An introduction to sketchnotes

Blue Latitude Health | 25th September 2014

Anna Tamasi, a CX consultant here at Blue Latitude Health, is responsible for producing the great sketchnotes we have shared over the past year, including one of our most popular downloads the Patient Information Journey.

What is a sketchnote?

During a recent Thursday Session - our bi-weekly knowledge sharing sessions - Anna talked through the fundamentals of sketchnoting, and what it entails. Firstly, it's not just about doodling, sketchnotes are a visual representation of ideas, data maps, wireframes, or anything you want. Anna's life as a sketchnote artist began after she found her old notes were too text heavy. Keen to find a way to make them more engaging, and visually appealing, she began sketchnoting.

What is the benefit of a sketchnote?

Allan Paivio's theory of cognition, the dual-coding theory, uses the idea that the formation of mental images supports the learning process. With this in mind, sketchnotes are designed to engage the mind, improve memory and information recall. Sketchnotes aren't about drawing beautiful pictures, they're about sketching down the key points in a format that is easy to digest. They don't have to be perfect, they don't have to be pretty, they just need to transmit ideas.

What are the patterns for sketchnotes?

When preparing your sketchnote for the first time, it's wise to consider the manner in which you'd like to present your data. There's no design you have to follow, just choose the best way for you. Sketchnotes are personal to you, but to help here are some examples of pattern types you could consider using:

  • vertical
  • popcorn
  • linear
  • modular
  • path
  • skyscraper
  • radial

Remember, there's no right way to create a sketchnote, just have fun and enjoy!

What is the anatomy of a sketchnote?

Typography is at the heart of a sketchnote, there are some great resources online for you to refer to, but the best thing is to practise until you find your style. Other parts of the sketchnote which help make the biggest impact are:

  • drawings
  • icons
  • arrows
  • bullets
  • containers

Don't forget to add your twitter username, company name, and sign it!

How to get started on your first sketchnote:

To get the most out of your sketchnote here are four things you should do:

Plan

If you're planning on sketching a talk, Google the speaker beforehand and familiarise yourself with their style, how they deliver their talks, and try to decide ahead of time on the pattern to use.

Capture

You don't have to sketch every detail, just capture the information that is meaningful to you. If something made you smile, laugh, or react in any way, then it has resonated and should be included. Sketchnotes are about how you perceive the information being provided to you, and how you want to communicate this. Timing is crucial, if you're half way through the talk and you haven't filled half your paper, then you need to speed up.

Refine

Once you've finished your sketchnote you can go back over any areas to add in any shading, correct any errors you made, add colour and give it a final check.

Share

Take a photo, scan it, or make photocopies, or however you're planning to share your sketchnote with the world. When tweeting it use #sketchnotes to gain a wider audience. It's also worth pinning your sketchnotes on Pinterest.

Tips for creating sketchnotes:

  • Use a pen, not a pencil. Learn from your mistakes
  • Be confident, enjoy the process and don't worry about making it perfect
  • Choose a pen that dries quickly! This will help you avoid hand + page = smudge
  • Pratice your handwriting
  • Listen to TED talks on YouTube and create sketchnotes of them, this will help you identify your own personal style
  • Don't be afraid to apply humour
  • Start small and simple
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