Activity: Pass-Around Collaborative Drawing

Our Data Mural process requires us to helps group create a collaborative visual design to tell their data-driven story.  Unfortunately, most people are too nervous about their ability to engage in drawing out a story.  This activity creates a structured format that puts helpful constraints around how much drawing each person does.  It can also be hard to build shared ownership of a visual design.  Focusing on the “we” rather than the “me” not only builds group cohesion, but also leads to more engagement in the design process. This activity helps create a sense of freedom in developing visuals, overcoming the feelings that “I can’t draw”. In addition, it builds a strong feeling of collaboration towards a shared ownership of a visual design.  It also builds the ability to translate concepts into images.

What you need:

  • an existing data-driven story (preferably created from data by this group)
  • plain paper and lots of pens of different colors

How you do it:

Introduce the existing data story.  Then sit the participants in a circle around a table, giving each a paper and pen (try to get as many unique colors as you can).  Ask them all to start drawing the story, in silence. Remind them that stick figure are fine.

After exactly one minute, interrupt them all and ask them to stop drawing and pass the paper to the person to their right.  No talking is allowed!  Now each person has to look at the paper in front of them and try to figure out what the person’s intent was.  They can add whatever they want to the drawing, but can’t ask their neighbor about it.  Keep going around the circle, each time giving only one minute to draw, until the person ends up back with the paper they started with.


To close, lay out or put up all the drawings so everyone can see them.  Ask people to look for common visual themes, or specific pieces that they like.



We learned about this activity from our friend, community muralist Tova Speter.

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