Also known as visual notetaking, sketchnoting is a form of visual thinking that helps you learn, problem solve and share ideas. By combining text and simple images onto a single page, you can capture and communicate concepts, ideas and experiences in a much more engaging way than plain text.
Sketchnotes tell a visual story and this is what makes them so appealing to people. And what’s more, they’re great fun to make!
When to use sketchnotes?
There’s no limit on what can be done with sketchnotes, but people commonly use them for:
Learning – capturing the key concepts from a talk, a book, article, presentation or a video. Rather than just copying out notes verbatim, sketchnotes force you to think about the key concepts and to present them on paper in your own way. This fires up the brain cells and helps you take in the knowledge, with the added bonus that your sketchnotes become great reference material to remind yourself in the future.
Sharing ideas and insights – The visual element of sketchnotes creates an engaging way to tell a story and communicate key messages. This is especially important if you’re introducing your audience to new concepts or complex situations they’re unfamiliar with, as the visuals provide something tangible for them to grasp hold of while they learn.
Solving problems – Sketchnoting makes you think and I find the act of trying to boil down a problem onto a single page, helps me to see it in a different light. Drawing out problems on a whiteboard with your team is a great way to facilitate the problem-solving process, especially with everyone pitching in to share their thoughts.
How to get started
Like all things, the best way to begin sketchnoting is to just start! Keep it small and simple to begin with. Choose a topic you want to learn about, grab a pen and some paper and start making small notes and basic drawings.
I wanted to learn more about economics and investing, so I started making visual notes to capture what I learned. You can see them here at SketchyMoney.
Many people are put off, worried that they can’t draw. However, you don’t need to be an artist to sketchnote. Simple boxes, circles, arrows and stick people are all you need to get going.
As you progress, you’ll start to build your visual vocabulary and can experiment with different layouts, colours, shading, fonts and imagery.
If you’re looking for simple inspiration to help build your visual vocabulary, I recommend sites like The Noun Project where you can enter a word and see a page of icons to use for your sketchnote.
I also recommend looking at other people’s sketchnotes and taking inspiration from their different styles and approaches.
Paper or digital?
There’s pro’s and con’s to both, and much of it comes down to personal preference. Digital sketchnoting has the obvious advantage that you can easily correct mistakes. However, my preference is paper because it is much more tangible. Also, when I spend a large proportion of my life in front of a screen, it’s nice to do an activity that doesn’t involve any screen time!