Sketch Noting: Getting Started


(Heather) #1

There’s been some awesome sketch notes shared recently on Twitter from @marianneduijst, @del.dewar1 and @hewhomustnotbenamed to name a few. I first became aware of sketch noting when I saw some notes from @stephen.mounsey at a TestBash I was at.

I’ve always struggled with an effective way to take notes from conferences and workshops. I’m wondering if sketch noting is the way forward. I’m quite a visual learner, I remember things better when there’s pictures or demonstration to help me.

I saw this blog post earlier which looks like a cool way to get started

Are any of you sketch noters? How did you get started? Do you have to be artistic to get started?


(Viv) #2

I actually got started also inspired by @stephen.mounsey (who has sketchnoted for me at the last 3 SwanseaCon events which I organise) as well as a TedX talk which showed the power of sketch noting.

Visual things are a lot easier to remember, make meeting notes easier to read and digest… I’m only just getting started but trying to sketch note at any meeting/meetup/conference that I can.

Just from some basic shapes you can make some great visual notes, you don’t need to be fantastic at drawing - any body can make great sketch notes.!


(Christine) #3

Personally, I’ve found trying to sketchnote something that’s very new to me is too difficult at this time. I need more energy to process it all and I can’t focus as much on the drawing. Has anyone else found that to be true?

I am definitely not an artist and I recently drew all my slides for a presentation! Not quite the same as sketchnotes but what I found helpful was having a stack of blank paper and only drawing in marker (or pen, or something you can’t erase). It helped me get over the fear of the blank page and making a ‘mistake’. I made the decision to draw something, I picked up the marker, and I started. I didn’t show anyone, I just drew. Eventually I made the slides and the map for the talk. :slight_smile:


(Heather) #4

You’ve hit the nail on the head there for me! I used to sketch a lot as a child and in my teenage years. Adult me looks back at them and says “You couldn’t do that”. I think back then I had less fear of making a mistake. If I made a mistake I embraced it and somehow worked it in to what I was drawing.

I need to have less fear!


(Christine) #5

@heather_reid I know, right? Why are we so afraid to pick up some markers or crayons and draw?
This has been on my mind to try for a while but you and the others in this thread have 100% inspired me <3

The talks from Manchester are out and I am going to pick one and sketchnote it! I’ll report back with my results so people can see what a first attempt looks like. Maybe that will help others try in future.

edit: I have not forgotten about this. #soon ™ <3


(Heather) #6

Yes! That would be awesome :heart: I think I might even pick up my sketch pad tonight and just draw to get back into the feel of it again.


(Rosie) #7

I enjoyed this book on the topic - The Sketchnote Handbook - https://www.amazon.co.uk/Sketchnote-Handbook-illustrated-visual-taking/dp/0321857895


(Marianne) #8

For me, there are a couple of things that really help getting over the fear of the blank page and that got me started.

  • Use materials that I like and enjoy (a A5 book with blank pages, fineliners 0,4 in various colours, a grey marker - not essential, as I got it after Manchester, but it still makes me smile to have it now). Note: no pencil, no eraser, no typex or anything that would let me fix a mistake. Mistakes are part of the process.

  • Set up constraints for myself
    I allow myself about 3 min before the talk starts to write down the title, speaker, speaker’s twitter handle, etc. This immediately breaks the emptyness of the page, with something safe.

I’m only allowed to use ONE page for the entire sketchnote. However, I’m allowed unlimited scribble pages if I want to quickly note something important during the talk and I’m not at that point yet in my sketchnote. I usually only use two scribble pages, and throw them out after. Their only purpose is for me to quickly note down some important points to write down slowly in my sketchnote later when I get to it. For the sketchnote, I can focus on writing slowly and legibly, rather than trying to capture everything everything

I am only allowed to use the time that the talk lasts, including Q&A (and a max of about 2 min to finish up the last things before I post it on twitter). I only broke this rule 3 times, all at the very end of the conference and when the talk hit me hard emotionally. Still, I broke it by adding about 15 min at the end before I was happy enough with the sketchnote. This time constraint is a very effective method to battle my perfectionism that would otherwise paralyze me.

I allow myself the first few minutes of a talk to acclimatize. The first few minutes are scribble notes only, until I get a bit of sense how I want to set up the note. This phase can last a max of 5 min (intro time) till I either start purposefully or randomly.

My sketchnotes are for me primarily. And I’m a text based gal. So, I ignore all the talk that sketchnotes have to include sketches and drawings. I’ll add visuals to illustrate or when it feels good, but for me they are secondary to the text. I write what I want to remember from the talk: content, story flow and memorable quotes.

There is usually plenty of time within the talk to write slowly: during longer examples or less relevant points. I take this time to structure and to look over my scribbles if there is something important I wanted to add.

Mostly, I enjoy the high focus that sketchnoting requires. It really allows me to focus on the talks and try to gather what I want to remember from a talk. (Even if I don’t personally enjoy a talk much, I still enjoy making the sketchnotes. So, it’s a different focus from: I’m not enjoying this to let’s try to capture well all the same).

Sharing my sketchnotes has been rewarding with a lot of people responding and finding them valuable. None of the sketchnotes are perfect. They usually contain spelling errors or could have been structured better if I knew the whole talk up front. Yet, it is their imperfections that make them dear to me. It is what I could do within that period of time, how I felt, what associations I made and what I chose to remember while I was seated there listening.


(Ronald) #9

I switched jobs (developer to tester) recently and while doing that I tried to find some advise online. One of the things I stumbled upon was to get better at taking notes in meetings. I already knew about the Cornell method (see the video further on in this message), but wanted my notes to be more ‘scannable’ when reading them back. I guess I’m also used to text-heavy notes, as @marianneduijst pointed out. Sketch noting can make things very readable.

After some searches on google I stumbled upon this video, which totally triggered me to get started on sketchnoting and combining that idea with the cornell method.

It takes quite some practice, but it’s a lot of fun to practice. I even bought myself a whiteboard to be able to do more sketching at home. Really helps to make things visible when brainstorming, so having a whiteboard around is awesome.