Video: Kickstarting your sketching and visual thinking skills – at PLAY & MAKE in Duesseldorf

A few months back, the lovely Marc Thiele invited me to speak at his PLAY & MAKE conference in Duesseldorf. I got the audience play and make together with me by giving a little sketch-along demo of basic sketching techniques and talked a bit about practicing and playing. Enjoy (and sketch along if you like)!

Presentation: Sketchnotes – Combining the power of words and visuals

I've been talking about sketchnotes fro some time now, at various conferences, meet-ups and university programs. My talks keep evolving and changing, but here is a recent flavour of what I usually talk about. I hope you enjoy.

Sketchnotes are a way of capturing ideas in an engaging and visual way by combining the power of sketching and writing.

This talk gives an introduction to visual note taking and shares the main characteristics that make it a great tool for designers (and anybody else) to capture conference talks, meetings or ideas. It shows and analyses lots of examples from different sketchnoters and shares tips from personal experience. The talk points out the main principles and building blocks of sketchnotes as well as lots of inspiration for you to jump straight into taking your own visual notes.

Presentation: Sketching Interfaces at Yggdrasil 2013

I was invited to speak about interface sketching at a lovely conference in Norway. Thank you for having me, Yggdrasil.
Below are the video, slides and a short talk description.

Edit: The video is from the same talk at FFWD.PRO in Zagreb Croatia. 

If you are interested in learning more about sketching hands on, check out where and when I speak and teach next.

 

Sketching is a crucial tool for designers to have in their skillset. It’s cheap, fast and easy to learn. Many design and product teams today have embraced sketching as part of their (agile) process.

This talk looks at how you can build on what you already know and do. It shows how you can refine your sketching skills and how to apply them more effectively, both on your own as well as when working with a group.

ome sources used for the talk (and some more) are here:
https://delicious.com/evalottchen/sketchinginterfaces

 

 

 

The Sketchnotes Challenge Feedback

The feedback from the experts is in and I am going to update the blog posts with the entries with the feedback over the next few days. Part 1 (the first 10 entries) is already up.

A huge thank you again to my wonderful panel of experts for taking the time and making the effort to look at each and every one of the notes and give great actionable feedback and sharing a lot of their tricks and tips.

I am going to announce the winners of the prizes once all feedback is up at the end of the week.

Below is a gallery of all entries for a quick overview. The detailed posts with all entries and the feedback can be found here:


Entries from the Sketchnotes Challenge – Part 4

And the final 11 entries:

Andre Correia from Lisbon, Portugal

Andre writes about his sketchnote:

What do you like about your sketchnote/what works well?

I found the video to be very challenging and far away from my expertise area. However, when I finished doodling it, I could make some sense out of it. I also like the fact that it's "clean" and "easy to read" (hope it's not because I missed info lol)

What would you like to improve?

I think I might have missed some key ideas (especially towards the end of it). I felt that througout the talk, when I thought I had lost the point, I also lost my focus as well. The improvement point is to realise when the point is lost, create a quick reminder (or leave a blank space), and move on to the next idea.
I also tend to try to translate a small group of words into pictures when doodling. I need to focus more on the big picture and doodle it rather than each sentence. Practicing and increase my own "doodle library" will help me on this I believe.

Craighton's Feedback

What's good?
I like the title info on the outside of the "box" with the info on the inside

What could be improved?
It's hard for me to follow the talk based on just images alone—perhaps integrate more words with the images

Brandy's Feedback

What's good?
I liked that you worked spatially across the page vs. the more traditional vertical sketchnote approach.

What could be improved?
You have a lot of drawing here already - I'd like to see more text to ground the ideas.

Mike's Feedback

What's good?
Good emphasis on title and use of icons.

What could be improved?
Would like to see more description along with icons - some areas are left only as icons which makes decyphering the information harder as a reader. 

Matt's Feedback

What's good?
Like the use of arrows, interesting lines etc to divide the page up. Some good light and shade on the page.

What could be improved?
Practice a few decorative typefaces that you can then use for headings, for more variety. Don't forget the good old words (a few key quotes, for instance) are a powerful way to capture concepts too!) 

Eva-Lotta's Feedback

What's good?
Nice sketches. I especially like the series you made from the evolution of a vehicle.

What could be improved?
It looks like you concentrated so much on sketching that you hardly captured any words. Try finding a balance between the two. Words will help you to capture some of the finer detail and more specific facts. A good combination of both words and visuals has the highest impact for remembering content.

Henry leung from Belfast, Northern Ireland

Henry writes about his sketchnote:

What do you like about your sketchnote/what works well?

I did this 15mins before the deadline when I just woke up I find it easier to concentrate even though I did not understand the lecture I find it easier in the morning.

What would you like to improve?

If I should improve I shall improve the speed of my drawing and generate ideas at a higher frequency. Looking at other contestants made me realise I can draw more.

Craighton's Feedback

What's good?
The mix of illustration and text on the right side is effective

What could be improved?
Overall feels very light on content, perhaps try capturing more to see how you deal with more info density

Brandy's Feedback

What's good?
I like the parallel icons of the faces in profle, the robots, the cars. You are buidling a "doodle library" and it'll get better and better with experience.

What could be improved?
Perhaps a way to keep focus is to just listen for the key points and capture text. If you leave spaces, you can add images later. 

Mike's Feedback

What's good?
Really like the image of the stealth fighter carrying money over a city and the little robot icons.

What could be improved?
Content seems light, would love to see more detail in text and icons with this style - maybe larger page?

Matt's Feedback

What's good?
Like the imagery used ... the bomber carrying a sack of cash and the robot are all great.

What could be improved?
I do think a bunch of info got missed. I know it's hard to keep up—try capturing the occasional quote inside a word ballon. Also worth practicing some interesting typefaces and basic connectors, dotted lines, bullet points etc which all keep things interesting.

Eva-Lotta's Feedback

What's good?
I like your clean sketches. Nice confident lines. You uppercase writing is nice and clear as well.

What could be improved?

You obviously struggled to capture most of the content. The three points you got down don’t quite tell the whole story. To practise, try listening to the talk several times, adding to and completing you notes with each round. Over time you’ll get better at capturing more and more in fewer rounds.

