Serious Reskilling: Sketch-Notes!

After a number of years at university, I’ve acquired multiple skills. But I’m also surprisingly deskilled. I have a hard time visualizing content, telling engaging stories and thinking beyond either an A4 paper or a 13″ screen. But, since I’ve seen some of these animated movies, wherein a whole book is explained in a manner that’s more digestible than words, I realized it was time for a change of habit.

So, I let go of that notebook with light-blue lining screaming COLLEGE NOTES and bought a Moleskine Folio A4 Sketchbook. To make matters even more predictable, I also got a Stabilo point 88 fine 0,4 black fine-liner to adorn the scarily white pages of this head-size sketchbook. Okay, I’ve got the tools. But how do I get the skills?

The first thing I did was attend a TEDx event, since TED-talks are the ultimate test for your sketch-note-taking skills. Some talks follow the rules of logic, and before you know it, you end up with college notes. Others tell a story so packed with improvisation and fantasy you have no clue what to jot down. TEDxDordrecht in The Netherlands turned out to be the first victim of my attempts and I’ll show the first, middle and last sketch-notes I did. Click on them if you want to enlarge and read them.

Oh, so creative. Visualize someone’s dream in a cloud!

Hm. I’m most excited about the mother in the left corner.

See how difficult it is to come up with visuals that truly aid you in understanding content? That’s why I’ve checked out Core77’s channel on sketch-notes (pointed out to me by Cristina Ferraz), since they featured a great article on the basics of it. I’ll summarize what my take-aways are from the article, and blend them in with my one-off (!) experience.

Don’t force yourself to fill the white paper sheet in front of you – just visualize or write down the content that really draws your attention. This means you have to listen, remember and translate words and visual presentations into your sketch-notes in a parallel process. That’s difficult, yes. So don’t worry about missing stuff. You actually prioritize.

You can fill the scary white paper sheet with multiple ‘things’ – that means text (quotes, summarizing thoughts), containers (quote bubbles, boxes, circles and thought clouds), connectors (lines, arrows – just like in a MindMap), frameworks (Venn-diagrams, tables – any shape that gives a sense of order to what is said in the lecture) and icons (little drawings, simple visualizations of subject matter – yes, just draw a simple house when they talk about urbanization). Color and shading is something to think about when you’ve completed your first sketchbook.

But, most importantly, don’t be afraid to make your sketches personal. Especially if you have a characteristic handwriting, use it! I feel as if my handwriting is Georgia, or Helvetica already. It’s obviously time to reskill myself. Head to TED for some serious practice. Because that’s all it takes. I’ll start with Ken Robinson’s talk on why schools kill creativity, since that’s the proof-point for this blog: reskilling my deskilling after some creativity-stifling years.

2 thoughts on “Serious Reskilling: Sketch-Notes!

  1. Very much like the piece! 🙂 Reminds me of the RSA animated movies; great examples of note taking/ visualizing although a bit more focused on pictures

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