years, every Wednesday. And I wanna thank you so much for being here, y’all being here for so many times, and Katie, for you being here to accelerate 12 years with me.

[00:17:53] But it’s funny, my sister calls, I mean, I’m pretty sure I’ve been know my sister my whole life, so, and my [00:18:00] husband for a lot of my life. So, okay, back to this. So what I wanna just point out, think about for everybody that’s here, or everybody that’s listening, what is something that is like that, that people tend to come to you for that you may not have known?

[00:18:17] This was something that you could do because. Your boss knew there was something more to you than just answering the phone and working the front desk. Mm-hmm. So much so that when [00:18:30] Katie went and got, uh, an interview, not a job yet, but just interviewed, was like, no way. This girl is so irreplaceable. We gotta find something else for, I’d love to know what you guys think.

[00:18:45] Um, is that thing, um, for yourself, if you’re, uh, watching on YouTube, you can put it in the chat, but if you’re here live, you can just put it in the chat too. But Katie, for you, did you know that was something like figuring things out that you were really fast at [00:19:00] that and able to teach because at 19 or 20 going to teach something that you’ve just figured out is pretty impressive.

[00:19:09] I mean, and, and really is hard for a lot of people to do, just even standing up in front of people to tell people, or even just one-on-one, like going over to Joe’s desk and showing Joe how to use the program. 

[00:19:21] Katie Merrien: Yeah, I don’t think I was fully aware of, um, maybe the speed at which I solved problems being unusual.

[00:19:29] I [00:19:30] think it’s only probably in the last 10 years or so I’ve suddenly realized I work at a different, a different speed sometimes to some other people. Um, but I think the, the training part was so now as a, as an adult and for my business, I’ve, you know, I’ve taught myself to do all these different things, and as you say, like through my career, maybe I have, but before that, the, one of the things I actually worked on was confidence at, at school I was incredibly shy.

[00:19:57] I, if I had to answer the register, I would just turn [00:20:00] bright red. And, you know, they call the register every class. So like you’ve got five times a day where I’m like, oh my goodness, please don’t look at me. But. When I was like 17, 18, starting to leave, um, like, you know, six form and stuff and starting to work, you know, in jobs, in retail and so on as well.

[00:20:14] You have to talk to people and that was, you know, a very daunting prospect. But I basically practiced being confident. And it turns out that, um, that, because I tell people this now in terms of if I meet people that say they’re not very confident or they’re going to networking, which I’ve started having to do, and I [00:20:30] find that really daunting at first, but now I’m fine with it.

[00:20:31] But if I meet other people that feel a bit intimidated by that, I’m like, well, just pretend, just pretend to be confident. And eventually, like, like pretending becomes real eventually because you, you get more used to it and you have those experiences build up where you think, actually that wasn’t so bad after all.

[00:20:47] And also no one is so confident they will go up to someone else and be like, I don’t think you’re really confident at all. So no one’s gonna call you out on it. No one’s that bold that they’re gonna be, I think we’re all faking confidence here. So, yeah. [00:21:00] 

[00:21:00] diane: So it’s, it’s also just like you did in that, um, figure this out, Katie.

[00:21:05] It was like, I can’t screw it up, I can’t lose the money, I can’t delete everything. It’s like in, in networking. Nobody’s gonna call you out and you’re like, you aren’t that competent. Yeah, right. Nobody’s gonna say that. But one of the things that you had shared, and it was one of the graphics that I used as one of the promos was in a networking.

[00:21:24] So PIP is here. So Hey Pippa, thanks for introducing me to Katie. Um, but [00:21:30] you, it was kind of like a little sketch note or a graphic recording for yourself I think of what people did. And it was like, obviously one person was like real estate ’cause they had a little house and a for sale sign in the front, right?

[00:21:45] Yeah. And then so was that something you were doing in between meeting people or is this after the, when you’re on your way home, or when do you put that stuff like in a networking [00:22:00] event? Mm-Hmm. Because I know Pippa saw your sketchbook and she’s like, you gotta see, you gotta meet my friend Diane. My friend Diane’s gonna wanna see your sketches.

[00:22:11] Katie Merrien: Yeah. Do you want me to, do you want me to share? I think I one. Yeah, sure. So just in case anyone hadn’t seen it. Let’s see if that, are we seeing that? Yeah, that’s it. We see it. Amazing. So, um, this one I actually did live at the event. So this networking group that I’m part of, it’s a really amazing group in Brighton that [00:22:30] supports, um, women working in business.

[00:22:32] Um, we get a chance, everyone has 60 seconds to introduce themselves in their business. So I do this live in 60 seconds for per per person. So listen, think of an image, like remember what then how their name spelled, and then do a little drawing basically. But it’s, um, it’s kind of my, I think my party trick now in some ways.

[00:22:52] Um, yeah, because I don’t think I have many other, like, I can’t like roll my tongue or I dunno, like what everyone else to do, have a party trick. Um. [00:23:00] So, uh, yeah, this is my one, I guess, for networking. So I don’t do it at every event I go to, but if I am at, um, one-to-one meeting, or I’m at a networking like this where we’re all kind of sitting down and, and introducing ourselves, I find that a really helpful way of remembering like who was there and what they do.

[00:23:16] Um, and also I think, I’ll stop sharing this now, but, um, I think because my work’s so visual now and because I’m self-taught in all of it, I think that kind of, it probably ties in with my problem solving, [00:23:30] like creative way of kind of fixing something, but going to talk to people and saying, can I come on work for you or have you got anything that you think we could collaborate on?

[00:23:38] I realized when I first started this that I couldn’t go to them with my actual CV because that’s got a whole history of working in the NHS and local councils on it. They’d be like, how? How can you come and work for us? This doesn’t say animation on here anywhere, but I. If I took them an animation that I’d made about me, then I could be like, look, this is what it is.

[00:23:58] So, and kind of show them. So [00:24:00] I guess my graphic recording is a similar thing that I just, it’s, it’s a good kind of muscle to, you know, work and practice and whatever. Anyway, doing that because it’s a lot less intimidating doing those notes at meetings. And when I’m doing it on a big piece of paper on the wall, probably about the same size as that big rectangle behind me, normally, that kind of size.