Holly Kennedy from London, UK

Holly writes about her sketchnote:

What do you like about your sketchnote/what works well?

I like the city scape and the connected dotted lines that allow the eye to follow the story.

What would you like to improve?

I think the notes work really well for me to remember the talk, but if I share it with others, I'm not sure I've captured the key elements that tell the story.
I also struggle with typography and often take time afterwards to alter this digitally. I need to improve this when sketching 'live'.
Zoning on this particular sketchnote seems to have been lost - a way to separate or frame the different areas is needed I think.

Craighton's Feedback

What's good?
The title block is fab, and the illustrations (text & drawings) really anchor the ideas

What could be improved?
Content perhaps feels a bit light

Brandy's Feedback

What's good?
Visually savvy piece with clean imagery and text.

What could be improved?
I don't want you to sacrifice the content for the style or details in the imagery. For example, "HOW" is beautifully rendered, but it is "stealth" that is the key point and you didn't capture the answer. 

Mike's Feedback

What's good?
Like the emphasis and drawing of Kevin in the title area. Icons and drawings are great! 

What could be improved?
Lost track of the flow a little on the page at the start - arrows do help though. 

Matt's Feedback

What's good?
Wow. All of it is terrific, but the things I love the most are the masthead, the city, and the dotted line connecting the first few points.

What could be improved?
I'm scraping the barrel here. One advanced tip is to quickly google the Netflix logo (I sometimes do this on my phone while sitting in a presentation) so you can accurately draw it instead of making it up.

Eva-Lotta's Feedback

What's good?
Beautiful neat sketches and writing. Very nice title treatment with the centered portrait and banner for the title.

What could be improved?

I can see how you tried to make connections and show the flow of the story through your dotted lines and big arrows. I feel that there are some logical jumps and gaps in the notes that make it hard to follow. For example, you ask the question “What is the black box in banking?” and then make a straight connection to poker, followed by wine and the elevator button. Try not to force connections when they are not clear and create logical groupings instead.

Sacha Chua from Toronto, Canada

Sacha writes about her sketchnote:

What do you like about your sketchnote/what works well?

I captured enough to help me remember, and I had time for little doodles too. The light blue images and dark blue text look calmer than the red-black combination I used in some of my other sketchnotes. The brush size worked out fine in terms of the proportion.

I didn’t switch pen sizes or vary the size much because I wasn’t sure what was going to be important. Instead, I used simple borders to emphasize key points.

I’ve been experimenting with using a light shade to add more depth to my images. It usually takes me five minutes to go through an image. I didn’t do it here because the size and detail of the images felt right already.

Drawing with plenty of whitespace around each element allowed me to easily reposition things when I needed to rebalance the columns and reorganize the information. I’m sometimes tempted to go for more creative, overlapping layouts, but I do like the flexibility of being able to change my mind. I usually publish things shortly after drawing, so I didn’t spend a lot of time tweaking this image.

What would you like to improve?

I’ve been experimenting with different colour schemes. The first colour I drew the images in was too light, so I used GIMP to change the curve to something darker. Depending on what I want people to focus on, I’ve been trying out light text / dark images vs dark text / light images. It would be great to find a quick way of experimenting with the same image. Experimenting would be easier if I drew text and images on separate layers, but the presentation was information-dense, so I didn’t feel comfortable switching back and forth. I’ve tweaked my standard colour palette to include a darker blue like the one I used for the images here. That way, I can keep the light blue for shading, and I don’t have to adjust the colours after drawing. Next: Tweak my colour palette, and find a way to experiment more easily.

The presentation was only 30 minutes long. It turns out that the usual size I draw things at results in a one-page-per-hour sort of density, so I used only half the page. (Hooray for consistency!) It might be good to develop a dot grid that’s calibrated for half-hour talks so that I’m encouraged to draw at a larger size while preserving my usual landscape aspect ratio. Still, these columns worked out fine. Next: Try a different-sized dot grid for short talks, or get used to drawing larger.

It was pretty fast-paced, too. I don’t feel like I’ve fully captured the overall logic of the presentation. It would be nice to make this understandable for someone who hasn’t seen the presentation yet, which I think I can do with a little post-work (adding headings, explaining things in sentences instead of keywords). It feels a little disjointed at the moment, and I think I missed potentially interesting points like the one about the monoculture. The individual components are enough to remind me of what I want to remember about the talk, though. Next: Add more time for post-processing so that I can draw anything I missed the first time around.

Craighton's Feedback

What's good?
Love the use of one spot color for the illos

What could be improved?
Column-format doesn't allow for connections, a more official title block would help ground the piece

Brandy's Feedback

What's good?
Very strong pairing of distilled content and icons. The light color for the drawings, used consistenty, works great. 

What could be improved?
Usually when I see this 1:1 text to image pairing I call it "iconitis" because people get boged down in finding an icon for each and every blurb. Curious how you would use imagery to organize and structure the content if it weren't a 1:1 ratio.

Mike's Feedback

What's good?
Vertical columns to show flow work well. Like the icon supporting text.

What could be improved?
Light blue seems a little light - may work better in a little darker blue. Feels like columns 1 and 2 are heavy and 3 is lighter w/ content. Maybe balancing out the 3 columns would help there.

Matt's Feedback

What's good?
I agree the baby blue is a nice complement to the black. I love the little icons

What could be improved?
Rather than worry about what might or might not be important, make a call on what's important to you and make it bigger and bolder there and then. At the moment everything looks like it's sitting at the same level, so some more solid areas, larger text and variety would make it more visually interesting.

Eva-Lotta's Feedback

What's good?
Very nice balance between words and sketches. Your sketches are simple and clear and I like the personality you injected in some of the sketches, such as the little smiling computer screens. You also captured a real good amount of detail. 

What could be improved?

Apart from the three words in a black frame, your notes are very even. I’d like to see more visual hierarchy and structure to show which points are key and how the individual elements are related. Try using different sizes and weights of writing for different levels of hierarchy / importance. You can also try to use colour to pull out main ideas, in both writing and images, instead of using it to separate words from sketches.

Laura Merritt from Geneva, Switzerland

Laura writes about her sketchnote:

What do you like about your sketchnote/what works well?

