“Sketchnotes” are an increasingly popular form of visual note-taking. By combining text and images, sketchnotes are not only beautiful, but often easier to recall than text alone. The technique is an effective way of capturing notes and ideas in the classroom, meetings and conferences.
All next week, illustrator and senior UX/UI designer Andy McNally will be sketchnoting Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) for us, starting with the big keynote on Monday.
Andy has been covering Apple’s events as sketchnotes for some time. We ran some of his sketchnotes from last year’s event, which proved very popular. He’s back again this year, and is planning to publish sketchnotes from a variety of sessions at the conference.
Before he gets started, Andy shared some tips and techniques for getting started on sketchnoting yourself. Let’s take a look:
For the past two years, I have been attending Apple’s WWDC and sketchnoting the Keynote and the sessions I attend. Actually, I have been taking notes this way since I was in middle school and my teachers would complain that I was doodling. Not only was I paying attention, but the process of combining text and drawing images created a deeper understanding of the subject matter and allowed me to recall information better than text alone. The process of sketchnoting involves listening, writing, and free association in order to create images with meaning, which is very different from doodling. Today, I get hired to sketchnote events, conferences, and to teach others how to create visual notes. I will be sketchnoting the Apple WWDC Keynote for Cult of Mac this year.
Use a Pen
In this article, I will take a look at traditional sketchnoting on paper with a pen. Yes, a pen. After all, the pen is mightier than the sword or even lightsaber, but I digress. When taking visual notes, especially in the drawing sections, there will be a strong temptation to correct or redraw when using a pencil or even an erasable ink pen. The important thing to remember, especially when capturing notes from live events, is that you are capturing thoughts and ideas, not trying to create a work of art. A pen may take a bit of courage at first, so make brave and bold marks.
I use two different ink pens, one for thin lines and another for thicker lines. Choose what works best for you. I wait till after the event to add color or any additional details.
One way to feel comfortable drawing quickly with a pen is by practicing ahead of the event. Every person has their own style of drawing, just like everyone has their own style of handwriting. Stick figures are excellent, if that is your style, and you can express the idea. Much of what we see can be broken down into simpler shapes, such as circles, squares, and triangles. An iPhone or iPad can be drawn by using two rectangles and a circle. As you practice more, you will find your own visual style and you will develop a visual mental language of images that you can recall quickly.
You can practice on your own before the big event by sketchnoting a recorded event like a Ted Talk, podcast, or YouTube video. It is ok to pause the video at first, but try to take the notes in realtime so that it will be easier when you need to keep up with a speaker or presentation.
Even with practice, it can be difficult to remember how to draw something without a visual reference, or how to spell a word. When you run into these moments, simply leave a blank space and fill/draw it in later.
What if you make a mistake or misspell a word? It happens all of the time. Do not worry. You can cross through the word or drawing or make a more elaborate crosshatch to destroy all evidence of your mistake. Everyone knows that ink pens do not have spell check built in, but who knows what may be announced at this year’s WWDC Keynote.
Share Your Notes
Once you have finished your sketchnotes, it is time to share your hard work with the world. The iPhone is an excellent tool for photographing your notes. Photography is all about light so seek out a good light source that will light your page evenly. Also using the exposure adjustment feature can help capture the best image. Once you have a good photo, be sure to share it with your friends, followers, and the world, so that they can learn from your notes.
I’ve included a few examples of my sketchnotes from the 2016 Apple WWDC. Good luck. I can’t wait to see everyone’s sketchnotes.