Doodling could change your firm

Doodling could change your firm

In an interview with Natalia Talkowska, Leanna Reeves discovers how visuals can build trust and engagement within working professionals at accounting firms.

Doodling could change your firm

Growing up in Poland, Natalia Talkowska was always fascinated by arts, creating doodles and comics for hours and hours. When talking about her childhood, the young entrepreneur says: “My mom always said, ‘give her a piece of paper and a pen and she’s happy.’ When I was a kid, I was drawing for my own sake, not just portraits or doodles, I created my own comics. I was just all over the place.” After finishing school, Natalia joined the Music School in Glogow, southwestern Poland, where she played violin and piano, and later joined the Wroclaw University and Teacher Training College in 2005.

Four years later, she graduated from the University of Westminster, with an MA in Bilingual Translation studies (English-Polish). Having focused on language skills for most of her time at university, Natalia believes she developed a visual way of thinking: “It helped my brain develop this kind of fast thinking interpretation mode in connection with my visual skills and created a strange marriage.”

A growing start-up

When Natalia started thinking about her business idea, she realised she wanted to make her art useful – something companies could employ when they needed support. Having always been fascinated by human psychology and interactions, and what makes humans behave the way they do, the Polish entrepreneur fused both ideas together and found a focus for her business: helping companies express ideas and engage with their audience using visual storytelling.

Having stayed in London after her studies, Natalia saw in the British capital an opportunity to start a business. For a while, the entrepreneur saved money and relied on projects to help her start-up grow: “I found a developer to make a website, designed some cards, and went to a bank saying I wanted to set up a business. When we filled in the forms, I was asked the name of my company, and I just said: Natalka Design. It took 20 minutes.

“Slowly but surely projects started appearing, with some being free and others very badly paid – and it was like that for a while. No big investor helped me, but here I am eight years later: I have a full team that works for me and whilst I’m talking right now, we’re working with three clients.”

Transforming your workplace

Today, Natalia works with firms such as EY and Deloitte by helping them drive engagement within their workplace. She offers an insight on how to transform your workplace by bringing a human aspect to your way of working and using doodles as a perfect way of unpacking a complex story.

Natalka Design’s project at Deloitte which unpacked complex information through visual storytelling

“They have a project, and they have to pitch the idea to their client. To do so, they have a creative session with the client, and in that session, they will need to visualise an idea for them – and this is what we provide. Words are sometimes not always enough, so we look into the creative challenge, and design visuals which tell better stories.”

When talking about her work with Deloitte, she explains: “It’s a good example of how it’s more about the idea rather than the drawings and the visuals. People really wanted to listen to the other people in the firm, and not just at the senior level.

“We slapped on this huge wall a design where people could share and draw about the challenges they felt and anything else they wanted to express. We then discussed it with managers and senior management to see what people were thinking and some of the things, either good or bad, surprised them,” she comments.

“It was about finding a powerful way of expressing thoughts in the company. This felt like they were engaging. When it comes to creating stories visually rather than through surveys or slides, we see a much higher engagement from the audience.”

Building client relationship

Above all, Natalka Design worked with these big four firms to help them build a better client relationship. By talking to clients and engaging with them in this way, Natalia believes companies experience greater communication. Instead of a meeting, perhaps firms should opt for a doodle mind-map or adopt a different communication strategy to drive engagement.

When talking about visual storytelling, Natalia reckons that firms should challenge their way of communicating ideas. “How are you [firms] communicating your stories? What about your updates? Exciting news? What about the new tools that you are now using? What about the team you’re so proud to share and talk about in your case studies?”

As recent audit scandals have led to a decrease in public trust, the accountancy industry has faced a wave of criticism it has never encountered before, and whilst restoring faith in the profession has become a difficulty for many – visuals can help provide greater transparency.

Opening minds

Expanding on this thought, Natalia shares that visuals are less overwhelming than words as information is retained better through pictures rather than text. In times where firms are experiencing digital transformation, storytelling and visuals can also help open the minds of professionals in the industry.

Commenting on this, she says: “When introducing something new, such as technology for these firms, there are ways of working through this in a non-threatening, soft approach, by using visuals and stories – which brings in a human aspect.

“These things can be scary, like if the next day someone says there is a new tool that the company will be using from now on, you can be reluctant to change. But there are ways to tell these stories and introducing them to clients whilst getting everyone on board, rather than letting it come through HMRC polls.”

Whilst visuals have been proven to be beneficial for firms, using them as a mean of communication should not be considered a necessity, but rather a strategy that should be experimented with.

When advising firms on how to approach the new method, Natalia concludes: “Embrace it more, but use it where it fits and don’t fear it. Try it out, and if it doesn’t work out, it’s fine, go back to what you were doing before. See how people respond and how they enjoy it, and you’ll be surprised.”

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