Sketchnote Basics


I have always been what you would call a “doodler”. My notebooks and papers are covered with little pictures, squiggles, and shapes.  I often find myself doing this without even realizing as I listen to new information. Last year, I had the pleasure of meeting Lindsay Zilly at Apple Academy and I was blown away as I watched her sketch our learning throughout the day. That evening, I looked at her sketch and it immediately triggered so many ideas and information from the sessions. These visual cues allowed me to “see” the learning and how all of the new information was connected.


She showed me a few basics and I couldn’t wait to try it. I started out using Paper, a drawing app, and it is still my favorite tool for sketchnoting. It was a bit hard not to worry about the end product or compare my work to other sketchnotes but I soon found a style that worked for me. It was far from perfect but it quickly became my go to when I was capturing ideas.

Sketchnoting might not be for everyone but if you want to try it out, here are some things I have learned in my short time using this strategy.

It Just Needs to Make Sense to You

At first, it was very difficult for me to stop worrying about each tiny detail. I would wonder if other people would be able to make sense of my sketch and I had to keep reminding myself to focus on the process of sketchnoting and not the final picture. Once I did this, it became a lot easier for me to visually represent my ideas.  I found icons and fonts that made sense to me and that helped me process the information.


Building  Visual Vocabulary Takes Time

I use a lot of the same icons when I am sketchnoting. Partly because they make sense to me and partly because they are ones I can quickly draw. It takes time to build a bank of icons that have meaning and are simple enough to draw quickly. The Noun Project has been a huge source of inspiration. You can search for just about anything and get tons of simple icons that represent the searched word.

Keep It Basic

The four basic elements I think about are containers, font, icons, and connectors. The containers and connectors are just ways to highlight text or images and organize all of your ideas and thoughts. Different size fonts or styles are a great way to draw attention to main ideas. Once you have your basic ideas down you can always add color and go back to highlight items.

Have fun sketching! 


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