The Economist

Pivoting to remote graphic recording amidst COVID-19.

Back in 2018, we created stunning displays with our physical graphic recordings for The Economist’s Open Future Festival in 3 cities. Fast forward to 2020, the pandemic did not hinder us from working again with The Economist — this time, with The Economist Corporate Network, a networking forum for business leaders. Having made a quick pivot to remote graphic recording when virtual events started becoming the default, we used our digital tools to illustrate visual summaries of their webinars remotely.


Organised by The Economist, the 24-hour rolling event Open Future Festival 2018 was held in three main cities - London, Hong Kong, and New York, where the most urgent issues of today were open for discussion. Welcoming political figures, entrepreneurs, innovators, and critics who shared ideas and alternative viewpoints, it was a platform for open discussion of the most urgent issues of today.

Given this context, we found ourselves looking to extend the dialogue beyond the 24 hours and the 3 physical locations. And so, we collaborated with the organisers to graphic record the entire event.

To present a unifying look, we adopted a consistent style for all 3 canvases. To showcase the reach of the event, each location’s boards depicted iconic visual motifs - The Big Ben, the Queen, the Queen’s guard, and the red telephone booth for London; the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building and the yellow cab for New York; and junk boats amidst the city skyline for Hong Kong.

London | Modular sketch wall (3.6 m x 2.4 m)
London | Modular sketch wall (3.6 m x 2.4 m)
New York | Modular sketch wall (3.6 m x 2.4 m)
New York | Modular sketch wall (3.6 m x 2.4 m)
Hong Kong | Easel display (5.4 m x 1.2 m)
Hong Kong | Easel display (5.4 m x 1.2 m)

This simple yet thoughtful insertion of graphic recording created a dynamic space for engagement.

As the festival rolled out in Hong Kong, London, and then New York, our graphic recorders inked the information on their large canvases with witty illustrations and succinct content. During the breaks, the graphic recordings became locations of engagement for the speakers and audiences.

As the viewers captured and shared the content across their social media platforms, like the butterfly effect, new dialogue threads are created and the conversations continued well beyond the festival and into the digital space. Scroll down to see behind-the-scenes documentation!

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Despite the constraints of working from home, The Economist Corporate Network was still bustling with activities, with a slew of webinars and virtual events lined up for its network of senior-level executives. Idea Ink was invited to graphic record two of the webinars in real-time. During the Q&A segments, the audiences were surprised the illustrated summaries of the content they have just heard. The Q&A interactions were also weaved into the visual summaries, reflecting participants’ concerns.

Screenshot of our graphic recording live-streamed during Q&A
Screenshot of our graphic recording live-streamed during Q&A

With Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) increasingly tapped upon to assist the fight against COVID-19, the webinar focused on the ethical and responsible use of A.I. in various sectors. The panel gathered A.I. experts from both the public and private sectors — namely BasisAI, Infocomm Media Development Authority of Singapore (IMDA) and Personal Data Protection Commission (PDPC), Visa Consulting & Analytics, Microsoft, Twitter and The Economist Intelligence Unit.

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Artificial Intelligence - Economics & Ethics of A.I.

COVID-19 has impacted all countries hard, exacerbating existing problems and bringing about new issues. In this webinar, the attention was placed on Southeast Asia, with speakers discussing the political, economic and environmental outlook and challenges countries in the region face.

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South-east Asia in 2020: New Realities, Risks, and Responses