A beginner’s guide to Sketchnoting

Learn how to create awesome visual guides that will boost your memory retention and improve communication skills.

By Emma Flynn

What is sketchnoting?

Sketchnoting is a type of visual note taking, which combines hand-written notes with sketches, doodles, lines, shapes and different typography. It lets you combine words with visuals, which as you’ll see below has a whole host of benefits.

Here’s a basic sketchnote.

Why is sketchnoting useful?

Combining words and visuals can supercharge your mind as it taps into both sides of your brain (left for words, right for visuals).

Here’s what you’ll get from sketchnoting

  1. More personalised notes, which are easier to review

Whether you’re a doodler or a wordsmith, you’ll find sketchnoting lets you play to your strengths while giving you a unique, highly useful way to take notes. Doodles alone can’t tell the whole story, likewise a stream of words can be convoluted and hard to assimilate. Sketchnoting gives you a happy medium, with just the right amount of detail. And it helps you to easily make connections between different points – just add in an arrow or two.

  1. Better memory retention, thanks to its dual processing

Sketchnoting requires both verbal and non-verbal processing. This is because input (what you hear) is different to the output (what you draw on paper). The thinking done in between the hearing and drawing activates both processes, which means you’re more likely to remember and retain the information. It also helps to improve listening skills as you’ll start to focus on the most relevant pieces of information and filter out the irrelevant.

  1. Improved communication skills that transcend language barriers

The more you sketchnote, the sharper your drawing skills will become, enabling you to better communicate complex ideas. These sketches can transcend language barriers as they aren’t reliant on verbal explanations. Instead, you’ll be able to produce visuals that are universally understood.

Starting your sketchnoting journey

Here’s some advice that Chris shared during the workshop.

  1. Ideas not art

For those who say “I can’t draw” or “I’m not an artist”, stop right there. You don’t need to be Picasso to be a brilliant sketchnoter as it isn’t the quality of the drawing that matters. You can use simple stick drawings if it gets the point across. The important thing is recording the ideas in a way that you can understand.  Just pick up a pencil, pen or whatever you draw with and give it a go. Be confident in your ability and own your lines.

  1. Create a visual dictionary

This acts as a resource of symbols and icons that you are likely to use and reuse when taking notes. When sketchnoting live, this can be especially useful. This is also a living resource which can grow as your skills develop.

  1. Practice, practice, practice

Like any other skill, sketchnoting takes practice. The more you do it, the better you’ll become. Not just at sketching, but also at listening and filtering information, and knowing how to layout your content.

  1. Focus on what is being said

When sketchnoting, don’t waste time on making the title or header awesome – you can always come back to that later, if you want. While the meeting/talk/conference etc is going on, focus on the content and getting down what the speaker is trying to convey. That way you won’t miss any important points.

These were the main elements of Chris’s workshop; I hope they’ve inspired you to take up sketchnoting. A big shoutout Chris for a great session and for highlighting the power of sketching. You can follow Chris on twitter @ChrisSpalton or see some of his work by visiting spaltonsketchnotes.tumbr.com.

Do you have any sketchnoting tips? Let us know at info@newtidea.com


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