The thing I like about it is the monkey sketch. Though it was not specifically mentioned by the speaker, the ideas of algorithms producing ratings and, in the future, movie scripts, made me think of that saying of how a thousand monkeys typing endlessly would eventually produce all of Shakespeare works. Algorithms as frantic, learning monkeys. Problem might be is that I added an idea that wasn't mentioned by the speaker but generated by me.

What would you like to improve?

What I would do better next time - choose a smaller size of paper! I did the sketch on a paper size slightly bigger than an A4 page and I had problems scanning it. I find it difficult to know in advance how much space you'd need to capture all the ideas of the talk.

Craighton's Feedback

What's good?
The monkey is awesome (obvs), love the little illustrations

What could be improved?
A title block would really help ground the piece

Brandy's Feedback

What's good?
Building a visual vocabulary with repetition of icons like boxes and brains.

What could be improved?
Because I work as a graphic faciliator supporting a group, I'm not a big fan of creating all new imagery, like your monkey. Because it wasn't generated by the speaker or seen/heard by the audience. But if it supports your personal meaning making as a sketchnoter - go for it!

Mike's Feedback

What's good?
Like the use of imagery on this sketchnote.

What could be improved?
Would like a bolder title area and flow. I'm not sure where to begin, so I would assume top left - no clear flow from section to section.

Matt's Feedback

What's good?
Lovely illustrative style. LOVE the typing monkey and duelling numbers!

What could be improved?
You can clearly draw, so why not have a stab at a simple caricature of the speaker up the top? Also, I'd make the presentation title larger and more prominent. It's a bit lost as is.

Eva-Lotta's Feedback

What's good?
I really like the creativity and interpretation in your sketches (such as the fighting numbers and the writing monkey).

What could be improved?

You can increase the clarity of your sketches by using single continuous lines instead of piecing them together with lots of little lines. Another tip for writing within a frame (like you have in some of the black boxes and the Roomba: write first, then draw the box / shape around the writing, because for some reason, no matter how big you make the box, the words will never (or even just) fit the box if you do it the other way round ;) You could also start playing with some structure between the different items to show which ideas are related.

Petra Hegenbart from Amsterdam, Netherland

Petra writes about her sketchnote:

What do you like about your sketchnote/what works well?

What I like is the overall layout.

What would you like to improve?

What I would like to do better is add some more pictures or symbols.

Craighton's Feedback

What's good?
Love how honest these notes are- they look authentic

What could be improved?
The density is a bit overwhelming

Brandy's Feedback

What's good?
Strong structure with parallel paths and lists of supporting ideas.

What could be improved?
Putting aside drawing images, how could you build on your strength with structure by varying text size, color and style to support meaning? 

Mike's Feedback

What's good?
Very expressive work - I feel like you were really thinking through what Kevin was saying, working out those ideas on paper here.

What could be improved?
Structure is confusing and hard to follow. Some of the red highlights add to the confusion as a reader (though for you this may make perfect sense). More drawings would be better.

Matt's Feedback

What's good?
I like the shapes that the various containers create.

What could be improved?
I'd make an effort to leave a bit of whitespace. It's pretty darn busy here! You mentioned incorporating more imagery, which I agree with. I'd also experiment with different sizes of text, all caps, practice some decorative typefaces, other connectors like dotted lines, arrows etc, rather than relying on a container around the text to break it up.

Eva-Lotta's Feedback

What's good?
You captured a lot of detail! I like the energetic feel of the sketchnote and the restriction to just two colours.

What could be improved?

Your sketchnote is quite busy and very text heavy. You tried to use some of the red lines and circles to connect thoughts, but as the underlying note is already so busy, I don’t think it actually adds clarity. I’d suggest a few things: Try using different sizes of lettering to distinguish key points from explanatory details. Leave more room between individual points. Don’t add too much structure (like frames and connectors) up front. You can always add them in later in the talk when you have a better understanding of the overall structure. Try making the leap to sketching every now and then. To start, you can pick out simple words from the text and just visualise them literally (such as, ‘Box’, ‘Grapes’, ‘Brain’). When you feel comfortable with making the switch back and forth between sketching and writing, you can move on to more conceptual sketches.

Jason Alderman from San Diego, USA

Jason writes about his sketchnote:

What do you like about your sketchnote/what works well?

I think the stealth fighter as birds illustration worked well.  The legible handwriting is probably a plus, too.  ;)

What would you like to improve?

I'd like to improve my speed, for one.  I was a bit rusty this morning, but this exercise reminded me just how much I embellish my notes after the talk from memory, in the minutes in between sessions.  As someone not used to sketchnoting videos, only live events, it also highlighted just how much I rely on being able to see the speaker and slides simultaneously.  (And how much I use the visuals on the speaker's slides as a crutch.)  

In this case I was completely unsatisfied with what I'd produced in the half hour of the talk and spent that much time again to fill in the blanks.  (Ahhhh, no! Cheating!)

I'd also like to improve my layout.  Slavin introduced three things he wanted to talk about: opacity, inscrutability, and "a third thing," but I didn't write down the second item, so I missed the cue for when his talk smoothly segued into the second point, and kept trying to cram more stuff into the space under the first point (thus the sideways text).  Arrows were useful for tying it all together, but the end result is a bit of a soup.

Third, I'd like to be able to better meta-analyze the talk to tell a clearer story.  I feel like I miss some big points (the fact that humans name their algorithms!) and could do a better job of connecting the proverbial dots rather than just plotting them.  (Part of this could be to just plot fewer dots?)

Craighton's Feedback

What's good?
The balance of magenta and black is really perfect

Brandy's Feedback

What's good?
Very curious what this looked like after the first 30 minute listen. With the total of 60 minutes you got nearly every point within a very structured layout.

What could be improved?
If you are looking to do more synthesis and draw conclusions, try buidling in buffer space at top, bottom or sides to summarize the story, themes or highlights.

Mike's Feedback

What's good?
Fabulous sketch of Kevin and emphasis on the title so I know who is speaking and what they are talking about. Really like the pink highlights. Nice use of illustration. Nice typography as well.

What could be improved?
I like the 1 2 3 column structure, though it seems as I go downward, the columns are blending together a little. Is that intentional? I am not sure as a reader. Bottom also seems more tightly packed than the top.