[00:24:15] Um, so it’s a good practice. And also if someone isn’t a visual thinker, even if I explain to them, I turn words into pictures, it’s kind of hard to imagine what that could look like for some [00:24:30] people. So it’s much easier for me to go look like this, this is your business, this is what you do, and this is what, you know, whoever does, like Gemma or whoever.

[00:24:37] So, yeah. 

[00:24:38] diane: So then going from in your notebook and just you, ’cause sometimes at the, the council you would take notes, minutes of meetings, right? Yeah. And then you would retype them up for everyone and put ’em out. Yeah. And now they, you’ll you would do something like this, but now it’s with pictures and notes probably, right?

[00:24:59] [00:25:00] Mm-Hmm. And that people pay you to go and, I mean, this is a whole, if you haven’t heard, graphic recording is a whole nother industry where, especially like at conferences or at long meetings, this is really helpful because then it helps to, um, the participants, the other people who are trying to take notes but don’t take notes like Katie now have something to go back to and it does help [00:25:30] in their remembering and processing of the information.

[00:25:33] So it helps, I mean, there’s so many advantages for graphic recording, even when you’re reading a book. So even if you’re just taking in information, um, but doing it when someone’s live it and you’re doing it live and they can see you doing it big is really. Cool as well, but you also do animations. But a, a lot of these have to go back to teaching in a way.

[00:25:59] Like you’re [00:26:00] communicating information in another way that’s more palpable or it’s, um, easier for people to take in and understand, which I love this, and we talked about this a lot. You were like, we’re trying to tell people this, and they’re using all these things. You’re like, you’re making it too difficult.

[00:26:19] We’ve gotta, we’ve got to make it easier. If you’re trying to get person A to do action, you know, b, because it, it doesn’t make sense. And that’s [00:26:30] what, as designers, that’s what we do. We are thinking, we are solving those kind of usability or user experience problems. And really that’s what you’ve done. That would be on your cv, every single thing.

[00:26:42] It, that is the common thread, but it, you are able to take really, uh, there was a, a image that you shared about painkillers. Mm-Hmm. Right. And that can be a really, uh, because a lot of the stuff that you had done was health related [00:27:00] or education related. It was some things that weren’t, it was kinda like, maybe history was for you in school.

[00:27:07] It ha it was a little bit, uh, bland. And so you’ve found a way to make, and that I think is a really big problem for us as designers, but you found a way to make it more palatable and more, um, digestible for that, the particular audience. How do you think, um, like how do you, how [00:27:30] does somebody, um, get better at that understanding how to make something more palatable?

[00:27:35] Is it something that just comes naturally to you? 

[00:27:40] Katie Merrien: Um, 

[00:27:41] diane: so I 

[00:27:41] Katie Merrien: think simplifying information, I guess is something that I did Yeah. Throughout my career. Taking the, the minutes actually. ’cause that’s something I had never done before. I obviously took notes at school, but taking minutes in, in public meetings is a very different thing and you can’t really ask people to go back [00:28:00] and repeat themselves, right.

[00:28:01] Like in a public setting like that. So you have to just go at the speed of like, you know, like smoke coming off, coming off your pen or off your keyboard or however you choose to take it. I did take a shorthand, um, course as well when I started doing that to help me kind of take notes, um, more quickly.

[00:28:16] But then, um, when I’d be typing them up, I would look at a way to. Kind of reduce that information to just the key points. I think my minutes were still probably longer than, um, quite a lot of my peers minutes because I would still [00:28:30] manage to get all the detail done. I think just maybe just from doing that stuff really quickly.

[00:28:33] Um, but I’d always try and keep in mind, and I think I do the same with my, um, graphic recording now as well. There, there’s, there’s a whole different range of approaches to graphic recording and obviously I only know the one that I’ve kind of figured out for myself, but there’s, I say lots of different people practicing in lots of different ways and they’re all equally valid, I think, and useful.

[00:28:52] Um, can you describe your way? Yeah, so, um, I suppose that my way reflects my minutes in that I [00:29:00] try and capture all, all of the conversation basically, because I want people to be able to come to that. Recording that drawing or those minutes if they weren’t at the meeting. And not only see the outcomes, but see how they were reached.

[00:29:15] Because I think if you’re making a decision about something that’s important, if, if someone wasn’t at that meeting, they, they would go, well, did you think about X, Y, and Z? And if you haven’t written down, if they did think about those three things, someone might think, oh, that decision [00:29:30] wasn’t made very, you know, thoroughly or whatever it might be.

[00:29:33] Um. And also when I think I’m doing the recording, especially with a lot of the events that I go to where it’s um, it’s focus groups or participation by service users or members of the public, all of their input is valid. So I want to make sure I’m capturing all of that, all of their thoughts and ideas and, and um, I think that I have maybe a natural filter for figuring out what’s important in some of those [00:30:00] conversations, which is a lucky thing because I’m going to events about subjects sometimes I know nothing about, I’m coming in with a blank piece of paper and no knowledge of the event itself, which is fine.

[00:30:09] And that’s how I like to work. ’cause I’ve then it’s a very authentic capturing of the day. Um. But I, you know, I try and pick out the important information, but I don’t know what that organization’s then going to take away from that as the key part for them about what they want to do to, you know, make change or improvement or feedback to people.

[00:30:28] Um, and it’s also really fun. [00:30:30] I, I find more so than when I used to take written minutes. Now I do the graphic recording. I think there’s something psychological, but it encourages people to participate even if they wouldn’t normally. ’cause they’re really intrigued what I’m going to draw. So, um, and they wanna 

[00:30:43] diane: be part of that conversation.

[00:30:45] Yeah. Right. Or they want to be remembered as being part of that conversation because it’s not just taking the notes. You’re, um, I love that you said you were, um, capturing the conversations because sometimes, uh. A meeting can [00:31:00] be very one-sided, one person’s running the meeting, but a lot of times it’s like other people are chiming in, um, to present whatever they’re presenting.

