A not-insignificant portion of my work over the years has come from close relationships nurtured through almost two decades in the trenches of HR consulting. No longer quite an insider, I often toil today behind the scenes, a "consultant to consultants," advising former colleagues on how best to communicate visually with their own clients--and, ultimately, with those clients' employees. Many of those influenced and informed by my work never know I breathe the same air. Thankfully, I don't sport a monstrous ego--life and experience whipped most youthful cockiness from me--so I'm content being anonymous but effective.
In truth, it remains something of a wonder, even to me, that I've found myself focusing on information design for more than 15 years. I didn't study graphic design in college, except for a couple of classes on page layout--all executed with paper, scissors and glue sticks. After I graduated from a public relations program, nobody hired me to create educational maps or infographics; the bulk of my early career centered around conceiving employee communication strategies, and writing--lots and lots of writing.
This experience, I believe, richly informs most every graphic I develop for a client today.
Through the years, I picked up design skills here and there--working on one of the earliest desktop publishing platforms, and creating slides using an expensive and quirky apparatus that captured photos (on film) of what was on the screen. However, any visuals I created were influenced less by my desire to create something beautiful than by the expectation the "look and feel" remain secondary to my communication consulting and writing. Strangely, as my career evolved into something quite different--where the visualization became my calling card--my background in non-design-related work became even more important.
Which brings us to the present.
The Blueprint for Sustainable Performance was borne from some very basic raw materials--(1) a brief telephone conversation, and (2) a stack comprised of disparate slide decks and copies of email strings. The consulting firm for whom I developed this "placemat" passed these over with a simple direction: "See what you can make of this."
I took their starting points, did a ton of online research, and whipped up this map. Had I not learned, on the job, about HR and employee communication practices decades ago, I doubt I'd have been able to interpret and shape the key messages. Had I not written and edited so many benefit brochures, newsletters and video scripts back in the day, I question how effectively I might balance the images with words.
My strongest designs, I believe, emerge from years of experience that had little to do with design. This intentional foundation helped lead me, over time, to this most happy accident.
P.S. Please contact me (email@example.com) to share your thoughts, pick my brain about your needs, or to ask for a full-size PDF of the blueprint. I look forward to hearing from you.
is Chief Solutions Architect for Visual Congruence's clients. A 30-year veteran of corporate communications, Brian spent much of his early career in senior leadership positions with large HR consulting firms. He founded Visual Congruence in 2003.