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Visuals speak in the days of COVID-19

Everyone is talking about COVID-19. The disruption to the normal days is huge. Some people are understandably concerned about elderly or vulnerable relatives. Many entrepreneurs are worried about the financial consequences. Multiple work contracts are being cancelled at an alarming rate. The security of being fully booked over the next months has suddenly been replaced by great uncertainty about the future.

Some are looking on the positive side. They hope it might be a time of healing for the earth as there are less flight emissions and less air pollution from factories. Some even see it as an additional occasion to spend with the family, a moment for self-learning, for re-evaluation and even, an opportunity for the elusive, but much needed rest.

For me it brought multiple sides. Being an introvert and an entrepreneur who works mostly from home, the effect was subtle, almost difficult to describe. My small entrepreneur endeavour just turned a year old when the pandemic started. I was ready to apply what I learned over the past year and I was certain that this year will be better. My small business was being established. I had a line-up of work. And after all, Wuhan is far away from Helsinki.

By March, the borders were closed. Since most of my work involves travelling and the gathering of people, I knew that most of my work are cancelled. Any possibility of future work is now unforeseen. The present reality became overwhelming. I had to find the best way to manoeuvre in this new situation. However, as a visual practitioner, I know visuals have no borders. Visuals are not confined to the four corners of my flat. Visuals have spoken words. With these in mind, I created letterings with messages of hope. I drew fun illustrations to get to the lighter side of the pandemic. I made illustrations to portrait the heroism of the front-liners. I even drew hands to remind people of personal hygiene! Drawing each day gave me the peace and stability I needed. My illustrations gave me a way to communicate to the world.

Then I was asked to draw illustrations for COVID-19 prevention materials. Many resources are already published by international organisations but illustrations that will speak to the local context are needed to reach out to people who belong to the lesser known languages. These illustrations are now being used by different organisations as they produced COVID-19 materials for local languages.

In a very unexpectedly way, visual creation became my small contributions in times like this. Visuals speak in the days of COVID-19.

As a visual practitioner, what is your unique contribution in this time of crisis? How can your visuals reach out to others?

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Visuals as a form of communication?

Do you allow yourself to use visuals as a form of communication?

— Malte von Tiesenhausen.

Many years ago, people were saying that handwriting is going to die soon. And I really believed it as I’ve noticed how my beautiful cursive handwriting was turning into full capital letters. I used to love composing handwritten letters on beautiful papers, then mailing them to the rest of the world. Then I stopped all together. Gone were the days of waiting for the postman, of smelling the scented stationeries, of admiring the stamps on the envelopes. Taking notes was all made on the computer too. Mind you, I can take notes verbatim on my computer. I can’t even recall having a notebook until I feel in love with a stationery covered in red leather that I saw in one shop in Bangkok. The year was 2011 and I knew I was back on. I started writing by hand again. I felt liberated. I felt I was on the right path. But, I was not there yet. At that time, I didn’t even know I was going somewhere.

Then slowly, my lined notebooks were replaced with sketchbooks. Instead of endless linear text, I was arranging my notes in different ways. Illustrations too became part of my note-taking. I went on visualising my thoughts and my ideas. I also started visualising recipes and my travel adventures. Then visualising spilled over to my role as a facilitator. Agendas and processes were presented in visuals. I visualised documents, organisational communication processes, talks, reflections and many different kinds of information, including CVs and self introductions. Communicating in a creative way through the process of arranging information visually has awaken my creativity. I was better at expressing myself. It was also very engaging. People responded to my visuals better than if I’ve written only in text. Workshop participants become more participative and inspired to be creative themselves. For most part, I don’t use my computer when I facilitate. I even stop using powerpoint.

Furthermore, my love for anything handwritten and hand drawn returned. I love illustrating cards and mailing them. My heart jumps for joy when I receive hand drawn pictures. I love composing handwritten notes. I would even love to send you one!

Where are you in your visual journey? Are you staying no to the death of handwriting?

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About EV

Hi, I’m Elaine Vitikainen. I’m a Visual Practitioner based in Helsinki. What I do:

  • Creative facilitation that incorporates the practical and effective use of visuals
  • Support communication processes by placing organisational communication into visual context.
  • Illustrate for the International Development field
  • Create surface Pattern design for placement prints and repeat patterns.

My background is in Linguistics, Communication and International Development. I have a Masters degree in Communication for Development from Malmö University, Sweden and a certificate in Applied Linguistics specialised in Multi-lingual Education from Dallas International University, USA. I have over 15 years experience in organisational development and leadership based in Cambodia and Laos, and have provided consultancy support in strengthening organisations across Asia which includes countries such as Cambodia, Philippines, Indonesia, Nepal, Malaysia, Thailand, Myanmar, Pakistan, Bangladesh and India.

I created this website to give you an idea of what EV Visuals does in the world of visualisation. In short, what is visualisation, what can visuals do, what are the different types of visuals and how can we be more visual people. There are links to some of my visual works too! This website is also a revamp of the EV Facilitation and Visuals website as told here.

So wherever you are in your visual journey, welcome to my website. Let’s continue to inspire each other!