Now, that’s using your doodle!


By Denise Reynolds

I’ve been caught so many times doodling at work. Not just when I was at my desk suffering from writer’s block. I’d doodle in weekly team sessions, during conference calls, and sometimes in client meetings.

Some of my colleagues smiled at the odd critters and characters I’d scribble along the left margin of my notes. Others would silently express their disdain by arching their eyebrows and shaking their heads, wordlessly willing me to stop goofing off. (This was especially the case if my little cast of characters meandered across the red double-lined border of that left margin, traipsing into the notes I was taking.)

One of the great things about doodles is that they don't have to be great!

One of the great things about doodles is that they don’t have to look great!

It turns out I wasn’t goofing off; I was being inspired!

In her Ted Talk (, international speaker, author and creative consultant, Sunni Brown said this about doodling: “People who doodle when they’re exposed to verbal information retain more of that information than their non-doodling counterparts. We think doodling is something you do when you lose focus, but in reality, it is a preemptive measure to stop you from losing focus.”

“Additionally, it has a profound effect on creative problem-solving and deep information processing,” Brown explains.
As a benefits communication consultant, the doodles did more than keep me focused during meetings and conference calls. They eventually became the inspiration for the benefits and HR cartoon communication work I do today.

For more than 15 years, I’ve helped organizations of all kinds communicate human resources messages to their employees. Benefits, retirement planning, wellness, organizational change, policies – you know, all the things most employees don’t want to spend time reading. It’s often a challenge to make this information easy-to-read and understand, let alone appealing.

I became very fond of the strange turtles, large flightless birds, dogs, squirrels, bugs and tiny tornadoes that populated the yellow lined pads of paper I used every day. At one point I looked at one of the characters and thought: What if we have some fun with benefits messages?

What if cartoon characters delivered the messages about changes to a health plan, or a new safety policy, or the importance of saving in the company’s 401(k) plan?

Maybe internal communications and HR messages don’t have to be so dry!

What if I found an actual cartoonist who has artistic talent and we partner with organizations that want to do something innovative with their employee communications?

A few years have passed and my cartoonist cohorts and I are working to get those questions answered – directly from our clients.

“I found a way to reach employees in the field who are rarely seen by supervisors! Yeah!” said Mary McCahon Shaffer, Public Relations Manager at Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (RTA). Shaffer said the monthly cartoon series helps her reach bus drivers and rail operators.

Bob Chess, vice president of human resources at ACRT, Inc., has been putting cartoon mascots to work delivering messages about safety, training, wellness, and retirement planning since early 2012.

A cartoon crew of foresters help deliver safety, wellness and benefits messages to employees at ACRT, Inc.

A cartoon crew of foresters help deliver safety, wellness and benefits messages to employees at ACRT, Inc.

“The characters are an important component of our overall communication strategy,” Chess said. “We are using them to assist in communicating our total rewards statement, employee engagement survey, wellness initiatives, benefit plan and enrollment.”

Are your internal communications dry and boring? Do they make you want to doodle in the margins? Do they make your employees want to doodle in the margins?

Sometimes our doodles are just that; they’re geometric patterns, squiggles, letters, numbers, plants and animals keeping us alert to the messages we’re receiving.

But every once in a while, a doodle can be so much more. Sometimes a doodle is the message we’re receiving.

It's definitely not art, folks!

It’s definitely not art, folks!

Have a doodle you’d like to share? We’d love to see it!

Curious about how cartoon characters can be put to work at your organization? Contact us! Call Denise at 216-407-4676 or send an email to