writes copy 22 Oct 2017

The art of notetaking: How this GeekWire Summit artist turns conversations into inspiring visual maps

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Guillaume Wiatr sits next to the GeekWire Summit stage and creates murals visualizing ideas from the discussions. (Photos by Dan DeLong for GeekWire)

Note-taking can be a mundane and repetitive process that doesn’t always help inspire innovative new ideas. But that all changes when Guillaume Wiatr puts pen to paper.

Wiatr, CEO and founder of MetaHelm, has become a fixture at the GeekWire Summit. The 44-year-old positions himself just off the main stage at our annual tech conference with a large white canvas that he uses to sketch drawings inspired by the fireside chats and panel discussions.

Wiatr sketches notes for the fake news panel at the GeekWire Summit.

Wiatr joined us for the third-straight year last week at the 2017 GeekWire Summit  in Seattle, where on-stage discussions ranged from  Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella on developing breakthroughs in quantum computing, to Fred Hutch President Dr. Gary Gilliland on fighting cancer, to Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson on battling Donald Trump.

The one constant throughout the two-day conference was Wiatr and his canvas.

“I visualize their talks and turn their ideas into images,” Wiatr said in an interview. “I create maps of conversations.”

Wiatr’s creative process is a combination of listening, identifying patterns, and ultimately turning words into the “maps of conversations.” The end result is visual web recounting key parts of a discussion that also ties together any overarching themes.

Wiatr’s notes from a fireside chat with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella (left) and a Power Talk from University of Washington Professor Margaret O’Mara. (click to enlarge)
Wiatr’s notes from a fireside chat with Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson (left) and a Power Talk from Venture Kits CEO Leslie Feinzaig. (click to enlarge)
Wiatr’s notes from a Power Talk by Duke Professor Missy Cummings (left) and a fireside chat with Fred Hutch President Dr. Gary Gilliland. (click to enlarge)

While sketching, Wiatr said he’s doing something called “dual-coding,” a theory about how humans think in images.

“When you think about something, you don’t see a written word '” you think of an image,” Wiatr explained. “We think in patterns, too. I’m actively using this. Everyone can do it, but it takes practice and technique to turn it into something larger.”

Wiatr’s notes from a talk by WSOS scholar Citlaly Ramirez (left); The VC View panel (center); and a fireside chat with Jeff Wilke, CEO Worldwide Consumer, Amazon.
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