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.
Last week we kicked-off our new Sketchnotes channel (www.core77.com/sketchnotes) with "Sketchnotes 101," an overview of a new form of visual thinking. Follow along as Craighton shares his sketchnotes from Nicholas Kristof of The New York Times' keynote address at Internet Week. The journalist shares his thoughts on how the Internet and social media have led revolutions and sparked change, leaving wakes of effect around the world. You can listen to the original address on UStream or simply learn from the video! Thanks to Bastard Jazz Recordings for the soundtrack.
This post is the first in a new "sketchnotes channel" on Core77 (www.core77.com/sketchnotes) that will explore the application of visual thinking tools in the worlds of design and creative thinking.
The recent rise of the "visual thinking" movement in business borrows from the natural ways designers work—using sketches to explore and express ideas, manipulating complex systems of thoughts on sticky notes, and using rough visuals to make sense of the world. Humans are, of course, wired to be visual thinkers from birth, so it's only natural that people are attracted to these tools, and the power they have to help solve problems and explore opportunities.
In the long list of tools one could use for visual thinking, sketchnotes are one of the most exciting. Simply put, sketchnotes are visual notes that are drawn in real time. Through the use of images, text, and diagrams, these notes take advantage of the "visual thinker" mind's penchant for make sense of—and understanding—information with pictures. Often these notes come out of lectures or conferences, and have gained a lot of attention and interest in the past few years when people post scans of their sketchbooks from events like SXSW or various design conferences for the whole internet to see.
This kind of note taking has an obvious appeal for both the coverage of the event as well as the aesthetic quality of getting a peek inside someone's sketchbook—but good sketchnotes are actually much more than a set of beautiful doodles.
Sketchnoters aren't reporters, information designers, or illustrators. They're actually all three at once. This form of rapid visualization forces you to listen to the lecture, synthesize what's being expressed, and visualize a composition that captures the idea—all in real time. A musicians' "circular breathing" for the Moleskine crowd.
Larry Keeley on Design Thinking, Click to Enlarge!
In case you missed it, we sent Craighton Berman (aka fueledbycoffee, one of our Coretoon geniuses), to take note of some of the big ideas from last week's Illinois Institute of Design's Strategy Conference in Chicago. Checkout some great ideas from international executives addressing how businesses can use design to explore emerging opportunities, solve complex problems and achieve lasting strategic advantage.
Day two was dynamic with great presentations from Steelcase's Jim Hackett on designing systems, Jeanne Liedtka (UVA Darden Busines School), Ted London (University of Michigan), Navroze Godrej (Institute of Design), John Seely Brown (Deloitte Center for the Edge) and Larry Keeley (Doblin). Check out all the sketchnotes from Day 1 and don't forget to click on each image to enlarge!
We sent Craighton Berman (aka fueledbycoffee, one of our Coretoon geniuses), to take note of some of the big ideas from this week's Illinois Institute of Design's Strategy Conference in Chicago. Checkout some great ideas from international executives addressing how businesses can use design to explore emerging opportunities, solve complex problems and achieve lasting strategic advantage. Check out big ideas from Bill Moggridge—Core77 columnist and Director of Cooper-Hewitt National Design museum, Chris Meyer (Standing on the Sun), Jamshyd Godrej, Peapod Labs, Connie Yowell (Macarthur Foundation), Neeru Khosla (CK-12 Foundation), Kun-pyo Lee (LG Electronics), and Jun Cai (Tsinghua University). Click on each image to enlarge!