Featured image: Sam Bradd with the final product made at the Japanese Canadian Young Leaders Conference.
VANCOUVER – Sam Bradd’s markers take the chaos of a brainstorming session and helps them to flow in a way that does much more than just the average board-meeting-minutes.
As a graphic recorder, Bradd takes his visual notes through a process of listening and capturing the ideas of participants. The large illustrations he creates are a tapestry of the thoughts and ideas created through the discussions.
Participants at this year’s Japanese Canadian Young Leaders Conference were asked to discuss topics like arts and culture, history and preservation, business and entrepreneurship, and activism.
I caught up with Sam Bradd to talk about the recording process and what he gleaned from hearing the JCYLC’s conversations.
Matthew O’Mara: When you are doing this graphic recording, what is your process of taking notes and recording what’s important?
Sam Bradd: The way I approach my work is to follow the shape of the group. It’s important to me that I don’t come with prejudgement about the discussing the group is going to have. I knew we were going to be talking about these four areas: history, advocacy, business, and arts and culture. Other than that, I kept my mind open about what he group was going to say to me. I themed them around that, but other than that some of to to was really surprising. I was expecting to hear a lot about racism and understanding discrimination as it’s a youth group, but the quality of those conversations was inspiring.
MO: Through hearing the discussions, what did you find out about the Japanese Canadian community?
SB: I came knowing a bit about the Japanese Canadian community. I live very close to the Hastings Park internment site and it’s close to my house. Of course, I live in Vancouver and it’s important for me to understand as a white person and as a settler what the histories are of the places that I live. The stories have come up today were ones about identity changing, culture changing, and how we work to with movements in other communities.
MO: What do you think is the best kind of reaction to your graphic representations?
SB: My background is in facilitation and I prefer it when the group is engaging with the record. The words belong to the people and the way we constructed it today with the sticky notes allowed me to translate them and record it verbatim. It’s more powerful when voices are talking about being not included or they feel marginalized to make sure it is your words on this page. Sometimes I’m doing this work and it’s only a recording and there is no engagement whatsoever. But today I wasn’t expecting the participants to come up, reflect on the moment and use it to give back another level of synthesis. It was great to see and very engaging.
MO: When I was participating in my group, I found that we deviated from our own topic and into so many other things. It was a discussion that even I didn’t know a lot about, do you as a Vancouver resident find yourself interacting with Japanese Canadians?
SB: I try to make sure I engage with diverse communities as much as possible. To understand my own background, I need to look at other histories and family experience. The way Canada is constructed as a nation is one of immigration and stories of migration and displacement, and in order to understand where people are coming from I should take an interest.