[00:31:08] And I love that it’s the conversation. So you’re asking and you’re recording that, which I do think is very different, but it is very valuable. Um, and it is hard to do because, uh, and size wise, show us the size of your sketchbook that you normally, if you’re not working on the wall, what size sketchbook are you [00:31:30] using?

[00:31:30] Is it really big, 

[00:31:31] Katie Merrien: small? So this is my one. I mean, I have also got massive hands for context, so I’ve got like bigger hands than anyone else I know. So that probably doesn’t help. Um, but um, ’cause I’m very tall as well, so, which probably doesn’t also suit the sketchbook, but, um, this is I think, um, a slightly taller but about a five like mo skin I think it is that I’ve Mm-Hmm.

[00:31:48] Just had like lying around basically. So this is what I use for my personal notes. I’ve got some other examples. I can, um, show everyone a bit in here. Um, but for. Is it blank paper? [00:32:00] Like, is it It’s not. And you know, I, I probably should be more precious about that. Well, it’s, it’s almost blank. So actually this one is a notebook I bought when I started learning how to do graphic recording, but I tried doing it digitally.

[00:32:12] So this one is some kind of, some kind of witchcraft going on here, basically where you can draw on it with a pen and it like record, like the computer knows what you’re doing. Oh, yes, yes. I dunno. So it’s, it’s pretty much blank. It’s got, yeah, I think you could like email it to yourself. So every page has got like a tiny little, um, oh yeah, yeah.

[00:32:28] Icon in the corner. But, um, [00:32:30] this is the one that, yeah, so I’ve had this, this is some of my first attempt at like doing graphic recording. So this is when I was still working for the NHS about, yeah. Five or six years ago. That was my first one. So a few pictures and in bio, but a lot of like written information.

[00:32:46] And you’re writing 

[00:32:47] diane: small, fairly small for, yeah. Um, which I think is, is key for people who are wanting to do this when you are starting is that, is that. Standard of how you normally would take [00:33:00] small, you would write small. 

[00:33:02] Katie Merrien: Um, so, um, this is quite an odd story, but my, my handwriting has gotten smaller over time.

[00:33:08] ’cause my handwriting, I remember when I was in like junior school used to be quite big and round. And so I remember doing my homework in start of secondary school and everyone would be like, well of course you wrote four pages. Your writing’s really big. And I was like, I just clearly had a lot to say, but I was like, okay.

[00:33:25] So my big handwriting is a problem. So I basically stole the [00:33:30] handwriting of several girls that I was friends with. I was like, oh, I really like the way she does her ease and I really like the way she does her, whatever. So it is basically an amalgamation of all these lovely, smaller, really lovely like curly handwritings that I’ve seen.

[00:33:42] And now I guess that’s been mine for like, um. 20 years. Yeah. Plagiarism. 

[00:33:51] diane: No, I think, but that is how we take on other aspects like, oh, this, I like the way this looks, or I don’t like the way [00:34:00] this looks. Um, stealing, handwriting, he says, a typographer at heart. And he says, I love that you write small Katie.

[00:34:07] And I think a lot of people, um, I don’t think that that is the typical is to, um, so, but I think that’s one of the things that makes you a great graphic recorder is that we’re not wasting so much time making these big marks. You’re getting that house down or that other, like even a pie chart [00:34:30] down, um, you know, from, because you’re able to take down the information.

[00:34:35] So like, are you, you’re, it looks like you’re using a pen. Are you using a pen? 

[00:34:40] Katie Merrien: Yeah, so I am so, and actually it’s something I’ve kind of, I think over time with practicing, I, I did take a pencil to one the other day, but in general, I do it all with a pen. I do have, um, I have stickers I take with me that are plain white to put on my big piece of paper in case I make a mistake.

[00:34:56] I’ve only had to use sticker once ever. And I think the rest of the time, [00:35:00] because my drawing’s super wonky, I just, as long as someone can tell if it’s a house or a banana or a set of scales or whatever it might be, then it’s fine. So yeah, so this is the pen I use now in my notebook. I use like a, like a black bio kind of pen.

[00:35:15] Um, but it’s pretty small. It’s not a really thick, uh, um, no. Right. Yeah. So I think, so I can still get the detail of it basically. So you can see that these are some of my notes from like networking events and things that I’ve been to. Um, so [00:35:30] lots of images, not so much text on some of this. Yeah, I think over time I’ve kind of graduated to.

[00:35:37] Yeah, just taking just notes around like visual notes and stuff, wherever I can basically, so this is from a workshop where I went where they were presenting an animation that I’d made. So I went along to kind of take notes on people’s feedback and stuff. But again, just doing it visually as, um, I also find it more interesting to look back on when I’m kind of looking back and thinking, you know, what were people saying and like, how can I improve?

[00:35:59] Or what do we need to [00:36:00] do next? Or whatever. 

[00:36:01] diane: So, um, so five years ago, if that’s when you started your business, you obviously had been practicing maybe, maybe not graphic recording or learning about it before then. When did you start learning or when did you start taking notes and practicing the graphic recording before you started using it as something that you were offering?

[00:36:23] Katie Merrien: About 2018, about a year before I think maybe. Okay. Um, so that’s probably the case for all the [00:36:30] stuff I offer though I didn’t do any of that before about 2018. So I happened to be working by that point. So council job did that one moved over to the NHS and then I was doing, um, governance and uh, program management and so on.

[00:36:44] And then I basically had this thing where I really wanted to go and work somewhere with beanbags and table football. And like, there’s someone bit cool, loads of my friends are working in these really cool agencies that had like fake grass instead of carpet. And I was like, I wanna do that. How do I get to do that?

[00:36:57] Um. And I found this NHS [00:37:00] organization that had fake grass and table football. Um, but they were still NHS. So I, I knew I could do the work rather than trying to start something completely different without any kind of experience. But I moved across there and they were really, they were really creative, um, organization in themselves.

[00:37:18] And that’s when my boss showed me a graphic recording. I’d never seen anything like that before. He, he said, I think you’ll like this. And showed me this, um, paper with this lovely visual summary, um, of an, of an event that [00:37:30] happened. And I was like, I wanna have a go at doing that. How do I do that? So I started doing it at meetings and that’s what I did.

