Sue Borchardt Bio
If you’d like to skip the bio and check out some work, head on over to Sue B’s vimeo page.

With the hypothesis that human happiness is fundamentally a learning challenge, in 2010 Sue Borchardt headed off to Harvard’s Graduate School of Education (HGSE) to learn about learning, looking through the lenses of neuroscience, biology, and phenomenology. At HGSE, Sue was captivated by social and co-constructive perspectives on the question of why, whether, and how adults continue to learn and grow. While Sue’s pre-professional life was almost exclusively focused on art, her professional life was decidedly tech in which she put her BS in Electrical Engineering to use designing and prototyping user interfaces for the first generation of color radar displays for the Navy, and later query tools and maps for the Human Genome Database.

Sue’s skills of putting sense-making into service have been honed in making of animated videos that integrate art, ideas, technology, storytelling, and user experience. Her passion for exploring the tensions between theory and practice is fueled by her work at the Learning Innovations Laboratory (LILA) where she documents the insights and puzzles that emerge as chief learning officers and other organizational learning leaders explore new research and practice.

In addition to her work with the LILA team, Sue’s collaborations with clients allow her to deepen her skills in using animation and visual narrative as a means of revealing and deepening shared knowledge. She continues to test her belief that happiness is a learning (and unlearning) challenge as she facilitates individuals, teams, and organizations in making sense of both the frustration and fulfillment of collaborative work.

So what does she DO?

As a freelance research artist, Sue creates animated shorts that capture the shared understanding that emerges when groups engage in sense-making. The animations she creates with groups fall into three categories:

Animations that make thinking visible

Sue creates four of these kinds of videos a year for the Learning Innovations Laboratory, a consortium made up of (mostly) Chief Learning Officers from corporate, non-profit, and government organizations. LILA uses animation to document the evolving understanding of a theme, for instance “Unlearning” (2013-2014) or “Flexpertise” (2014-2015).

Animations that help groups articulate a shared identity

For example, Harvard’s Project Zero started over 40 years ago as group of researchers focused on learning in and through the arts but branched out into researching all kinds of learning. They found themselves struggling to identify the common thread connecting their research and hired Sue to tackle the question What is PZ?

Animations that translate research into an accessible narrative

These animations might describe scientific research or corporate R&D projects, translating them into language that is accessible to folks outside the domain of the researchers (e.g. game-based assessments, cognitive entrenchment, organizational learning).

While Sue is a one-person shop (handling script-writing/editing, drawing, animation, scoring, and video editing) she depends on groups for the up-front collaborative sense-making that serves as the raw material. Much of her work before 2019 was done under contract and not publicly sharable, but she is happy to send links to password protected samples of this work if you drop her an email. Some samples are also available on the home page of this site.

These days she’s working on shifting to more post-transactional way of working (i.e. not your standard contract arrangement). Towards that end she has set-up a patreon account and makes all work freely available. Why? Our survival as a global society (and as a planet) depend on our continued learning and evolutionary growth. The stakes are too high to sequester knowledge and thinking behind paywalls, or to work only for groups with very deep pockets. Animation is time-consuming. I’ve found that unless I am committed to work for the greater good, I inadvertently end up working for the wealthiest institutions. So become a patron and save the world, one creative at a time.

Other facets of Sue Borchardt-ness, both past and present:

  • a software engineer (mostly graphics and rapid prototyper of user interfaces),
  • a masters student at the harvard school of Ed studying the biological mechanism of learning — mind, biology, and behavior,
  • a German Wheeler!!!!!
  • a student of biological psychology
  • a developer of interactive, web-based tutorials for organic chemistry and functional neuroanatomy
  • a research assistance at the Courtney Lab at Johns Hopkins University where Susan Courtney studies attention and working memory.
  • a sometimes worker-bee at whole foods (in supplements dept where she tried to help those struggling in an ever-changing knowledge landscape)
  • a rock climber
  • a cellist
  • a meditation teacher
  • a contemplater (which is somehow similar to a contemplative only not as serious).
  • a potter, sailer, dancer, and painter
  • a yoga teacher, writer, knitter, and experimental baker.