What is Sketchnoting?

Sketchnote Ideabook Spread

I collaborated with Mike Rohde to produce the Sketchnote Ideabook through Kickstarter. While the people that follow him, subscribe to his mailing list, and listen to the Sketchnote Army Podcast may know what sketchnotes are or what their purpose is, I have been asked by several people through this project:

So just what exactly is "sketchnoting"?

I've created this page to provide a written summary so when someone asks, I have an easy place to direct them to. This is not meant to be an essay to explain the grand benefits of sketchnoting, nor is it supposed to convince you why you should sketchnote. That might be some post I write in the future.

I may also add to this post or change it from time to time. When I do, I'll be sure to make a note of those changes.

What is Sketchnoting?

Sketchnoting is a method of taking notes that uses a combination of words and pictures to capture ideas and information. Since many people learn and remember things better in a more visual format (as opposed to the standard method of notetaking that relies primarily on lists, words and sentences), sketchnoting can help the person taking the notes (the sketchnoter) to understand and recall the sketchnoted information better. 

Sketchnoting can be used in a variety of settings and scenarios, such as at conferences, work meetings, classes in school, and sporting events (a.k.a. one of Mike Rohde’s favorite things to sketchnote).

The pictures (or “sketches”) can take the form of basic shapes, containers, connectors, icons and symbols, illustrations, or just methods of emphasizing specific text.

Where does the term "Sketchnote" come from?

Mike Rohde coined the term prior to publishing his first book, The Sketchnote Handbook. While sketchnotes could be classified generally as a form of "visual notetaking," Mike realized that creating a specific system on how to take "visual notes" would help people to incorporate them into their lives.

Can't I just draw pictures in my notes? Why do I need a system?

Many people would not know how to use pictures effectively to capture ideas. The purpose of taking notes, generally, is to help you to process and remember information.

Because different people learn and process information differently, they require different methods of absorbing that information.

Some people can take long sections of outlined notes—just lines of notes written words—and understand the information they are recording from writing words. Other people absorb information better when they engage the artistic/creative part of their brain at the same time they are taking notes.

While I'm sure some people can learn by only drawing pictures, because sketchnoting blends "drawing pictures" with "writing words", it is more likely that you would be able to review your sketchnotes in the future and recall the information you were trying to record.

Where Can I Learn More?

The sketchnoting and visual notetaking community is pretty active on social media such as by searching for the #sketchnoting on Twitter and Instagram. You can also dive into the community over on the Sketchnote Army website.

Want a more analog approach? Here are some books that will help you get started:

The Sketchnote Handbook by Mike Rohde

The Sketchnote Workbook by Mike Rohde

The Art of Visual Notetaking by Emily Mills

The Doodle Revolution by Sunni Brown

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