[00:37:35] So in my notebook at the time that I had, at my, um. My work. By that point, I was not responsible for taking the minutes in meetings anymore. I was kind of more senior kind of within the room. So I knew someone would be capturing the actual outcomes in the meeting if needed. But it was a really good chance for me to have a practice at like doing all more wonky drawings and figuring out, in my head, kind of probably started building that, um, like visual library almost in my head of like icons and, and how they apply [00:38:00] to different concepts and so on as well.

[00:38:01] I remember one of my earliest ones was a Kit Kat. ’cause I think we had a break in the meeting, so I dunno if you have the same tagline over there. Yeah. But break, cover a Kit Kat. I was like, that’s, yeah. So, um, I don’t draw biscuits as often anymore, but, um, yeah, that was one of my first ones and that was just for, for me, like having a practice basic.

[00:38:19] So that was, 

[00:38:19] diane: and that was you using your normal, um, day or things that were happening in your day to practice this new skill. And then how do you [00:38:30] go from. Having a, a job that has table football and bean bags to, Hey, I wanna do this on my own. Uh, redundancy was part of it actually. So 

[00:38:42] Katie Merrien: yeah. So 

[00:38:43] diane: kind of, 

[00:38:43] Katie Merrien: um, 

[00:38:45] diane: okay.

[00:38:45] But instead of going to try to find another job, which we know you could have done Mm-Hmm. Why choose going out on your own and doing this? Because this, that is a different kind of path obviously, because there were, there were people that you would [00:39:00] go back to, you go back to now and are like, Hey, do you need this?

[00:39:03] That were old places that you were employed and now they use you and they’re some of your clients, right? So you’ve left jobs with beautiful recommendations with friends that really don’t want you to go. Um, but. Now you’re able to work with them and continue to help them. But again, that’s something else that, um, you should never burn bridges, I believe.

[00:39:26] And you never know when a client is gonna be a client again, or a [00:39:30] old boss might be a client. But how do you, when did you decide, or what, was there this inkling that you were like, I wanna have my own beanbag chairs or something? 

[00:39:41] Katie Merrien: It, it actually didn’t really start like that. I think there are probably lots of people that set up on their own that have this, like this fire or this hunger or whatever it might be to be independent.

[00:39:50] Um, at, at the time I started this, I didn’t really have that. So essentially I was given notice of redundancy and I had three months to, to work before I left. And I was put in charge of a new project [00:40:00] before I left. Um, and as part of that, they needed some animations for some learning modules. So I said, oh, I’ve got some time.

[00:40:07] You know, I’ve, I’ve made my project management spreadsheet. I’ve got some time. Can I have a go at these? And so I. When I started that, the animations, I think, are probably my favorite thing that I do. Out of all my different, um, out my different services, I guess. Um, or the things that I’ve learned, maybe ’cause they’re more animated and I, I am too, so that we kind of go together.

[00:40:24] I don’t know. But, um, but I really enjoyed these things and I thought, you know what, maybe I, maybe I can [00:40:30] do something around this creative thing that isn’t just me being creative at home or making these duvet cover dresses. I can do something that’s an actual paid job. So when I was make. Given notice of redundancy.

[00:40:43] I did, I had very lucky. I guess I had other people that I knew that I’d been working with. Um, and one of those was a charity based in Brighton and the chief executive offered me a part-time role. She said, we can’t afford you full-time, but if you would like to come and work with her. So I’d already done loads of amazing work with them out in the community.

[00:40:59] Anyway, [00:41:00] she basically lured me in because she said, I get to work with old people and I really love oxygens. I’m like, if I meet a barrel, I’m like, I wanna hear life story. Tell me everything. So she said, we’ll let you hang out with as many old people as you want and you can do some community work and it’ll be lovely.

[00:41:13] So I was like, sold. But then I needed another part-time job. And I happened to have, um, you know, around the same time there was an organization in Brighton that hosted a like recruitment day for creative [00:41:30] industries. So they had some agencies there. Um. And they were, you know, talking about how to get into like, you know, creative positions and, you know, graphic design or whatever it might be.

[00:41:39] So I went along and I made this animated cv, um, because I thought, well, I can’t give them my normal one. So I had this little on my phone, this little like, and I printed it out. It was like a comic strip, um, this little animation of me. And I think the, um, the bit where I was showing up my skills or something.

[00:41:56] I think I had like a filing cabinet in my, in my [00:42:00] animated brain or something. I had all the bits like going into it. Um. Um, but I took this and like, you know, kindly shoved my phone in a couple of people’s faces and I was like, can I come work for you? That’d be really great. Can I come and do that? And they said, well that’s, that’s lovely.

[00:42:11] And we do really like the animation, but we don’t have part-time jobs. So I thought, well, if I can’t get a part-time job, any, any of these agencies, and I do wanna go and, you know, work with the older people as well, that’ll be a really nice thing to do. Um, I’ll have to maybe just set up as a freelancer and then maybe I can get work with those agencies.

[00:42:27] I’ve never really considered it before. I never had that as a [00:42:30] plan. Um, but I thought if that’s the way that facilitates me, getting to do creative work with some of those agencies was my initial thinking. Maybe I’ll try that. But obviously it’s turned into, well full-time freelance for coming up two years now, so probably need another cake I think for that one too.

[00:42:46] And then working with all of my old colleagues and, you know, lovely new clients as well. But getting to do this and I don’t tend to work with agencies very often. I’m kind of an agency in my own right, I guess. Basically you are. Mm-Hmm. 

[00:42:59] diane: [00:43:00] So then in. By doing the animation. Alan also started out as just a graphic designer, but then has also, um, done illustrations.

[00:43:12] I mean an illustrations and animations. Mm-Hmm. So he will relate. How does somebody go from, I think I can do this. I was this, now, this is in this last job where you had three months before you were let go, you were like, I’m gonna [00:43:30] practice and I’m gonna solve this problem for the, for the company, but I’m gonna also learn a new skill.

