Yes: you can draw

I was talking to some work colleagues the other day. They were complementing me on my work-sketchnotes. I'm currently seconded to a web project for most of this year. When I started the project, I decided that a) I would dedicate one notebook to all my analogue notes so I knew where they all were and b) I'd make them sketchnotes.

Sketchnotes, if you don't know, is a style of taking notes that incorporates text, drawings, icons and visual hierarchy to capture information and make it easier to relate to at a later date, while trying for visual attractiveness too.

Nearly everyone can sketchnote, if they want to.

The most often used comment to why people don't or won't try to sketch their notes is that people believe they can't draw. This is an excuse I've never been able to hurdle. My counter-argument that:

  • if you can hold a pen/digital stylus, and have some paper/tablet; you can sketchnote.
  • If you can draw a square, a circle, the alphabet; you can sketchnote.
  • If you can take typical notes in a lecture, or when you brainstorm, or in a meeting; you can sketchnote. 

To which nearly everyone then says "Oh no, I really can't sketchnotes. I can't *draw*!"

At a talk I listened to many years ago - and sketchnoted, actually - from Scott McCloud who gave talk at Webstock 2011 entitled "Visual Communication: writing with pictures". He challenged those who protested their abilities to draw an elephant. He said, sit down, draw an elephant. When you're done, get up and show your drawing to another person and if they say "That's a terrible elephant!" then you have succeeded. You drew an elephant and someone recognised that as an elephant. The quality of the drawing is irrelevant.

Or irrel-aphant.

 Visual Communication (2011) by Scott McCloud 

Visual Communication (2011) by Scott McCloud 

There are some hints and tips and pre-loaded skills that can make sketchnoting easier, such as learning a few decorative alphabet styles; simple icons to represent commonly used words; thinking about how to layout information; listening out for typical talk structures such as when a speaker says "There are three ways to do [whatever]" and prepare for that.

I thought maybe I'd collate a few examples of these pre-loaded skills so if you'd like to start bringing visual note-taking into your life, we can make it as painless and enjoyable as possible.

What do you think? Good idea?

Sketchnote flip-thru