Craighton will also be running a Visual Thinking 101 workshop on Wednesday August 29th at General Assembly, the start-up community/coworking/education network focused on entrepreneurship in technology and design. If you're curious about how visual thinking might help you to better generate, communicate, and shape ideas—especially in collaborative environments—this workshop will be a great primer to philosophy and techniques. The class will cover the building blocks of visual thinking, basic rapid viz training, sketchnotes, and experience storyboarding. Drawing skills not required at all—just a willingness to use drawing to explore ideas.
Also keep an eye out this Fall for the return of regular posts in the Core77 Sketchnotes channel, with articles on digital sketchnotes, brainstorming, storyboarding, graphic facilitation, and book reviews of recent books on sketchnotes and visual thinking at large. In the meantime, keep the pens moving and the ink flowing.
This past Monday evening, on an unseasonably warm night in Chicago, sustainability expert Ezio Manzini gave a thought-provoking lecture at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Mr Manzini is a Professor of Industrial Design at Politecnico Milano, and is a renowned expert in the application of strategic design for sustainability. His perspectives on systems and service design relate nicely to his core message of sustainability, yielding a compelling framework for a vision of the future city. Of course, as your resident sketchnote correspondent, I was there to cover his lecture in drawing-form; the scans of which follow below:
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Since a bit of time has passed since I last wrote for the Core77 Sketchnotes Channel, let me take this time to briefly revisit the concept of sketchnotes. Simply put, sketchnotes are visual notes that are drawn in real time. These notes take advantage of the "visual thinker's" mind by pairing images, text, and diagrams to help make sense of the information being presented. As a tool for designers, they're a great way to capture information and synthesize your thoughts in real time—also great practice for the same kind of process one uses in an ideation situation.
A few weeks ago the Pritzker-prize winning Japanese architecture duo SANAA gave a lecture to a packed house at the Art Institute of Chicago. Most famous in the US for their design of the New Museum in New York City, they shared 9 additional projects from their impressive portfolio—both built and in-progress—and shared renderings, sketches, models, and construction photos from each one. Since their Wikipedia entry has more information on them then their own website, it goes without saying that they their point-of-view tends to be that of understatement. As they shared their work, it became quite apparent quickly that SANAA doesn’t so much employ a signature style, but common experiential qualities that link their projects together—qualities of light, transparency, and openness.
As part of the Core77 Sketchnotes Channel, I’m presenting my personal sketchnotes from the lecture to briefly analyze how I approached making them. Since the lecture was primarily visual, I spent the majority of my time soaking in the projected photos and chose not to bury my head in my book. How often do you get to experience architectural photos on a 60 foot wide projection screen? Since I decided to work this way, the notes I captured tended to try to create iconic representations of each building, capture the basic information, and any notable details or interesting quotes. In the age of Google Images, its much more important to me that these sketchnotes can cover what was presented at a high level to job my memory, than to capture each image as a sketch.
Maybe you're not much of a sketcher but you take a lot of notes, and are interested in making them more meaningful and interesting, but you're afraid your drawings are too crude. For you, it's important to stress that sketchnotes—although they are inherently a visual medium—do not require drawing ability of any kind. Essentially they're about transforming ideas into visual communication; structuring thoughts and giving hierarchy to concepts can be completed with strictly text and a few lines.
Maybe you're perpetually drawing and want to try and make your notes more useful and engaging but you are afraid of imposing structure to your normally freeform way of sketching. For you it's important to consider that sketchnotes can be as linear or abstract as your personality (or the presentation) dictates. Some content is best sketchnoted by listening closely and attempting to accurately synthesize and structure the thoughts. Usually these presentations have a very logical progression that may already be based in some sort of structure, so they lend them selves nicely to this style of sketchnoting. More narrative-based storytelling may be best sketchnoted by casually doodling along with the content and letting the content inspire your visuals. Story-based presentations may be best represented by capturing the overall experiences through quotes and illustrations of the anecdotes, and not necessarily imposing rigid structure.
In the end, it's up to you. As I mentioned in my previous article, sketchnoting is equal parts public, personal, and practice—so it's more fruitful to explore a new style and challenge yourself to record ideas in new ways, than to worry about the end result's overall effectiveness or aesthetic. Sketchbooks should be sketchy.
So let's get tactical. How should you go about approaching sketchnotes? What do you need to get started?
First you need the right tools for the job. And by "right tools" I mean, "any sketchbook and pen combination that makes you happy." Preferences for media and marking-tool probably span back to the days of the caveman; there's no right answers.