First there was nothing, then it went bang.
Or so they told us in lectures. A degree in physics, I discovered, is a study of ignorance. Whether there is a bang, when nobody exists to hear one, is a question that, like a tree falling in a forest, is probably best being ignored.
My story, the one of how this Yorkshire lass became a doodle artist, starts 13.7 billon years later.
Born, schooled, lectured, graduated… and then…
I drove to Naples for pizza.
Just in time really, because nowadays I’m lactose intolerant and a diet heavy on the mozzarella requires enzyme supplementation.
I knew I needed to escape the tedium of academia (sorry guys) and do something creative. I was, like many other graduates, feeling lost and trapped (by imaginary walls). The physics department careers advisor was very patient but couldn’t tell me what to do. He could only suggest some options that other young physicists in my situation had taken.
And to me, all those London banks hanging around outside my lecture halls, with their glossy signs, free t-shirts and bribes of chocolate, looked like they were smiling too hard.
Which is how I ended up in marketing.
I began working in a very small team, in a small business. Since there were few of us, if anything needed doing, someone had to learn how. Someone needed to work out what all the data meant, so I started playing games with analytics. The degree convinced my peers I knew my numbers. The best writer in the team left, and so I began to write lots. The graphics designer went on holiday, so I got creative with the adverts.
And I was doodling. Because that’s how I learn.
And doodling for the Comité Européen de Normalisation (CEN) Technical Committee 251
Meanwhile, I drew a pretty doodle to explain a few healthcare standards. The problem was that these super important standards that keep your electronic records working right felt a bit… cardboard.
I illustrated a little story, about my Nanna (bless her neatly ironed socks), and about her healthcare needs and how the existence of these standards was going to help make sure that Nanna was getting the right care.
Which someone suggested, might look good as a whiteboard animation.
So, guess what happened next.
Following the white rabbit to… Adventures in Wonderland Whiteboard Animation.
My investigations led me to a program called VideoScribe that manipulates my drawings into a video that looks like someone is actively drawing. You can even add a sound track and by just replacing the audio file with a translated recording, the video can be in any language.
And so, Nanna made her video debut, albeit as a doodle in a whiteboard animation about healthcare standards.
And the standards team were rather nice about her.
On behalf of CEN/TC 251 ‘Health informatics’ we would like to thank you for your work providing the animation film for the three European standards.
It has been perceived as a big success – showing the value of the standards in and outside Europe as the animation was also showed during the last ISO meetings in Sydney.
Also, the need to translate the animation into other languages shows the value for further use.
Shirin Golyardi, Secretary of CEN/TC 251
Making me a doodle artist (or graphics designer, or video animator…)
Meanwhile, in my marketing career, I was becoming disillusioned. Rearranging AdWords adverts is about as tedious as mathematically modelling solar flares. So I packed up my car with my books and my doodles and moved back up North.
Having doodled my way through a physics degree, sketched my way across Europe, drawn out detailed marketing theories and animated some healthcare standards known by their codes rather than names, it came to my attention that maybe I should stop wondering about what I could be, and be what I clearly am.
Someone who doodles.
But as little as my figures are, they need to pull their weight in the world.
His chest is as thin as my pencil lead, but it hides a huge heart.
For people to connect with any message they need to understand it, and that means empathy. Maybe it’s bold to say that you can look at an empty-headed stick-figure and feel they harbour feelings, but I don’t think so.
Sometimes when I scribble the six lines that make up a stick figure they are more precise about how I’m feeling than six-hundred words. Which is why I believe doodles are underrated. In marketing and business, as well as the rest of life, communication and connection (empathy) is everything.
The nomadic wanderings.
And travel, where you live as other people live and become immersed in their culture, is a fast-track to seeing people as imperfect, wonderful individuals with more in common than we’re usually comfortable believing.
Some of the best advice I got on doodling was whilst cleaning a Frenchman’s plough.
Inevitably, this website is more than just a company. It’s the outpouring of an analytical mind on an adventure – for whilst Happenence (and my heart) is based in Yorkshire, I’m the sort of person who likes to drive across the Alps for pizza.
My semi-nomadic life is a balancing game. A planning challenge. A delightful, inspiring freedom.
Peering behind the scenes.
When I can, I keep up a practice of life-drawing. Proper art – naked models and fruit bowls – keeps my painting muscles supple. So perhaps the label that best fits me is artist. But I am, first and foremost, someone who loves learning.
Therefore, what you’ll find, when you start clicking your way through these pages, is a substantial volume of thoughts and observations, made about living, painting, writing, philosophy, history, psychology and anything else I’m learning.
Pop the kettle on, help yourself to the biscuits and settle in.
Catherine Oughtibridge – Doodle Artist.