Matt's Feedback

What's good?
Massively impressed. Love the masthead and the killer portrait of the speaker, the variety of typography in play, the use of colour, the negative space used for the words 'dark pools'. All of it, really. And it's subtle but I notice the attempt to write Netflix as a logo. The extra time was well spent IMO.

What could be improved?

Scraping the barrel here. Perhaps consider adding a light grey marker for shadows and shading, to bring depth to some of the larger sketches.

Eva-Lotta's Feedback

What's good?
Very nice sketchnote! I love the 2-colour restriction, the clear prologue + 3 column structure in the second part of the talk and the quality of your sketches. Nice treatment of the title and portrait, too.

What could be improved?

You are already sketchnoting on a really high level, so the improvement is in the details, always pushing to make things even clearer, better structured and more concisely summarised. Working on the speed of your writing and sketching helps a lot to free up more time and brain capacity to concentrate on all those things.

Murray Thompson from Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Murray writes about his sketchnote:

What do you like about your sketchnote/what works well?

My favourite parts are:

  • the "Opacity" text

  • the computer choosing wine...

  • and the reverse text for "Dark Pools"

What would you like to improve?

Not jamming things together so much... I realized some of the salient points after starting up the next point, and had to shove them in a bit more than I wanted. I work with a Japanese fold book, so shouldn't get so tight with my space.

Things that didn't work out as well as I'd like:

  • As I was in "waiting for the speech to start" mode, I thought I'd work the title into some sort of mathematical equation, but didn't really go the way I hoped.

  • As things were laid out in  the presentation, I also thought there would points 1, 2, and 3, with 1 being "Opacity", but then didn't really hear the other two... so "Opacity" is set up as a heading, but with no brethren.

Craighton's Feedback

What's good?
I like the subtle grey, the density is exciting

What could be improved?
The title is a bit distracting in that it's quite large and very stylized. I'd work to bring more structure overall

Brandy's Feedback

What's good?
Strong use of words as imagery, ex. Opacity, Distortion.

What could be improved?
The title is confusing. Too much action going on in it that doesn't support meaning. 

Mike's Feedback

What's good?
Like the bold look and gray highlights, illustrations are nice too.

What could be improved?
Somewhat unclear of the structure other than top to bottom - maybe numbering or indicating a flow would help.

Matt's Feedback

What's good?
My favourite bits were the words OPACITY (I'm a sucker for type empathy) and the computer wine recommendation. I notice they were yours too! :)

What could be improved?
The title is a little messy for me, and just too big relative to everything else. You mentioned it didn't go to plan. Kudos for trying to work the math aspect into it though! Also I thought the list of things that computers see differently was a missed opportunity for some simple imagery (music, food, investment, dating, movies etc). Also maybe experiment with a colour highlight next time.

Eva-Lotta's Feedback

What's good?
I like your balance between sketches and written details. I also enjoyed your playfulness with the lettering (Opacity, Distortion and Dark Pools). The grey shading works nicely for give the page some depth and subtle contrast.

What could be improved?

The title seems to grab too much attention in the whole page. It’s very big and has a lot of arrows going on that actually don’t mean anything. The spacing in the first half of the page is nice and open but it gets a bit crammed in the second half. Try keeping the nice spacing up until the end, even it it means you have to start a new page. You can always stitch several pages together after scanning.

Nirish Shakya from Sydney, Australia

Nirish writes about his sketchnote:

What do you like about your sketchnote/what works well?

I think I managed to capture the main points. It's more visual compared to my regular notes that I take, which are mostly text-based. I like my sketch of the 'crap brain'. I used the entire sheet pretty well.

What would you like to improve?

  • My listening skills
  • Ability to quickly sketch common objects / themes
  • Not sure if my sketchnotes would make sense to another reader
  • Not get nervous under pressure!

Craighton's Feedback

What's good?
Love the simple, effective iconography

What could be improved?
Storytelling and connections would help stitch it all together more

Brandy's Feedback

What's good?
The "crap brain" and dark pool are very powerful. 

What could be improved?
Content feels dispersed across the page, it doesn't hang together as a whole. How could you use groupings and flow in a lighter color to tie it together?

Mike's Feedback

What's good?
Love the Dark Pool sketch and that you have gone for it sketching Kevin. Like emphasis on the title area in the center.

What could be improved?
Feels like there could be more information captured around the icons here, red highlight feels inconsistent (a lighter color used across the whole piece might be more effective). Flow seems unclear.

Matt's Feedback

What's good?
I like the radial layout you used, the cartoony portrait of the speaker, and I like the poo-brain too! :)

What could be improved?
I'd work on your typography. Practice drawing some decorative typefaces, varying the size of your letter forms, and consciously aligning elements on the page. Quotes are also useful to capture, either with some fancy talking marks or in a speech bubble.

Eva-Lotta's Feedback

What's good?
I like the nice open spacing with the different points arranged around the title in the middle. Very nice clear sketching as well. I love the dark pool and the metaphor or the algorithms als a funnel shaped filter for what goes into your head.

What could be improved?
You could add a bit more detail to each captured point, making it easier to tell the story that connects the different ideas. You could also try to group some of the points together at the end (by using connectors or frames) and labeling these groups with a summarising keyword or statement to make it easier to get the big picture in a glance when looking at your sketchnote.

Wess Daniels from Camas, WA, USA

Wess writes about his sketchnote:

What do you like about your sketchnote/what works well?

One thing I like about this is compact nature of the notes. I like the economic use of space. Also, this is the first time I tried adding color to my notes and I enjoy the added effect.

What would you like to improve?

I'd like to improve my use of spacing. While I like it all compact. I ended up with a lot of white space at the bottom. I'd also like to improve live sketch-noting and figure out some ways to move fasters and keep up with the speaker.

Craighton's Feedback

What's good?
The linear nature feels logical, easy to read

What could be improved?
I'd work to mix your text and images more—seems like you either do one or the other

Brandy's Feedback

What's good?
Solid first use of color and the images support the content well.

What could be improved?
Capture more content by spending less time on block letters. 

Mike's Feedback

What's good?
Like the clear flow, title emphasis and drawing of Kevin. 