[00:43:36] Mm-Hmm. And you also are a writer too, so this is not, um, um, those are absolutely awesome skills together. The illustration, the condensing information, because you have to do that in animation. And then the animation on top of that, animations can be, um, very, uh, they’re time consuming. I mean, they’re. [00:44:00] They can be really like, you’re like, it took three hours to, I always think about Wallace and Grommet and they were like seven years for 30 minutes.

[00:44:07] And I’m like, what? You know, like it’s, that’s a lot, you know? But the animations speak to you because why? Like, what is that? That just scratches all, is it that it does have the writing and the illustration and then the movement? 

[00:44:25] Katie Merrien: I think, yeah, probably very, very simply color and shape. Probably like [00:44:30] moving around, you know, that kind of like, like a shiny mag pie kind of thing.

[00:44:32] But I think also, yeah. Yeah. So when I started, as you were saying, that kind of condensing information and the writing and the animation and so on, I was trying to pull together and think what does all this stuff have in common? What am I offering people? Because I can’t just go, you know, can’t go up to people for a start, just shove my phone in their face.

[00:44:49] And then also not have like a consistent offer or a, a clear explanation as to like what I can do to help them. Um. And that’s certainly how it started. And since [00:45:00] then, because I’ve grown this thing and people know me, this is when I do get stuck in stuff, it’s not technically on my like, you know, service list, but I’ve got that foundation I guess, of this is what I’m focusing on as a core.

[00:45:11] And initially it was about simplicity. So I think that was probably influenced partly by where I was working at the time, the NHS organization. ’cause they were really focused on making stuff simple as well because they wanted patients to be able to access what they needed. Um, but the kind of simplicity aspect since then has grown for me.

[00:45:28] Because I realized how [00:45:30] passionate I’m about, um, accessibility and inclusion for, um, all demographic groups basically. ’cause I’ve, you know, I’ve got a lot of privilege in my life and I want to use that to amplify and include people and like, you know, share their lived experiences and lift up voices and all these things that are really important.

[00:45:45] And my animations I particularly like because there are really useful way of sharing information that’s more accessible to lots and lots of people. But also when I make my characters for those, I’m really conscious about diversity, like positive representation and getting to [00:46:00] create characters that look like lots and lots of different people.

[00:46:03] So, um, one, um, example of getting to use that in a way that I found so, um, I dunno, like affirming, um, I would, I, my first contract I got with an organization that wasn’t someone I’d worked with, so I didn’t have any, um, you know, friends there or any kind of previous, they didn’t, they didn’t know who I was.

[00:46:25] Um. It was with a charity called The Black Curriculum, who, um, they [00:46:30] work, they’re working to get more black British history into the UK school curriculum because, um, I wasn’t taught about that in all my history notes. So my many, many notebooks of notes we didn’t get taught about, um, really important events from our history.

[00:46:44] Um, amazing things done by black people in British history. They’re just, it’s just all gloss over and they don’t mention it. But I got to work with the black curriculum to make a series of animations about those events, those people, and those are now shown in schools around the uk. But also it means that, [00:47:00] um, children within this, those schools that have a, you know, a background that kind of relates to the people in their stories, they can see people like themselves and their ancestors and their history represented on in the curriculum.

[00:47:13] And that’s so important because that’s part of like who they are. And getting to see someone like yourself on like TV or whatever it might be, it’s like a huge part of finding. Finding your kind of people, isn’t it? I guess in the same way that obviously neurodivergence, like finding other [00:47:30] people that have got a similar experience or whatever.

[00:47:32] You feel like you’re a little bit more understood and, and things as well. I think. 

[00:47:36] diane: Well, and it also helps to paint the picture better for everybody that Mm-Hmm. This wasn’t done without, you know, everybody has a role and Mm-Hmm. This is what was happening over here and at the same time, this was happening here and this was happening.

[00:47:50] And these could be different demographics or different even. I love that you love old people, you know, sometimes they’re like, oh, we’ll just push the old people [00:48:00] out and well, they won’t know, you know, or whatever it is. Right. Um, when, so when you go out on your own, um, and you start freelancing, you were offering animation writing and graphic recording.

[00:48:17] Katie Merrien: Yeah. And graphic design and infographics as well. ’cause we only do three. 

[00:48:23] diane: So then how did it end up like, so you get some jobs that people have not, they just saw [00:48:30] your work or you met them and then they um, they just are like, yeah, we wanna work with you. And then some, it’s like you’re connecting with other people that you’ve worked with in the past.

[00:48:41] Mm-Hmm. Um, and maybe they’re at different jobs even, but it’s the people. You’re contacting the old company, but you’re also contacting the people. So sometimes it can be very hard to just continually putting yourself out there. And is, I think about when you were saying, oh, we don’t have any [00:49:00] positions right now, or we don’t have part-time employment.

[00:49:03] Then you had in your head you were like, oh, okay, well I need to do something where it’s not full-time. It’s not part-time. I can just be a solution for them when they need this. So then. How do you keep going because you do have great energy and, but I’m sure you meet a lot of people and then they un start understanding more about what you do.

[00:49:27] And it is this kind of building of a [00:49:30] relationship. And I think that is the way we all have. Especially like if you’re doing something that takes somebody a long time or you’re like, they’re gonna be doing an event. Well, the event is only once a year. It’s only twice a year and it’s, you know, six months away.

[00:49:46] So they’ve heard about you and now you have this new six month kind of courtship that you do. It can for a lot of us get really like, no, I went to this networking, I didn’t meet anybody, or I met [00:50:00] people and I haven’t gotten any jobs from this. I think sometimes it’s like we just have to keep going and keep putting ourselves out there, but this can be.

[00:50:11] It can be hard, it can be hard to keep going. How, what was your, I know we haven’t even gotten to any of the questions here. Sorry. But how do you, how do you do that and, and stay positive and just keep going out there? 

[00:50:29] Katie Merrien: Um, [00:50:30] it, like, it is, it is hard. You, you described exactly what it is about that kind of continuity and so on of just going out and meeting people.

