Sketchnotes (3-4 min read)

I don’t know how many of you are familiar with it as a concept or even as a term but Sketchnoting is a great way to visualise and capture thinking, making sense of things and planning projects, presentations or even plot lines.

I’m not an expert by any means but wanted to share my experience with you as I’ve found it invaluable at work, with my writing, planning projects and for fun. There’s so much to say about this so I’ll try to keep it light and write some other bits another time.

I would highly recommend following Mike Rohde, Sunny Brown, Mauro Toselli Chris Noessel and Sketchnote Army on twitter if you’re interested in Sketchnoting.

One of my favourite things about it is that it’s so unique – everyone develops their own style, icons and typography as they go, no two Sketchnotes are the same. Even if you produce multiple Sketchnotes for the same thing you are unlikely to create the same note twice.

For those of you thinking

The good news is it doesn’t matter – the point of a Sketchnote is not to produce a piece of art work that stands alone for others to look at, but to produce a snapshot of/help articulate your understanding.

Sketchnoting is essentially a doodle:

Often doodling is mistaken as  lack of focus or interest, actually it’s been found that it can help;

  • Focus, retention and recall,
  • Manipulating concepts,
  • Creative problem-solving

Sunni Brown: “Doodling serves a myriad of functions that result in thinking, albeit in disguise.”

It’s about visual thinking;

  • Using pictures to solve problems & communicate clearly
  • Capture thinking
  • Illustrating a process
  • Telling a story
  • Highlighting what speaks to you

Doodling is powerful.
It’s not about perfection or “art” it’s about the process more than what’s produced

Here’s a little thing called the ‘Visual Alphabet’ (I got mine from @SunniBrown‘s example) I used it when I got started, just to get pen to paper. It’s a great tool for getting started; you can draw anything using these simple geometric shapes:

It’s a great tool for those who find ‘standard’ note taking or mind mapping unhelpful. I know for me I wished I’d found this visual thinking approach sooner. e.g. at uni I used to take notes like dictation rather than actually picking out useful bits/paying attention to what was being said and it would then take me hours to wade through pages and pages of scrawl.

I now use it for things  such as; meetings at work (both capturing and presenting), business calls, plot lines, character profiles, script planning and for fun (such as Sketchnoting songs, books, films) It works for me, I love it; but it doesn’t work for everyone.

I’ve done a few workshops in the past for newly qualified teachers on the benefits for pupils – for example pupils with dyslexia tend to think/interpret in a more visual way so may find Sketchnoting a good fit for revision/notes during lessons.

It uses visual, kinesthetic, emotional and auditory processing. The nature of this active processing means a better long-term recall. It also means a better understanding and communication of the more conceptual details.

There are some great books out there that break down images into these simple geometric shapes for you, if you’re looking to practice/hone in your style/get some ideas – Ed Emberley’s ‘Make a World’ is a great example, breaking down objects and animals like below;


The visual alphabet helps to provide a repeatable glossary which you can use to building up a personal ‘visual vocabulary’ – that is a group of frequently used images or typography that you’re familiar with and can recall quickly.
I used to create glossaries of things to practice, but I find that I just sort of go with it now, sometimes I don’t use any images, it’s all fancy text, arrows and funky borders.

The key points to remember about Sketchnotes;

  • Keep things simple
    • Sometimes you will be capturing things at speed so the simpler the better
  • Words are fine, you don’t need to draw everything
    • Some people only use text for their Sketchnotes
  • Whatever works for you, it’s personal
    • It’s not artwork – you can share it if you like but that’s not it’s purpose
  • Use arrows and borders (during or after your scribbles)
    • Help you structure your doodles and make connections
  • Capture what matters to you or things that trigger a reaction
    • If you only capture two or three things, that’s fine
    • Some people doodle their responses rather than trying to capture the content

Highly recommend reading Mike Rohde’s books and getting them for the exercises and worksheets also included, they’re really clear, concise and cleverly written in a Sketchnote style.

Check out Sketchnote army if you’re interested, some really good examples of sketchnotes themselves and just the sheer variety of types and uses. I will be sharing some examples of ones I’ve been asked to design for gifts such as plays, poems and love songs for anniversaries and birthdays.

Please don’t hesitate to ask if you have any questions or let me know what you think

Josie x


josi3dee View All →

I’ve been an avid reader and scribbler for years but only recently started thinking about publishing my work.
I’ve always enjoyed writing and have, since 2008, been producing scripts for theatre as my main focus of writing, but always scribbling poems, songs and short stories for fun, and/or catharsis. I’m also a keen sketcher and sketchnoter.

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