What could be improved?
Red highlight seems stronger than I would like - maybe something lighter/brighter? Not liking the image clipping on top of the scan. 

Matt's Feedback

What's good?
I like the layout and the use of electronic elements (resistors, terminals etc) in the line separators. The caricature of the speaker is great too, and the colour highlights work well.

What could be improved?
Don't feel compelled to capture everything visually. Words are important too—they could be concepts that resonate with you, quotes that you latch onto (represented in quotation marks or speech bubbles). Practice drawing a couple of decorative typefaces so you can use them on a whim.

Eva-Lotta's Feedback

What's good?
Love the portrait of Kevin. I also like the separators with the zig-zag elements in the middle. They suits the data / automation theme of the talk.

What could be improved?
You started out a bit close to the top edge at the beginning and ended up with lots of room at the bottom. Don’t be afraid of leaving enough breathing room for each item even at the beginning of a talk. You can always switch to a second page should you run out of space. Try working a bit on your block lettering. If you pay attention to a more even spacing between the outer lines it will come out a lot neater and more readable.

Eva Strömfelt from Stockholm, Sweden

Eva writes about her sketchnote:

What do you like about your sketchnote/what works well?

  • the limited colourpalette

  • like the splasch of yellow close to the plane

  • even though I did not got everything he talked about I think I could make a quick walk-through 

What would you like to improve?

  • Can't figure out the colouring. I get lost (miss out) when it comes to
  • framing things. Like the limited colours but do not like the framing.
  • The ugly yellow "blobb" in the upper left corner..., gahh! What was I thinking?
  • The pieces close to the "brain" ==> messy and inconsistent.

Craighton's Feedback

What's good?
Colorful and loose

What could be improved?
I'd work larger or with thinner pens to help make your page more cohesive and less cramped

Brandy's Feedback

What's good?
The boldness of the big imagery on the page that connects and flows with content.

What could be improved?
Perhaps make your framing easier by picking 1 color for all of the framing in sketchnote. Another darker color for the drawings. Then the iconography can pop forward and the framing can recede.

Mike's Feedback

What's good?
Like the bright colors used here. Interesting overlap of colors and images as well.

What could be improved?
Feels as though lots of the details aren't captured in this single page. Scale of page to information makes me think a larger page would better fit your style. Flow of the sketchnote isn't completely clear.

Matt's Feedback

What's good?
I like that it's colourful, and the layout you've used with the title at the centre. 

What could be improved?
Not sure about the equation at the centre. It would be nice to perhaps see a caricature of the speaker in the centre there instead, given the equation doesn't directly relate to the talk (unless I'm missing something). Also the plane appears to be flying into the building. It's the first thing I looked at as it was a little unnerving in a 9/11 kind of way. 

Eva-Lotta's Feedback

What's good?
I like the green and yellow colour scheme. It looks very friendly and inviting. I also like how you are playing with different shapes of frames and highlights.

What could be improved?
I like that you put the title of the talk in the middle, but I am not sure about making the equation the center piece. It is a bit distracting and not 100% on topic. Try to pay attention that your frames are not running over your writing. In places they make it hard to read what is inside them. I’d also like to see you using some ordering keywords in bigger lettering to summarise the different areas of the talk.

José Luis Anzizar from Buenos Aires, Argentina

42_jose_luis_anzizar.jpg

José Luis writes about his sketchnote:

What do you like about your sketchnote/what works well?

I think and, overall, the flow works well. Additionally, that I used a 2 color scheme.

What would you like to improve?

Everything! The hand writting! I would add more images/doodles and reduce the number of words.
Also, I think I added some information which was not needed (and I am sure I left out another info needed).
I think that there should be a strong focal point, which is missing, except for the 1, 2, 3 numbers.

Mike's Feedback

What's good?
Great handwriting! Very clear and easy to read. I like the structure, which is clear to follow, especially with the highlighted numbers. Nice use of the swooshy separators for each section. Love the honesty of just stroking out "ASTRONOMY" under number 3. Really like the integration of the icons within the text. It's interesting to follow your structure. 

What could be improved?
Point 3 felt a little compressed - which makes points 1 and 2 more detailed than 3. That's often tough to gauge though, so it is very understandable. Would love to see your illustrative style made more of an emphasis - it feels very verbal (which is OK) but as I see your simple illustrations, I want to see more of them and larger. 

Craighton's Feedback

What's good?
love your handwriting and organic sense of flow and connection. 

What could be improved?
Would like to see more visual hierarchy—using varied type size or containers to highlight important ideas. Visual anchors like icons or drawings would help reduce density of information as well.

Matt's Feedback

What's good?
I really like the layout, actually. It's mostly vertical, but it has elements of a radial design embedded in there. I also really like your handwriting and the alternating between upper and lower case characters works for me. And the red highlights are effective but not overdone.

What could be improved?
I'd like you to be braver about capturing concepts using images—you've probably heard it before, but if you work at building up your visual vocabulary for common phrases, then you won't have to think so hard about whipping one of them out when you need it! Also, I think you could explore some different typographic options. Even if you gave some of your headings more weight, so they were thicker and darker, then it would give your page hierarchy some variety.

Eva-Lotta's Feedback

What's good?
I love your handwriting. very nice letter shapes, really clear, neat and friendly looking. Your use of colour is very nice as well. The few but well placed splashes of red for the big numbers and the rays around the word ‘ algorithms’ are a great way to guide the eye through the page.

What could be improved?
The big points that sit next to the red numbers actually don’t quite seem to capture of summarise the gist of each part as I would have liked or expected. I suggest you leave some room during the presentation to add a summarising statement a bit later when you get the big picture of each part. I’d also love you to get in a few more sketches. Your sketches look really nice and confident, so try to break out of writing a bit more often and visualise more of the concepts.

Entries from the Sketchnotes Challenge – Part 3

Here are the next 10 entries:

Melinda Walker from San Francisco, USA

Melinda writes about her sketchnote:

What do you like about your sketchnote/what works well?

