Values have always had their place amongst the navigation tools that companies use to steer their ships. You need to know what to do, your strategy gives you this. You need to know why you are doing it – your vision, mission or purpose give you this. The key piece though, is the thing that tells you how to do it. This is where values come in. While it is not a new thing to have company values, I am seeing an increasing need to lift them into prominence and inextricably weave them through the fibres of the ship’s sails. They are no longer relegated to posters in the tearoom, they are the map by which decisions are made, the voice on the shoulder of every member of the crew, the winds that thrust ships forward. Now more than ever they are critical to a successful voyage.


Over the last few months, I have been fortunate enough to work with several great companies to help breathe life into their values through illustration. This is not just a matter of searching the internet for an iconized object to re-colour into the brand palette and stick beside each value. It is a thoughtful cartographic process.


Bringing values to life is a journey of personification that starts with an introduction. Members of the team aren’t meeting the values for the first time, but we approach the task like we are. We put aside assumptions and spend some time really getting to know each value. What does it look like, act like, smell like and feel like when observed from all sides? How does one person’s experience of it align with others?


Through this immersive conversational exercise, something magical usually starts to happen. Not only do we start to build a shared picture of the values, but we start to build a language that describes how they are connected. How they are linked to each other, to the company and to every member of the crew. This is where our illustration starts to take form and draw breath.


This process doesn’t just leave behind an artefact, it generates a shared, living story. When each member of the team can see themselves reflected in that story, they can tell it from their heart. And when a story is told from the heart it reaches and connects with others in a way that a set of descriptors alone, never will. Values come from inside us, they don’t just have a meaning in our mind, they have a deep resonating presence from our toes to our heads. It takes rich narrative to encapsulate and reflect that.


A values illustration is a great way to capture the magic of values and place the story into the hands of every team member. As your map maker I am in the fortunate position of being able to come aboard and observe your journey with fresh eyes, while also bringing with me my full cartographer’s toolkit. This is a process I will never tire of. Every time I undertake it, it teaches me something about how we as humans think, feel and move through the world.