[00:50:38] So, when I first died, partly because I work so quickly, sometimes I’ll get a project and I’ll have finished it within like, you know, 24 or 48 hours. Especially when I’m getting really into something. I’m quite happy to sit there for like eight hours at a time and think I should probably have some water or, you know, stand up or something.

[00:50:52] Like at some point during that, you know, hyper focusing, I’m doing this thing and my, my partner work shifts and, um, [00:51:00] was incredibly supportive about the fact that for those first couple of. I dunno. Six months or so, I would finish a project and immediately panic. Oh my goodness, my business is failing. I haven’t got any work.

[00:51:10] Like, you know, I, I’d text and be like, oh my goodness, that’s it. Um, um, my business is failure. And then sometimes before he’d even like woken up again or, you know, finish his shift, I’d send him, oh no, someone’s got in touch. Actually, it’s fine. And like, that didn’t always happen, but just, uh, initially that kind of the rollercoaster of freelance.

[00:51:26] And it’s not, it’s not definite, you know, you’re kind of, um, [00:51:30] and it does feel like that. 

[00:51:31] diane: It’s like, I got one and you’re so excited, and then you finish it and you’re like, I don’t know if anyone’s gonna, but, and it’s hard. And Brighton’s not that huge. I mean, it’s bigger than the town maybe you grew up in, but it’s not as big as London.

[00:51:46] Right. But it’s like, how are you able to just even like there’s another networking thing and you’re like, I don’t wanna go. I. Because you’re in your inside, [00:52:00] you’re introvert, but you’re having to play the extrovert because this is a really important part of, like, what do you say to yourself to get you to go to that thing, to that event?

[00:52:10] Katie Merrien: Okay, so I’m, I’m a huge extrovert, so I feel like I, it’s not fair for me to be like, this is the really easy thing to do. ’cause I know that, I know that it’s not. And I know that I found networking intimidating when I first started and I love chatting to people. So I’m like, introverts, I’m so proud of all of you for getting out of there and like talking to people.

[00:52:28] ’cause it feels really [00:52:30] intense and it feels very different, I think to just going out and chatting to someone normally because Mm-hmm. Or certain me to start off with because it feels like a, an agenda and like you have to be the bit about your business and that can feel really icky. What I’ve, what I’ve learned.

[00:52:47] Over time that seems to be working for me and makes me feel a lot more comfortable at doing it. I don’t really talk about my work. If someone asks me what I do, I will tell them, but I, I basically do what I’ve always done. I will chat to [00:53:00] people and ask ’em nosy questions about their life because I’m incredibly nosy.

[00:53:03] And then I’ll probably give them solutions to another problem they mentioned that has nothing to do with anything. But if I think of something, I’ll be like, oh, you should, whether it’s like introducing to someone else in the room, sometimes it’s work related, but sometimes I’m like, oh, have you ever tried this really good sun cream?

[00:53:16] It doesn’t get, like, I’ve got a really good sun cream recommendation. So it is not just that. Or it might be like, oh, are you going to Brighton for ice cream next week? This is the place you should go to get ice cream. So. I just, I think people get to know [00:53:30] you if you go out and you do those kind of things and you do do build those relationships.

[00:53:34] Um, from my perspective about doing that, I think people get to know that I’m good at solving problems and then if they have a problem that’s to do with the work I actually do, they’re may be more likely to come to me. But something about networking I also find really interesting is that people who get to know you will recommend you to other people for what you do, even if they’ve never worked with you on that.

[00:53:54] So for all they know, you might be rubbish at it. I’m not rubbish. I’m very proud of the fact I’ve, you know, I’ve worked really hard at this [00:54:00] and like I’m feel I’ve shaken that imposter syndrome, but they will go, if they hear of somebody that needs something about what you do, they’ll be like, oh, Katie’s amazing.

[00:54:09] Katie’s amazing at this thing. They don’t know if I’m amazing at that thing. They know I’m good at solving their problem about sun cream, and they know that I’m good at like listening to them and asking questions about how their daughter’s swimming lessons are going, or whatever it might be. But that’s, I think, the way that I’ve found it less.

[00:54:24] Uncomfortable to go to those kinds of things. And also it can feel [00:54:30] peaky and a little bit difficult to kind of like ingrain other people’s conversations. Um, but I think my top tip probably, if you go to something like that, is to just try and dive right in. Don’t, don’t overthink it. Just go in. Pick someone that looks friendly and just go and start chatting to them about whatever you can, and then maybe someone else will come and join you.

[00:54:51] You can kind of go from there. ’cause I think if you start the event and you kind of stand at the side and feel really awkward, it can feel harder and harder to kind of get stuck in. So, and [00:55:00] also everyone’s there on their own normally anyway. And even people that they know each other, they might not, they might have just met, or it might be that they’ve met other networking events, but everyone’s out there and they’re all trying to be friendly and nice to each other.

[00:55:10] So if you start doing that before you know it, you’ll have people that you know at those events as well. And it won’t feel quite so scary. I 

[00:55:17] diane: love that. Okay, so then, um, with, how did Pippa see your sketchbook then? So you’re at this networking because she met you at networking and then how did she [00:55:30] see your sketchbook?

[00:55:31] Because, so this w why I ask is because we go to these networking events where we’re with other business people. We’re not necessarily with other artists or creatives or designers and. Somehow you have found a way to integrate or like maybe you’re just like, this is what I do and then you put it down or something.

[00:55:52] Katie Merrien: Yeah, that one basically. Yeah, sometimes that one I just have it with me ’cause I do like having it with me because I don’t have a good memory. I do, I use mine, [00:56:00] I use my Frame. I’ve got Trello for like organizing stuff. There we go. There we go. Pepper’s, pepper said, just like flash it to people. Like it’s just the intrigue, isn’t it?

[00:56:07] Basically I’m just like, this is what I do. Do you 

[00:56:08] diane: have something flagged like you do for the one that you were gonna show us some things in there? You had like some bookmarks? Um, 

[00:56:15] Katie Merrien: no. I tend to just pick like one at random. Um, so yeah, but that’s the one, that’s my latest one, so that’s why I’m up to at the moment.

