Today we are going to talk about sketchnotes: how to use drawings, icons and other elements in your notes to help you remember what’s being said and to also spark your creativity while doing it.
There is also some research on both how the mind map technique (more on that later) and doodling can help your memory.
But first: What IS sketchnotes? What is it NOT?
Sketchnotes is a visual note taking style and a communication tool where you use pictures, colors and other elements to help facilitating the learning and memory while taking notes. It is NOT a drawing skills competition. It’s simplifying your notes to understandable sketches and graphic elements. You DON’T have to be an artist to be able to draw engaging sketchnotes.
A rule of thumb is that you want to keep it as simple as possible. When you take notes, you want to follow along with what’s being said, so you don’t have time to decorate or draw ornamentations. (You can do it later if you want of course, but during the note taking session you have to keep it simple.)
Why do you want to use sketchnotes instead of traditional note taking?
Studies show that doodling, sketching, mind mapping and color will seriously enhance your memory. You will likely be able to recite the entire lecture
Your sketchnotes icon library
It’s super handy to have a library of icons and easy-to-draw pictures at hand when you’re about to take your notes. For example it can be pictograms, symbols and icons, people, or different kinds of containers to hold your text elements.
The trick here is to simplify, simplify, simplify. The point is to communicate the message, so you have to be able to draw fast. In order to be able to do this “on command” so to speak, is to practice. Much like a guitarist who practices in solitude to be able to perform later.
Start to build up your library of icons that you want to be able to use when you take notes. Here are some examples:
The basic elements
There are some basic elements that you can explore when you’re building your sketchnotes library. These are:
Place (outside/ inside)
Charts and diagrams
Containers (to contain the written content)
Connectors (arrows etc to connect content)
Dividers (lines etc to differentiate between content)
The mind map structure
One of the most effective tools that you can use is the mind map structure. This is by far the tool I use the most when taking notes. It’s super easy to follow along with, and it’s easy to remember what’s being said.
I also use mind maps a lot when I map out a lecture or speech that I’m going to hold myself. That way I only have one piece of paper with “headlines” so to speak, and some key notes that I’m going to use. This way I can speak more freely and engage my audience in what I’m saying.
When you draw an engaging mind map and include color, effects and sketchnotes icons and drawings, it is also easy to remember the entire thing.
I can’t stress this enough. Take sketchnotes for the sole purpose of being better at taking sketchnotes. A way I do it is that I listen to a TED talk for example, and I try to capture the lesson with sketchnotes.
The more you practice, the more you will find that you improve your library as well. There is always a new idea that you have to figure out how to draw. When you find the perfect, easy-to-draw icon for this idea, you can pick it from your mental library of icons and use it every time you encounter the same idea. This will save a lot of time and effort when you take your notes and have to concentrate on what’s being said rather that try to figure out how to draw it.
Exercises to get you started
Here are some exercises to get you started with sketchnotes:
“Translate” a food recipe of your choice to sketchnotes. Try to communicate the recipe as clearly as possible with visual elements, step-by-step charts and so on.
Start building your visual library! Make a habit of doing this every day. Visualize ideas and concepts (those are the hardest, I’ve found). They can be difficult to invent on the spot, but if you’ve practiced you can easily pick them from your mind when you need them.
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