Sketchnoting Thoughts

Following my re-blog of Jackie Gerstein’s compilation of Visual Note Taking resources, I took some time today to do a little in-depth exploration of some of the concepts and thought-leaders in that area. Having previously seen Sunni Brown’s TEDTalk on the power of Doodling, I’m enjoying a growing fascination with these ideas.

I’m like many people who wound up taking text notes on lined paper, and years of tacit compliance with the social norms in formal education are proving difficult to re-work.  A number of the people engaged in this process note that this may well be the hardest thing for many to overcome.  One thing that does (should? might? possibly?) work to my advantage is my diploma in Graphic Design. Couple that with a love of drawing and sketching, and I might have the foundation for a (personal) informational revolution.Sometimes I am a “trial by fire” learner, but I made a notable exception in this case and took the time to really absorb what the experts were saying.  I was struck by a couple of things as I listened to a couple of presentations and realized that I hadn’t considered them before.

First, was the concept of “icons”.  In the video demonstration below, Rebekah Olsen emphasized the concept of some consistent markers or indicators of different types of information.  From a visual literacy standpoint, that’s an excellent idea, and one – frankly – I’m surprised I hadn’t considered before.  The video below explains it very well.

Second, was the relationship to mind-mapping.  For any note to make “sense” down the road, its probably worth thinking about the elements of connectivity and relationships.  Brown describes doodling as an activity ideal when information density is high, so being able to “connect the dots” on the things you record will help add meaning to the evolving notes.

Third, don’t judge.  This is more about self-judgement than anything else.  All the resources I have seen thus far emphasize that this is a skill that needs deliberate practice and time to develop.  On a personal note, I’d almost add “critical reflection” in there as well, but I think the “critical” aspect is more about reviewing the overall impact of your notes rather than a critique on your ability to draw stick figures or other key shapes.

My own take is driven by the thought above, and that is about active experimentation and some heuristics.  Maybe try some visual note-taking techniques while watching a TED video or a documentary or something where you know the risk of missing key information is low.  This potentially gives you a “safe-fail” option for honing skills and refining the overall approach.  And when you find yourself in moments of doubt, or frustration, see point number 3.

Happy Doodling!

See Also

Time Science article on Doodling:,8599,1882127,00.html

SketchNote Army

About Mark L. Sheppard

learning geek, lifelong learner, terminally curious, recovering blogger and Ed Tech explorer.

Posted on September 6, 2012, in commentary, Doodle, ideas, Information Mapping, Innovation, learning, personal development, Sketchnote and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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