I like the lettering at the top for Kevin Slavin because it's big and bold without being to heavy. I also like the way the double wavy lines at the top are echoed at the bottom because that really grounds and unifies the page. I also like the way the words "stealth" and "stories" stand out because those were two key points in the talk. On the more personal side, I like that I did this 100% real time without pausing or repeating any of it and, although it's not my best work or something I would ordinarily post online, that I'm showing it to a bunch of people anyways! 

What would you like to improve?

I wish I had not written the word "cities" in a big sharpie because the letters blur together and are hard to read. I feel the page is a bit cluttered, so wish I had started out writing a little smaller so there'd be more white space. I feel the bold box in the middle with the words "done with algorithms" stands out in a weird way. It would be better if the outline and arrow weren't so bold and maybe the words inside a little bolder, maybe a long and skinny rectangle instead so the words all fit on one line instead of two. I wish I'd warmed up first, so this was a great reminder to do so from now on!

Craighton's Feedback

What's good?
Love the density and type-play—bold contrast is great

What could be improved?
I would work to create more of a hierarchy between ideas

Brandy's Feedback

What's good?
Confidence in handwriting and lettering and imagery - very bold. 

What could be improved?
Curious how you cold use color to create layers of focus. This feels like everything is on one crowded plane.

Mike's Feedback

What's good?
Love the bold feel of this sketchnote, that you aren't afraid to put some ink on the page. 

What could be improved?
Sketchnote feels a little tight for space near the bottom, maybe the scale of elements could be smaller, with a little more descriptive text added, and some more white space.

Matt's Feedback

What's good?
Like the mix of line thickness and the variance in bold, decorative typefaces

What could be improved?
Following the flow of the talk is a little tricky, but sometimes that's half the fun, right? :-) Maybe leave a little more whitespace next time, and throw in some grey shading for depth.

Eva-Lotta's Feedback

What's good?
I love your bold play with lettering and how the piece feels whole and complete. You also captured the key points nicely. With the use of arrows, you are making the right connections to tell the whole story of the talk. 

What could be improved?

You have great use of contrast in your sketchnote that guides attention to the bold elements on the page. Try choosing these bold elements to really by the key points. I'd also try to make the connecting elements (like arrows) a bit lighter in weight to make to content stand out more.

Otts Bolisay from Seattle, USA

Otts writes about his sketchnote:

What do you like about your sketchnote/what works well?

I like the octopus as metaphor for how algorithms have all these arms and are vaguely unsettling. Although, maybe a spider would've been more creepy to a wider range of people. As he started rattling off all of the different algorithms in our lives, I started panicking that I wouldn't be able to capture them all. The octopus was a way of short handing a large quantity of something emanating from the same body. So even if I missed an example of an algorithm, the reader can fill in that there are other arms floating around out there. In the end, I was able to remember examples to name all of the arms.

I like the whimsy of people having fun in a black pool: snorkeling, cannonball-ing, trying to figure out the plural of "octopus." Also, the headline "Octo Luv" and the French farmer.

Listening cities and a city on a microchip are very visual concepts, so I naturally went to them. In the end, the Real Estate arm of the octopus kinda fits thematically with the city on a microchip, and hiding big shares with the Stocks arm, so it worked out mostly!

What would you like to improve?

I tend to draw too small. The sign on the pool is supposed to be a "No Octopus" sign. But it came out looking more like a smudge.

Perspective: the kidney shaped pool looks too two-dimensional.

Hierarchy and filling the page well. I don't usually take up two pages, just one. This was my first time actually doing a sketchnote across two pages like this. If anything, the octopus was more a way to fill up the middle when I started drawing it.

Lettering: the block fonts can get messy when going fast. I'm thinking of "TASTE" on the arm that has wine.

Certain segments don't really fit in the final piece: NY city on a microchip, even the city getting bombed.

Listening: related to above point, it was hard to tell at first where he was going, so I started drawing things that stuck out to me (verbal to visual).

Craighton's Feedback

What's good?
High visual impact with the large octopus

What could be improved?
But why an octopus? Feels a bit more on the doodle side, than on the information side.

Brandy's Feedback

What's good?
Even though the speaker never talked about octopuses, I like how that central figure ties it all together and should the scary reach of algorithms. 

What could be improved?
You could try faster lettering y using pens of different thicknesses. Instead od taking the time for block letters, write with a pen with a thicker, bolder nib.

Mike's Feedback

What's good?
Love the octopus in the center of the page and the title area clearly indicated here. 

What could be improved?
Page feels sparse in places (top) could use more descriptive text in a few places to fill in details.

Matt's Feedback

What's good?
Like the non-linear layout, and the various illustrations

What could be improved?
The connection between the octopus and the subject matter was a stretch for me. I'd consider including some more quotes and key phrases rather than just images.

Eva-Lotta's Feedback

What's good?
Nice use of visual icons and little stories in your illustrations (like the one with the grapes).

What could be improved?
Although a nice metaphor for how algorithms 'reach' into every part of our lives, I feel that the octopus is dominating the whole piece too much. I'd tone back such connecting structures to give more room to the actual content. Use the space you gain to play with the size of your writing. 

Veronica Erb, USA

Veronica writes about her sketchnote:

What do you like about your sketchnote/what works well?

I stuck with it, and went with my gut. It seems that's all you can do in a talk that's more rambly-(interesting)-story and less nicely-structured-and-clearly-foreshadowed-talk. I'm also pleased with some of the illustrations—the grapes and peas were especially fun to draw.

What would you like to improve?

Ugh! I let myself get tricked when he said, "three things," and I went ahead and numbered the first thing, "opacity," and then he didn't clearly return to thing 2 and thing 3. But, in the spirit of keeping things real, I left it in. (Let it stand as a warning to fellow sketchnoters!) And on the upside, I guess we can add a bonus to my answer for the first question—I liked that I kept it real.

Craighton's Feedback

What's good?
Love the iconic chunking of the page. Love the loose linework

What could be improved?
I feel like I lose a lot of the detail with the simplification

Brandy's Feedback

What's good?
Each piece is confidently rendered. Your style of writing text and distilling language is strong.

What could be improved?
The hatchmarks that extend outside of the lins is hard to read and feels oppressive. Would like to see you swap hatchmarks for a color to color in (or hatchmark in a lighter color).

Mike's Feedback

What's good?
Good feel for a story on this sketchnote, I can read through and get a quick gist of the talk, visually and verbally.

