Ralph Mann, Live Illustrator

Photo of Ralph Mann in meeting room posing next to Neuland LW-X GraphicWall

Having worked for over a decade as a professional artist specialising in digital live illustration, 2023’s transformation moment came for me when illustrator Andy Gray from One Gray Dot who had recently bought an LW-X GraphicWall from Inky Thinking UK wouldn’t stop raving about it!   

Simultaneously in my network of Graphic Recorders worldwide I had been reading of a renewed interest in visual sense-making and engagement in person through analogue graphic recording on paper. Post-pandemic it seems people were reasserting the importance of the human touch at conferences and training. Indeed, they were realising afresh the centrality of creativity in helping supercharge events with the spark of curiosity that creates surprise, a sense of theatre, builds expectation and brings engagement. 

This convergence of what I was reading and the products to deliver it proved particularly timely as in 2023 I also trained in the World Cafe methodology which uses ‘Appreciative Inquiry’ to focus on what is already working well within an organisation, rather than identifying and fixing problems. Interestingly this much more person-centric and collaborative approach places graphic recording at the core of its process, thereby providing more direct situations where my Graphic Wall and Neuland Markers were essential for enabling me to depict and capture the visual harvesting of this process.

In 2023, I was able to develop my business services further by returning to analogue drawing as well as continuing with digital live illustration. Generously my connection Andy Gray loaned me his boards and Neuland Markers so I got the opportunity to apply this approach with a long-term client of mine. 

The value of this approach was further cemented in my mind when my client fed back: 

“…what a difference having illustrations on a board with pens and paper makes! 

This was very much part of the whole event, pulling in attendees’ interest through Ralph's style and approach. In an industry so driven by digital tech it’s hard to beat the human touch!”

This impact, combined with the number of photos that people took on their phones of my work on paper to share online convinced me that I needed to invest further in analogue graphic recording materials. So, I purchased a LW-X Graphic Wall from Inky Thinking along with all the accessories.


Since then, I have particularly appreciated how when working on paper the LW-X Graphic Wall provides all the space I need to create an impactful evolving visual over a day-long event. 

A three metre board naturally attracts attention and is quite the statement piece in any conference venue. Its value is also that it truly reflects the dialogue and creativity you’ve captured in your graphic back into the room. Your clients therefore really see the bigger picture. This in turn actively facilitates powerful visual sense-making, detailing client insights in a tangible, fun and memorable way that provides a lasting journey map for clients.


Specifically, versatility and adaptability also really set the LW-X Graphic Wall apart from other comparative products. It is ultra-lightweight and crucially can be set up to provide the correct ergonomic drawing angle for you, an essential feature for enabling your smooth and consistent visual capture and representation, vital when you are busy applying the superpower of real-time visual translation, left brain to right brain, and back again and onto the paper!

The great range of Neuland marker pens that Inky Thinking stock are also a must-have accompanying product, essential for achieving the range of bold and nuanced tones you really need to map and visualise client days successfully. Their superb palette really injects bright and bold colour from your paper into the room.  This is a key element in visually catching people’s attention and is a crucial part of enabling creative thinking and a change mindset to flourish. 


The quality of paper Inky Thinking stock specifically for the LW-X Graphic Wall and a host of other wall systems and charts also guarantees the perfect working surface with the correct paper weight to hold the pen marks, enabling free flowing drawing without any bleeding or smudging, providing peace of mind and boosting confidence for you as the graphic recorder.

A creative paper roll also provides a great client takeaway from graphic recording for subsequent in-house display and reference to continue to drive change post-event. Clients in multi-day events regularly use the previous day’s artwork displayed on the venue walls to provide an effective recap and reference point for attendees to reiterate what they have covered so far, with speakers directly referencing them and the artwork continuing to add colour and creativity and inspiration into the space.

I wonder if you noticed your clients’ requirements, goals, priorities and vision changing more than ever in 2023? Was this a mirroring of our world becoming increasingly defined by greater volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity? 

And if so, how can you effectively address that? 

I would encourage you that as you look ahead into the new business quarter considering the quality of tools and products you use will help you stay on top of your creative game, being able successfully to pivot and adapt to draw the big picture. This could be the secret ingredient that will help you bring that human touch and emotional intelligence to your work which opens hearts and moves minds, bringing transformation in the workplace. This will truly serve the clients you work for. 

Ralph Mann is the owner of Purple Heron Communications specialising in visual communication. Ralph provides Live illustration, Graphic Recording and Facilitation, and Digital Artworks to bring your world to life. 

Ralph's work is more than drawing. He is a creative problem solver, visual thinker and storyteller whose art and facilitation work is underpinned by deep listening skills and emotional intelligence. This is informed by a detailed understanding of the language of signs and symbols and the meanings of art (degrees in Art History) and learning styles (PGCE Art and Design) and practical creative skills from Art School and coming from a family with a long lineage of artists.

He is something of a social entrepreneur and remains committed to giving back. He also founded and set up the charity Prodigal Arts bringing transformation through art; mentoring offenders and ex-offenders to find not only a new creativity, but a new life.

See www.purpleheron.co.uk or reach out https://www.linkedin.com/in/ralphmann1/

Pictures: From Ralph Graphic Recording during a three day conference in London with international expert Paul Tolchinsky sharing his deep experience and insights about Whole-Scale Design and change with Tricordant, The Organisation Consultantancy. 

Flourish Café ‘Imagining sustainable communities for a flourishing future’ in Ormskirk, in Partnership with Edge Hill University, Institute for Social Responsibility.