How To Visualize Ideas, Information & Data Using Sketchnoting

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what is sketchnotingIf you’re a student or someone who takes notes a regular basis, you may be interested in a fun and even artistic movement called Sketchnoting. Sketchnoting is like notetaking, but it includes visual notes as well as words. It’s a way of conceptualizing ideas, information, and other data on paper (or a digital tablet) beyond the traditional text medium of outlining.

Sketchnoting, or visual notetaking, is for clustering information and capturing big ideas. But if you think Sketchnoting is only for artists, it’s not. Sketchnoting is not about creating artwork per se, it’s about making notes visible and memorable with simple basic drawing skills. I’ve spent a few days learning about Sketchnoting, and I want to share with you what I’ve discovered so far.

Sketchnote Army

One of the first sites to visit and learn about Sketchnoting is Sketchnote Army, created and maintained by designers Mike Rohde and Binaebi Akah. This site displays some of the best work of skilled, professional Sketchnoters, but don’t let the power and intricacies of their sketchnotes scare you, especially if you don’t have drawing skills.

what is sketchnoting

In fact, sketchnoting is not about drawing per se, it involves using text, fonts, diagrams, bullets, and visual pictures and icons, similar to how you may use an advanced word processor (the above sketchnotes, by the way, are taken from Sketchnote Army, and was produced by Javier Sandoval, based on a lecture about infographics and data visualization).

As Mike Rohde points out in his forthcoming book, The Sketchnote Handbook, you only need to know 5 basic elements to draw ideas: circle, square, triangle, line, and dot.

sketchnoting techniques

The Graphic Recorder

Another good site to learn about Sketchnoting is the Graphic Recorder. Educator Doug Neil has written several blog posts about his graphic recording process, experiments, and learning. His site includes useful examples about developing a visual library and vocabulary, which are images and ideas you might use when doing visual notetaking.

sketchnoting techniques

His other interesting blog posts include examples of Handwritten Quotes, the One Card One Concept method, and examples of sketchnoted books he has read.

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sketchnoting techniques

A similar resource to the Graphic Recorder is VisualNotetaking.net. It features video tutorials and numerous examples sketchnoting.

Sketchnoting on the iPad

Professional sketchnoter, Linda Sauo-Rauta, has produced a short video introduction about using the iPad (or other supporting table device) for sketchnoting. Though I have more control over my handwritten notes and illustrations using good old pen and paper, using various drawing and notebook apps on the iPad provides is an awesome and cheaper way to doing sketchnotes.

With the iPad and apps such as Sketch Rolls, Bamboo Paper, Jot! Adobe Ideas, and Penultimate, you can practice, doodle, and experiment as much as you like without wasting a single sheet of paper. All these apps produce smooth “ink” and allow you to change ink colors and pen sizes.

The Adobe Ideas app works best in my view because it allows you to pinch and zoom in on the canvas to draw details, as well as add up to 10 layers for overlapping and adding images and text.

how to sketch note

Penultimate is useful for actually crating notebooks using the sketchbook method. It has the look of a Moleskine notebook, but again you’re not waisting expensive paper. You can create separate notebooks, and import images from other sources.

what is sketchnoting

Sketchnoting has become for me an early New Year’s resolution to start taking notes of books I read, lectures I attend, and just plain old brainstorming using the visual notetaking method. I can already see that taking notes this way will not only help me remember information better, but I will more likely go back and review my notes because of the way they were created.

Let us what you think of Sketchnoting. Have you tried it yet? If you have posted your work online, feel free to share a link.

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Comments (50)
  • Jim Spencer

    Now this I like guys, very nicely written piece for helping one organize! It is almost too simple to believe it could be useful.

  • Huzefa Kaizer

    Oh Wow! I am student and sure, this would really help me as I will save all my notes which i took during the class and save it in here.
    Thanks MAKEUSEOF <3

  • Synnøve Torgersen

    Wooow! This is be some crazy shit

  • Jens Brogaard

    Great article on the learning but missed the app http://www.fiftythree.com/paper Makes an amateur a pro ;)

    • Bakari Chavanu

      Oh so true, Jens. I have the 53 app on my iPad now. Love the layout. Totally love the brushes and smooth ink. But I have harder time actually writing words with this app than I do with others. Nevertheless, it’s still awesome and I plan to use it for various type of drawings and notes.

    • Jens Brogaard

      You got a good point there Bakari – that’s why I’m waiting for the pen to arrive :)

    • Bakari Chavanu

      Please let me know how the pen works out for you. I purchased a Bamboo pen that is not better than the Proof stylus pen that I paid half the price for.

  • Damon Osborne

    I remember when i was a child not too long after the war there were newspaper columns about historic London which came out as two softbacks. They were favourites of mine and they were in Sketchnote format. I’m talking fifties. Not a lot is new. i Pads, tablets, they’re new.

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Affiliate Disclamer

This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.