What could be improved?
Interesting idea to have the title below - however the left side feels empty and a little sparse with lot of focus on the credit line. Maybe the title could have used more of the left side and the credit the right.

Matt's Feedback

What's good?
Great caricature of the speaker, and nice, strong concepts captured with confidence

What could be improved?
I'd try and work some different typefaces into your sketching, other than the one big, chunky one used in headings. A grey marker would add depth and shade that is more subtle than the hatching effect you use.

Eva-Lotta's Feedback

What's good?
I like the sketch of the peas and grapes. I has a lovely dynamic line quality to it and shows your confidence when sketching. 

What could be improved?

The title of the talk at the bottom should be more distinct from the content. You are using the same kind of block lettering as for some of the key points in the content which makes the title look like part if the content. You use block lettering nicely to pull out key words. If you slow down a tiny bit and pay attention to getting the letters even in width, your block lettering will look even neater.

Javier Sandoval

Javier writes about his sketchnote:

What do you like about your sketchnote/what works well?

It helps me grasp the main ideas of the talk.

What would you like to improve?

Make less use of arrows, make the flow of the sketchnote reading more intuitive.
Leave less blank space in the paper.

Craighton's Feedback

What's good?
Your block handwriting is the whip. Love the tightness of your connectors and content

What could be improved?
Work on balancing your page. Focus on capturing and anchoring the major points

Brandy's Feedback

What's good?
Good use of structure with the parallel paths (like Break and Break).

What could be improved?
If you don't overlap your block letters, they'll look more legible. 

Mike's Feedback

What's good?
Great use of bold inking here. Flow is clear and good - I can get a gist with a quick look.

What could be improved?
Some elements that are bolded are harder to read (title). Maybe use a less bold marker or double up the pen, or use a color highlight as an option here.

Matt's Feedback

What's good?
Like use of pen with different thicknesses. Love your handwriting. I'm a sucker for type empathy, so "BREAK" gets the thumbs up.

What could be improved?
Build your visual vocabulary so you have more imagery to whip out as it suits. Would love to see you add some depth/shade with a grey marker.

Eva-Lotta's Feedback

What's good?
This is an excellent sketchnote. You captured all the main points beautifully and concisely with a good amount of detail. You also connected the thoughts so it is easy to follow the story. I like how you also noted down questions (e.g. "What is the long term effect") to give context to the following statements and explanations. Really good. 

What could be improved?
I see what you are trying to do with the lettering of the title, but I'd suggest to no squeeze the letters onto each other. Also try to give your handwriting some more line space to make it easier to read. I'd also love to see you use a colour to pull out key words of the talk. 

Phillip Patterson from Belfast, Northern Ireland

Phillip writes about his sketchnote:

What do you like about your sketchnote/what works well?

I like how the visuals help to reinforce and accompany the text.

What would you like to improve?

I think I need to make the flow of the sketchnote more apparent. Others may not understand it like I do and I would like to use more visuals, instead of relying heavily on text.

Craighton's Feedback

What's good?
like the minimalism of the grey and black

What could be improved?
feels like large chunks of content are missing—perhaps more of a focus on storytelling

Brandy's Feedback

What's good?
A lot of your icons represent progressions from one state to another well. 

What could be improved?
Text is very brief. I think if you capture longer phrases - like "making sense of the data" - you'll retain more information when you go back to it. 

Mike's Feedback

What's good?
Really like the use of illustration on this piece.

What could be improved?
Not sure where to start if I haven't seen the talk - assume the city on the right side. Would like to see the title area a bit bolder too.

Matt's Feedback

What's good?
Like the subtle use of shading and the radial layout

What could be improved?
Definitely worth scanning your sketch properly; the shadows don't do it justice. Also explore different typography options—thickness, serifs, all-caps etc.

Eva-Lotta's Feedback

What's good?
I like your simple clear iconic sketches. You are also using the shading pen nicely to create some depth. 

What could be improved?

I think the biggest problem of your sketchnote is that you captured lots of different bits, mostly visual with some words, but that it is hard to get some context and coherent story out of the single elements. You should try capturing slightly more words, giving some context and details around the points that will make it easier to remember the full picture later.

Kevin Dulle from St. Louis, MO, USA

Kevin writes about his sketchnote:

What do you like about your sketchnote/what works well?

The Key things i like about this sketchnote is the key points and how they flow along the conversation without drifting into some of the sidebar stories too much. I feel combined with the splash of color and relationship from on grouping to the next helps convey the overall direction of the conversation.

What would you like to improve?

What I feel like to improve is quality of lettering and avoid misspellings. I tend to try and create connections to the next thought and end up misspelling as I rush text/images. I usually work in pencil when it comes to text and edit when time allows.

Craighton's Feedback

What's good?
density and arrows give a lot of vitality to the page

What could be improved?
perhaps too much focus on connectors, and too little on the major points

Brandy's Feedback

What's good?
Crisp, confident work and good use of whole page and border.

What could be improved?
Would like to see more framing to delineate a group of ideas. 

Mike's Feedback

What's good?
Nice use of arrows and color for flow direction. Read highlights really stand out. 

What could be improved?
Would like the title area to be a little bolder - took me a sec to realized what that was, once I did I had no issues folloiwing the flow.

Matt's Feedback

What's good?
Love the illustrations, the varying line thickness and the (Photoshopped) colour highlights.

What could be improved?
Practice a few decorative typefaces that you can then use for headings, for more variety

Eva-Lotta's Feedback

What's good?
I like your confident sketching. Your people are very nice and dynamic. The sketchnote looks like a coherent piece. 

What could be improved?

I suggest you work on your use of visual hierarchy. You are using colour and frames to make certain elements stand out, but I am not sure these are always the right elements. The first thing that jumps off the page are the colourful arrows that connect different points but hold no information in themselves. Try inverting this balance to actually emphasise key bits of content rather than the structure. Also listen for the high level points and treat them all in a similar style to make your note easily scannable.

Antonella Pavese from New York, USA

Antonella writes about her sketchnote:

What do you like about your sketchnote/what works well?

When I was able to move away from the words and visualizing concepts (for example: how people think vs how algorithms think)

What would you like to improve?