[00:56:22] So I did use this actually in a workshop the other day. Um. Because I’m working at the moment on, um, something with, uh, charity, [00:56:30] again, a bit different. The problem solving thing, they support young people who are experiencing homelessness and they want to create some artwork about their values, but they put out a tender and they wanted people to bid for it and involve the young people.

[00:56:41] So I said I would love to run some workshops where we basically create the artwork that I would normally kind of make like an infographic poster, but I want all the young people to do some drawings or some collages or whatever, and we’ll kind of incorporate that. It’s not what I normally do at all. But that’s a really like, fun way for them to get involved and also have a bit of creative time in a, in a.[00:57:00] 

[00:57:00] In a kind of week where they maybe have a lot of other priorities going on, but they’ve got a space then to come and like get to be creative. But yeah, this one I did at the, at the first workshop and then I handed like copies round to the participants at the second one and I said, you don’t have to do any of my drawings.

[00:57:15] You can do your own. But I realized it’s asking a lot for people to, if they don’t think that way, to kind of come up with, with an idea. Right. Um, yeah. But yeah, I don’t, I don’t, um, have like one particular example I think. Yeah, Pippa just got whatever random page that was. [00:57:30] Well, and then 

[00:57:30] diane: she said then because you showed it, um, then you, they asked you to just show more.

[00:57:37] And I think that that’s something that maybe we’re not great at, is just being prepared to show what we do. Even when you were saying, oh, I have this animation of my CV on my phone. Hey, do you wanna see? And I think that. Because you are really not focusing on, you’re like, Hey, it’s all about me, Katie. You know, you’re really focusing on other people, but [00:58:00] then you also are like, Hey, here’s th you know, 10 seconds, 15 seconds.

[00:58:04] This is my cv. This is what I could do. Mm-Hmm. So you’re not taking them three minutes or 30 minutes on a something you’re, it’s easy for the, for you to just hit play. They can watch it. But you were ready. You were ready with the graphic recording. You’re ready with this, um, you could maybe give an example of how you would write something like a website or, you know, materials or Even now with this [00:58:30] workshop, it’s, again, you’re always solving a problem.

[00:58:33] You’re something, and, and you’re involving people. You’re asking the people who are. Audience, which I think is marketing. You know, that’s, it’s so smart that you’re getting those users involved. So I love that. Thank, 

[00:58:49] Katie Merrien: I think I just like a creative solution. So some networking events I go to, if we get 30 seconds or a minute, Joel pitch, I’ve got an animation I’ll play instead.

[00:58:57] That’s got a little cartoon of me that tells people about what I do and [00:59:00] I’ve just made myself some new business cards and I’ve illustrated them with what I do. So rather than just a printed thing, like any excuse basically to wedge some marketing in there in a way. But I really enjoy it. ’cause, you know, I spent like a day illustrating whatever it is, and then that’s my business card.

[00:59:16] It just, I think I’m very lucky in that I work in such a visual, um, a visual way in a visual sector. It’s really easy to show people what I do rather than tell them. 

[00:59:25] diane: It’s also impactful that we remember it because it was so [00:59:30] different than everybody else’s. Right. Mm-Hmm. Which I think is great. More 

[00:59:33] Katie Merrien: memorable as well.

[00:59:34] diane: Yeah, I think 

[00:59:35] Katie Merrien: like studies have shown that you remember pictures more than words, so Right. Thing to do. 

[00:59:40] diane: Is there anything else in your sketchbook that you wanted to show us before we, um, before we go? No, I think 

[00:59:48] Katie Merrien: that’s, that’s fine. Like there’s, so those are kind of the sort of stuff I basically do at any meeting or event or like one-to-ones and that kind of stuff.

[00:59:55] So yeah, just a bit of doodling in a market pen 

[00:59:58] diane: basically. [01:00:00] Um, thank you for being here. Thank you for being so willing to share. Thank you for talking fast. ’cause I also talk fast. It’s so nice. Um, thank you. I love that you’re, I, one question I didn’t get to ask was, um, your ability to get onboard Mm-Hmm.

[01:00:17] Um, and onboard that is maybe some stuff that’s more bland. Like, we have to write these contracts or we have to figure out how to use this accounting, you know, program or better or [01:00:30] whatever. How are you able. Because I feel like this is a problem for some people. Um, but it’s a real asset for people who this isn’t a problem for.

[01:00:40] They’re able to just get on board like here and like, oh, I wanna solve this. Oh, I wanna help you. How do you, how do you, how do you do that? How is that, how you’ve always been, is able to just like, do you know what I’m asking? Like put your, just enthusiastic [01:01:00] about the old people or if that’s what they’re into.

[01:01:03] You’re enthusiastic about the, this, you know, health service that they’re offering that they like, you’re like, yes, let’s solve it. How is that just innate to you? 

[01:01:15] Katie Merrien: No, there’s certainly things I’m not enthusiastic about. If someone asked me to go camping, I don’t think I’d be very enthusiastic about that.

[01:01:21] I’m very much an indoor person, so I’m not enthusiastic about everything, but I am enthusiastic. I, I love people who are passionate about what they do, and they [01:01:30] tell me about that. And I love hearing people talk about that, whatever that is. So I guess that’s something that really helps me work with all these different clients.

[01:01:36] ’cause even if they’re working on like, tarmacking the road, I’m like, tell me more. Like, you know, you obviously are really into like, tarmacking, how does this work? So I think that like, curiosity is part of it. 

[01:01:46] diane: Mm-Hmm. 

[01:01:46] Katie Merrien: But maybe also because I do, I do like helping people that’s like, that sounds very, I don’t know, naive or whatever it is, but like that kind of, um, that motivation comes partly from, yeah, I might be writing a contract and [01:02:00] the contract itself isn’t very interesting, but this is gonna help these people get healthcare or, um, this, you know, this, uh, animation about how to access like an appointment’s gonna.

[01:02:11] Make sure that people are coming in prepared and not feeling anxious about not knowing what to expect and making sure they’re getting the right treatment. So, um, I think, I guess I, I’m very privileged in that I get to work with organizations that are doing a lot of good. So it’s easier to get motivated, I guess, about that.

