We are proud to be working with TED, a nonprofit organisation who believe in the power of ideas to help bring about change in attitudes, lives, and the world. We collaborate with TED-Ed, who are committed to creating lessons worth sharing, and producing videos that aim to “capture and amplify the voices of the world’s greatest educators”.
Cognitive Media – History of practice
Andrew Park, our founder and Director is an artist, illustrator and Scribe and has been working with large corporations at high profile conferences and events, helping to transform information into pictures for over 15 years. He says, 'I have always drawn. It is a very elemental thing to me. I think in pictures and use them to understand the world. It is logical to me to try and help others using pictures too.'
This history section concentrates on how we have evolved over the last 15 years from working at live events and Scribing to our latest RSA Animate project.
A scribe works on large walls, using markers pens to map conversations live at events, interpreting and drawing ideas quickly, using pictures, diagrams and symbols to make ideas visible and accessible. Over the last 15 years, working with lots of people, groups and individuals within many industries and professional cultures has given me tremendous insight. It has also helped me understand the different languages that these cultures can speak. The role of a Scribe in my view, is to act as a translator within these cultures to allow as many people as possible to understand the information being conversed. In essence the Scribe must be able to ‘speak’ the language in that culture.
Live Scribing was one method that we employed to help content become more engaging. We also applied various Visual Synthesis techniques to help further illustrate concepts and transform, what was often disparate content, into cohesive, attractive and cogent designs.
Working across these industries and cultures I was exposed to different avenues of thought and the idea to use techniques that helped industries also transferred itself to other concepts and ideas. For a long time I had wanted to use my work to help communicate ideas that had a possible wider appeal. Here is a sketch that I made to synthesise Straw Dogs by the philosopher John Gray.
The Design Council recommended us to the RSA, after our ongoing work for them providing live scribing at events and helping them create visual presentations of their ideas and projects. Matthew Taylor initially invited me in to see if I could help him visualise some ideas for a presentation he was giving on institutional emergence. The book he was reading was 'Organising & Disorganising" By Michael Thompson. Our initial collaboration proved fruitless as concepts were still locked in the book and the method of how we could visualise these concepts had not yet revealed itself. I think I was thinking in areas that were away from a Scribed approach as I tend to use people and character to help illustrate concepts. The way Matthew initially talked about the project and how it could be realised was divorced from characterisation, which made my first attempts quite lifeless and ultimately frustrating for both myself and Matthew as a clear path could not be seen.
Thinking I had ruined my chances with the RSA, they then approached me to help them with an illustrative piece for the Robert Shiller lecture on 'Animal Spirits', which was to be featured in the RSA Journal Summer 2009. I think that at the time I was relying too much on 'computer illustration' to try and make this synthesis work. Firstly as a way of differentiating this work from Scribing, which I considered the initial part of the process of capturing the information; how we work with it afterwards, I had always considered the important part. This is currently not the case.
We were restricted in the magazine to a specific area size and dimension. My years of training as a Scribe taught me to capture the whole narrative. The size restriction paired with my desire to capture everything makes for quite a busy piece of work, which might not have been the most appropriate way of working but this was the first stirrings of the RSA Animate; the visual synthesis of one persons talk, illustrative not live.
We were also quite fortunate to be asked to help with visualising the RSA's updated charter for an exhibition in the lobby at John Adam Street. As you can see, we were still trying capture the whole parts of the narrative of the RSA history within one 'eyespan'. This way of working is evident in the later RSA Animates. The most recent being Renata Salecl – The Paradox of Choice.
As Steven Johnson mentions in his book "Where Good Ideas Come From" which subsequently became an Animation we made for Penguin Books in the U.S. Good ideas don't come via Eureka moments, they are usually a succession of smaller attempts at that idea often aided by input from other people and other people's ideas.
To illustrate this theory in practice, on the back of the journal piece, the RSA asked us to explore how the kind of visual synthesis we were working with could be applied to their live video content to make it more engaging. The RSA sent me a link to a New York Library video by Flash Rosenberg. The video combined drawing with talking, literally illustrating the content. We had tried to video our live Scribing work before without too much success. We were still in the mindset of trying to keep up with the live content, which obviously proved difficult as there was a large gap of time between what was said and what could be drawn in real time. Watching the New York Library video held the answer to how we could marry up live drawing with what was being said in real-time. We started to look for ways we could use our own scribing and visual synthesis techniques in video work and started to explore methods on how to do this.
Our first RSA Animate was for Stein Ringen's "The economic consequences of Mr Brown." We were still very much in the mindset of working like live Scribing, which meant that the drawings were done really quickly and the work was almost done in real time. This Animate was actually drawn on paper using a Flip camera. These early Animates were experiments, which we evolved and refined drawing, filming and editing techniques. It took us quite a while to understand how these things worked and also we had to rely on the work itself to tell us how to do things. By the sixth video we reached our current process.
The Animates were the result of collaborative and innovative thinking, putting video and scribing together and reframing our already bespoke illustrative practice. The combination of the great RSA audio content, the mechanism of the Cognitive Media visual ideas and direction and the technological platform of YouTube all work together as a triumverate attracting and engaging viewers all over the world.
We continually develop and evolve our work to offer all our clients high-quality videos with options of different styles of animation.
We’re thrilled to announce we’ve recently had the opportunity to work with the excellent Professor Richard Wiseman, on an innovative new study comparing the psychological influence of a plain talking head clip, with that of a hand-drawn animated video. The results were really exciting!
Visit our shop to view products featuring our illustrations, including our popular RSA Animate series. We are currently sourcing more products and will be adding them to the shop very soon. While you are there, why not create an account? You can sign up to receive our newsletter to hear about our latest work and new products.