What is Sketchnoting? And How to Get Started

Andy Baraja

Andy Baraja

What is Sketchnoting? And How to Get Started
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Sketchnoting is a technique, framed within Visual Thinking, which consists of taking notes in a more creative way by combining the use of text with graphic elements (usually simple drawings). As we mentioned in our article What is Visual Thinking article, 75% of our brain is designed to better process information through images. Therefore, when we use pictures to support written content, we obtain an easily understandable and visually attractive result which helps us to understand and retain concepts, to connect ideas, and to reach a higher understanding of the situation.

Sketchnoting is usually done in a personal capacity to take notes and be able to use them later to refresh the information. But it can also serve as a summary of a meeting, presentation, training, etc. That’s why it’s important to find your own style to feel comfortable with and to identify with.

What is Sketchnoting For?

Challenge Our Minds

We know that the human brain is divided into two hemispheres: the right is the part that thinks visually, creatively, emotionally, intuitively, empathetically, etc. The left is the part that thinks verbally, linearly, methodically, logically, rationally, etc. Its true potential is developed when we use the two in combination in a balanced way. Practicing Sketchnoting helps us activate both hemispheres: the left one “forces” us to focus our attention on the topic that is being talked about, and the right one translates the information that we are collecting into images.

Remember More Easily

To recall information more easily and remember many more details than when we only take “flat” notes. By focusing our attention on retaining, filtering, and transferring information to paper, we are generating internal connections in an unconscious way that exponentially improves our cognitive capacity.

Capture the Most Important Ideas

We are oversaturated with information (“infoxicated”). In other words, we live in a changing world that moves at breakneck speed, filling ourselves with visual stimuli as it passes. Practicing Sketchnoting helps us isolate the most relevant content, centering our focusing on it, and thus summarizing and filtering information.

Benefits of Using Sketchnoting

  1. It improves memory, attention, and especially concentration.
  2. It trains us to summarize ideas, to boil them down to the core message, and to establish connections between them.
  3. It helps us have a global understanding of the contents, seeing them as a whole through a visual script.
  4. It helps us activate and enhance creativity.
  5. It increases the visibility of the information, enriching the content.
  6. It is much more fun than taking textual notes, and afterwards, it’s much more pleasant to review.

When to Apply Sketchnoting

  • In events, presentations, workshops, seminars, etc., to better assimilate and retain the information transmitted to us.
  • In business or team meetings to synthesize conclusions and reflect ideas or opinions contributed.
  • To explain an idea or a complex concept or process with many phases.
  • In project management, to analyze project problems, identify objectives, streamline follow-up meetings, etc.
  • In training, to extract the most significant or relevant content from each section.

How to Apply Sketchnoting

Take It Easy

The first recommendation for sketchnoting is to take it easy. If you are not used to drawing, much less combining it with text while taking notes, give yourself time. Figure out which drawing style you feel most comfortable with, how to combine it with text, how you can fit everything to make the most sense, and eventually you will pick up your own rhythm of composition.

visual thinking

The trick to mastering the technique is to practice. As Ray Bradbury put it: “I know you’ve heard this a thousand times before, but it’s true, hard work pays off. If you want to be good, you have to practice, practice and practice… ” And with Sketchnoting, I am sorry to say that there are no shortcuts.

In addition, it is important that, especially at the beginning, you do not judge yourself. It is necessary that you understand that in every learning process there is an evolution, therefore, you must practice long before obtaining results with which you feel 100% satisfied. It is a technique that works if you enjoy the journey and if you work at it without mental biases, instead letting everything flow.

Choose a Medium

The second recommendation is to choose the medium to work on. It can be analog – marker and paper – or digital – computer, tablet. The result of your Sketchnote make will depend on your skill with the chosen medium and how comfortable you are using it.

visual thinking

Practice

The third recommendation is that you practice in different face-to-face and online settings (in a conference, in a training session, listening to a podcast, a TED talk, etc.) so that you find your own style and know how you operate best.

visual thinking

Less is More

The fourth recommendation is “less is more”. Don’t look for it to be perfect if it doesn’t work. More graphics or text doesn’t mean a better selection of ideas or content, and of course “prettier” does not mean “better”. It is not about creating works of art, but rather synthesizing content. On the other hand, if the information does not flow and the composition doesn’t have room to breathe, we will achieve an overwhelming effect that will prevent us from clearly understanding our Sketchnote a posteriori (or, through observation alone). Therefore, it is preferable that you adopt a minimalist technique rather than a baroque one.

sketchnoting

Next Steps

In our Sketchnoting Workshop we will teach you how to correctly apply this technique. We’ll also cover some tricks to help you let go when taking visual notes and lose your fear of drawing, tips for structuring information, how to hide errors, and much more!

– Andy

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About the Author

Andy Baraja

Andy Baraja

Andy Baraja, Visual Thinker & Graphic Facilitator at Netmind, has had a passion for drawing before she even knew how to write her name. She has a degree in Conservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (with a specialization in Graphic Documents) and is trained as an illustrator, graphic designer, and visual thinker. Andy's experience includes collaborative design in fashion school, participating in different projects of an interior design studio, working as a draftsman on railway engineering, and creating designs and illustrations for various companies. Her work also extends into book cover design and charity support. Connect with Andy: LinkedIn.

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