[01:02:27] And that’s probably, it’s something I’ve never [01:02:30] had to turn away before anyway. But I guess if I was gonna be picky about clients, I wanna work with people that are doing social good, environmental good. Whatever that might be. And it’s a lot easier to get enthusiastic about a charity that’s working with local, like grassroots organizations to start community groups, I think than, yeah.

[01:02:50] I’m not gonna mention names. Yeah. Yeah. 

[01:02:52] diane: With things that you also value. So with companies that share same va similar values or that are, um, [01:03:00] making the world a better place. Not that some people are like, oh, we’re gonna make the world a bad place. You wanna work. I mean, they’re not, nobody’s coming at it like that.

[01:03:08] Absolutely. No. But it’s about those shared values and them being able to communicate what their value is, and then you being able to recognize, hey, that’s something I really believe in too. Mm-Hmm. And those are great things to talk about at a networking event, right? Yeah, definitely. So what, what would be next, what would be the thing that you would love to be [01:03:30] able to focus on, um, in the future?

[01:03:33] Is it more of those social good projects? 

[01:03:37] Katie Merrien: I’ve got a, I’ve got a thing I really want, I really want to work with, um, like children’s museums and stuff for children, because I think having not paid attention in science, like, like maybe it is time I learn about, you know, I know gravity’s a thing, you know, like, but kind of getting to work.

[01:03:54] ’cause I, I sometimes go to children’s museums sometimes with a niece or nephew, sometimes just on my own to like, take part, you know, [01:04:00] press all the levers and whatever. Um, but I just think they’re such a great space and like, having interesting ways to engage with that information and ways that are more accessible because written information just isn’t accessible for everybody.

[01:04:13] So I’d love to write the little blurbs about, you know, the displays, but also having other ways of like, interacting with that stuff I think would be really cool. Um, yeah, there’s a, there’s a TV show over here I think called like Maddy Explains it as basically my niece thinks. Me and this [01:04:30] woman on TV should be friends ’cause we both have yellow hair is the reason that we should be friends.

[01:04:34] But this woman basically explains how scientific stuff works in a way that children understand. So like revolving doors and stuff. And it’s just fascinating. But getting to do stuff like that, I think where I kind of explain concepts to kids, I think I’d really enjoy. That’s cool. That’s, do you ever share that when you’re at a networking event?

[01:04:52] I have on occasion before, but yeah. Maybe I need to be more proactive about doing that as well. ’cause 

[01:04:57] diane: then somebody who loves you already is like, oh my [01:05:00] gosh, I know somebody who works at this. You know, like I feel like if we don’t share our dream, then. How will these people who love you help you make it happen?

[01:05:10] So anyway, yeah, that’ll be my one encouragement for you is tell more people, because I think in a year 

[01:05:16] Katie Merrien: you’ll be like, 

[01:05:17] diane: oh yeah, I’m doing the children’s museum. 

[01:05:20] Katie Merrien: You never know. Definitely. I’ll ask people to know anyone who knows about Gravity and we’ll kind of go from there. I reckon. Yeah. I love that.

[01:05:26] That’s a great, 

[01:05:28] diane: oh, even in your, [01:05:30] um, one minute animation, adding something like what I’d love, I just think we all should do more of that, of thinking about what we want to do and then saying it out loud because, uh, un unless we say it, we don’t really do it. So I’m really glad you told us and I can’t wait to catch back up with you in a year and see.

[01:05:48] Thank you. Um, hopefully you get that Children’s museum or multiple things that are explaining science and making it for kids that, um, they want more people want to go and [01:06:00] participate. So I love that. Oh yeah, I’ll be like, Lucy, see this lamp? I wired that. Be like, I’ve done that myself. Now I don’t need Nick anymore.

[01:06:07] Right? Yeah, exactly. So I wanna make sure everybody knows how to get in touch with you. They can always, um, if you’re watching this on YouTube, it’s the first links if you’re listening to this on wherever you get your podcast. It’s the first links, um, at the top, and then the rest of the show notes are right underneath.

[01:06:24] But you can get in touch with her on [01:06:30], Kate, C-O-M-M-U-N-I-K-A-E dash design dash limited. Or you can go to her website, communicate with a. KATE, not the other way to spell it, um, the wrong way, I guess. Um, you’re, you’re, I love that you’re changing it to be the right way, the communicate with A-K-A-T-E, bringing your name, design, communicate, dot design.[01:07:00] 

[01:07:00] And I hope you guys will reach out and I hope you were inspired. Katie, thank you so much for being our 12 year birthday anniversary Thank you episode. And it’s episode 4 72, so that was, that’s great. And I just, uh, appreciate your time and just the willingness you are to share all these little tips, but also your story, which gives people hope that they can really be themselves, they can get things [01:07:30] done early and start working on something else.

[01:07:33] And maybe that is, um, their gift, that they don’t just have to. Fake it, you know, and they actually can keep going. And anyway, I hope lots of people get in touch with you and have, ’cause you could, you could do remote, you could do a event if it was, um, like say it was in the United States and doing graphic recording.

[01:07:56] If, if the whole event’s on Zoom you could do the [01:08:00] graphic recording on Zoom. So yeah. Thank you. 

[01:08:03] Katie Merrien: Thank you so much for having me and happy 

[01:08:05] diane: 12 years as well. It’s been an honor. It’s, I’m very glad to have had you. I hope that you guys, um, will come back not next week, ’cause next week met my dad’s, but I will be back on the 19th.

[01:08:18] I have to look at my Yep. On the 19th. Damien is hopefully gonna be back and we’ll be doing the inspiration and then we’ll, um, continue on with our sketchbook, um, series. Katie, thank [01:08:30] you so much for doing this with me today. And thank you for just sharing your story. I love it. And I’m, I will, I’m can’t wait to.

[01:08:38] Um, ask you in a year about Children’s Museum. 

[01:08:42] Katie Merrien: Yeah. You can book me in for your 13th birthday. That’s right. 

[01:08:46] diane: You’ll be our yearly anniversary. That’s right. I love it. Perfect. Wonderful. [01:09:00] Alright.

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