BABE #229: BRITTANY CURRY - Owner, InkyBrittany
Brittany introduced our team to a job and business model that we hadn’t heard of before: graphic recording and facilitating. Through InkyBrittany, her day-to-day includes attending conferences, meetings and events of all kinds where she illustrates — in real time — the most important meeting minutes being discussed. For her, graphic recording/facilitating is less about artistic ability, and much more about listening — a skill we could all benefit from enhancing. Her work is equally as intriguing as it is important, and we can’t wait to hire her for BWH meetings and conferences to come!
Hometown: Savannah, Georgia
Current city: Savannah, Georgia
Alma mater: Georgia College & State University
Degree: B.A., Liberal Studies
Very first job: Coordinator of Oconee Area Citizen Advocacy 2012-2016
Hustle: Owner, InkyBrittany
Babe you admire and why?
Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha. Her research exposed the Flint Water Crisis.
How do you spend your free time?
Running a fan page on Instagram for Selena Quintanilla Perez.
Favorite fictional female character?
Fiona Gallagher, from “Shameless.” She sacrifices her own life and young adulthood taking care of her siblings and trying to protect them from their chaotic parents. Then, she finally realizes she deserves to have dreams. Own things. And she’s not apologizing for it.
Go-to coffee order and/or adult beverage?
Iced black tea with milk and sugar, and a good India Pale Ale.
Current power anthem?
“Unfinished Songs,” by Celine Dion.
What would you eat for your very last meal?
Steak and lobster with some very expensive red wine.
What’s something most don’t know about you?
Most people think I have an art background or went to school for art. Not even close.
Tell us about your hustle.
I have a small business doing something called graphic recording and graphic facilitation. I go to meetings, conferences and events of all kinds, and draw pictures live and on the spot to summarize the main points of what’s being discussed, using markers and big paper (that’s the recording part.) After the meeting is over, I follow up with the organizers and participants by sending them the visuals generated by the group to help them stay engaged with their goals (that’s the facilitation part.) My role is to use my deepest listening to immortalize conversations in the form of light-hearted, visual graphics that essentially “meme” the nuggets of wisdom that come from people’s folklore and experiences.
What does your typical workday look like?
If I’m working a big gig—a conference, a national convening, etc.—I’m up at 5:30 a.m. and getting in the game for what could be a seven- to eight-hour day of panels, presentations, breakout sessions, keynote addresses, policy updates, interviews, etc., during which I will be on my feet, listening and real-time scribing the highlights of each segment. Sometimes I have to move around a lot throughout the day, but it’s so much fun and goes by fast. For the times in-between big jobs, I’m working on the booking, the billing, the coordinating and working on various illustration projects. I spend a ton of time writing and drawing personalized mail (real mail, not email) to send to clients, potential clients and anyone I’ve recently met or had the chance to connect with.
What inspired InkyBrittany?
Before starting my business, I worked for the Citizen Advocacy office in a rural community and learned that the use of visual pictures and symbols in planning meetings has played a big role in Georgia’s history. [The art was used to help] move people with disabilities—who had once been segregated in institutions—into homes in the community. When I did decide to transition from “side hustle” to full time with InkyBrittany, I didn’t move away from the work of disability advocacy and inclusion at all—now I am just playing a different role. A huge chunk of my work is facilitating planning and visioning sessions with self-advocates, their families and allies, mapping out futures that include real homes, real jobs, real friends and the support it will take to ge those things. The most important piece of the vision was seeing that I didn’t have to sacrifice or choose between citizen advocacy and graphic facilitation. When I combined them, the work was elevated.
What is your relationship like with your clients?
I send a lot of physical mail to people, which is not as common these days. My clients respond really well (and feel like they’ve been heard) when they open up mail from me they’re not expecting, and it’s a cartoon picture I’ve drawn that’s a little flashback of a conversation we’ve had or something they’ve said recently. Some of my clients have become close personal friends, mentors and connectors. When we’re at the beginning of talking about a conference, meeting or project, I want to know the goals of the meeting, and how the graphics will be used. I need to know the agenda and background information about any speakers or organizations which are going to be featured or represented. Things like that will help me prepare and feel confident before the meeting starts.
How do you stay focused and prioritize the most important pieces of information in each meeting while also maintaining a dynamic aesthetic in your work?
All I can say is, it’s a very complex set of skills being used. The listening I do while graphic recording is almost like being in a trance-like state. I imagine it’s similar to what interpreters experience. I also jot down tons of scratch notes on the side, and wait for the right moment to synthesize the information with an image.
As someone whose career heavily involves listening, what do you think makes for a great listener?
Being able to remain focused on what the speaker is saying without jumping ahead to formulate one’s own response or letting other thoughts drift in; paying attention to body language and nonverbal communication; after hearing someone speak for five to 10 minutes, saying to yourself, What were the two or three main points the speaker just made?
How have your past professional and academic experiences prepared you for the work you do today?
In college I was really focused on interdisciplinary studies and the ability to look at a complex situation from a variety of angles. Some people have really highly specialized knowledge about one thing, but I came away with a web of critical thinking and a way of asking provocative questions. I think it prepared me perfectly, because now I work across so many industries.
What’s been your biggest career milestone?
Being on the 2017 Georgia Trend 40 Under 40 List. People who appear on that list typically come from a strong business background and are recognized as contributing and innovating in the field of economics and politics. It was cool to feel relevant to that and see the value of graphic recording being appreciated beyond the nonprofit and community work I’ve been involved with.
How has being a woman affected your professional experience?
It took a while to get comfortable being assertive, straightforward and matter-of-fact about the money. (Both about how much my services are worth and getting people to pay me on time.) Listen to women’s experiences, even when it makes you uncomfortable, and pay them no less than what their talents and labor are worth.
What’s the gender ratio like in your industry? Do you see it evolving?
Graphic recording and facilitation is, by nature, a tool that democratizes process and promotes horizontal (rather than top-down) organizational structures. I really don’t have any numbers or data on this, but my gut feeling is that there are roughly the same amount of men and women in the profession.
What are some common misconceptions about your job?
From time to time, someone will tag me or forward a message because their friend is looking to hire a caricature artist. Or just the word “artist,” in general. Yes, I can draw, but what I’m doing is so much more about listening and communication than about art.
What is one of the biggest obstacles you’ve faced in your work?
A lot of visual practitioners are using incredible technology, software, apps and whatnot to create their graphics. I was feeling pretty insecure and [wondering if I would] be able to stay competitive if I didn’t embrace that medium. Then I realized I’m INKYBrittany, and I love the craft of ink and paper being able to powerfully engage and energize people when they see their own thoughts and words come to life right in front of them. (I do have every intention of eventually getting hooked up with a tablet or some great apps to take it to the next level, but the lesson, for now, is that instead of being insecure about something, I learned to lean into it.)
Are you involved with any other careers, side projects or organizations?
I am on the board of Chatham-Savannah Citizen Advocacy and chair the board development committee.
Who are some women in your field that you look to for inspiration?
Beth Mount is a mentor of mine and one of the originators of a concept called person-centered planning, which uses asset-based thinking to plan and organize bright futures for people with disabilities. Brandy Agerbeck is one of the best and most sought-after graphic facilitators in literally the world. I have learned so much from her books and videos. Her website has an amazing FAQ section about graphic recording & facilitation that is very informative.
Career and/or life advice for other babes?
Maya Angelou said it best: “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
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