Becoming more daring in playing with visual concepts. I feel that I get worried of getting "too far" from the talk or not being able to execute (or to execute quickly enough), and this blocks my imagination.

Craighton's Feedback

What's good?
The caricature is killer. Love the use of type

What could be improved?
I would work to create more of an arc to the story—seems to end abruptly

Brandy's Feedback

What's good?
Good breathing/white space and strong spot illustrations. 

What could be improved?
You used uppercase letter throughout - try using lowercase letter to create more hierarchy between main and supporting points.

Mike's Feedback

What's good?
Nice illustration of Kevin, like the red for emphasis on the title of the talk. Quite like your icons/illustrations and highlighting. 

What could be improved?
Spacing could be a little better - some areas (opacity) feel a little tight, and there was over half of the 3rd page left blank. Maybe use a little more whitespace between elements and open the overall sketchnote up a little more.

Matt's Feedback

What's good?
Great caricature of the speaker; love the robot sketch too.

What could be improved?
Be more creative with layout. Work on crafting letter forms rather than just "writing". Fancy typography in your headings and deliberate sizing of text can really make your notes shine. I'd stick to one colour highlight personally.

Eva-Lotta's Feedback

What's good?
I like the tone of your sketchnote. You focused on the stories Kevin told and captured this way of approaching a topic nicely in the notes. They kind of feel like reading a story. I also like your use of block lettering and solid colour to emphasise key words. 

What could be improved?
When Kevin was talking about the three problems with  algorithms, you numbered the first (opacity) and then probably got a bit lost in which points were 2 and 3. You actually noted them (they don't think like us, they make errors), but you didn't clearly label them. 

Glenn Smith from Swindon, UK

Glenn writes about his sketchnote:

What do you like about your sketchnote/what works well?

I was pleased with some of the ideas I had as images to use for the topics (like the city with an ear).

What would you like to improve?

I'm not sure if the sketch note tells the story very well; does it flow? Then I also found the presentation quite disjointed to personally follow. This format is one I've used more often than not, I need to be brave and try experimenting with different ones.

Craighton's Feedback

What's good?
Love the clenliness of the page, caricature

What could be improved?
A little more detail might bring it all more to life

Brandy's Feedback

What's good?
Not a lot of supporting detail, but consistent capture of all the main ideas. 

What could be improved?
Definitely would like to see you break out of the vertical structure and see what happens.

Mike's Feedback

What's good?
Simple, clear structure on this sketchnote, which I like. Gray highlight adds nice depth. 

What could be improved?
Feels as though lots of the details aren't captured in this single page - that maybe more detail would have been better across 2 pages.

Matt's Feedback

What's good?
Like the simplicity of some of the sketches and paraphrased text. Grey shading is nice and not overdone.

What could be improved?
Get more creative with layout; practice a few different decorative typefaces, so you can whip them out for headings. Also remember things like connectors, arrows, dotted lines, word balloons and basic containers etc all help.

Eva-Lotta's Feedback

What's good?
I like the clear structure and neat arrangement of elements in your sketchnote. Each thought is nicely separated spatially which makes it easy to read and process. 

What could be improved?

You started playing with block lettering in one point (3 problems). Would be great to see you use different sizes of lettering a bit more to create some hierarchy between the points. Also try to use an accent colour to pull out the main ideas you want the eye be drawn to immediately when skimming the page.

Jan Höglund

Jan writes about his sketchnote:

What do you like about your sketchnote/what works well?

I think I managed to catch the flow of the presentation pretty well. I knew I had to listen very carefully and be very fast. I decided from the beginning to work from the upper left to the lower left corner. I added the blue lines afterwards to emphasize the flow and to highlight some of the topics in the presentation. I think I would be able to re-tell the essential parts of the story based on my sketchnotes.

What would you like to improve?

I'm trying to move towards a more visual mode of notes-taking, recording and facilitation. This sketchnote works fine for me but I'm not sure how it works for others (interested in the feedback). Also I think there is a big difference in working small and large. This sketchnote was done on a flipchart while I was sitting at a table. Working large would have been even more challenging for me. I guess I would have needed to shape the presentation differently and filter the information more. Also, I would have needed to be more careful in my writing and drawing. Now, I allowed myself to focus on the speed and allow my texting and drawing to become a bit sloppy. I would like to build up my visual vocabulary and to get up to speed through practice & practice & practice.

Craighton's Feedback

What could be improved?
Meandering lines are a bit distracting

Brandy's Feedback

What's good?
Very solid capture and structure within a linear flow. 

What could be improved?
An experiment to try - if you erased your dark blue thread, try to use a light color to group ideas and create frames around them. See how that changes the understanding of the content and the flow. 

Mike's Feedback

What's good?
Really clear flow works well. Big numbers and flowlines help this. Use of read also emphasizes numbering. Good use of icons.

What could be improved?
Would like more emphasis on the title area, and a little more description to go along with the icons. If I don't watch the video the reliance on pure icons makes me work a little harder as a reader.

Matt's Feedback

What's good?
Like that the layout is something a bit different, and the little icons littered throughout are great.

What could be improved?
Need some more light and shade—currently all of the images and text sit at the same hierarchical level. Vary line thickness, text size, shading etc. These will all give your sketch more depth. Also remember basic connectors, arrows, dotted lines, fancy bullet points are all good ways to break it up.

Eva-Lotta's Feedback

What's good?
I like how you used a blue thread to pull together the narrative of the presentation. The big numbers for the three sections also Support the structure well. Nice icon sketching. 

What could be improved?

You captured a lot of individual little images and single words. I am lacking a bit of context and logical connection between these bits. I'd try to sometimes also capture a whole sentence, that gives a bit more information connecting the individual thoughts. You could also summarise the 3 parts you labelled in a few words and add that as titles for the section. This will also help to put individual sketches and words into context.

Anthony Joseph from Melbourne, Australia

Anthony writes about his sketchnote:

What do you like about your sketchnote/what works well?

I was happy with the idea of algorithms as a black ball of string.  I listened to the talk and created the image in my note.  I redrew the note so I could use the metaphor to tie the note together.

What would you like to improve?

I think listening a second time would be good to catch everything.  I ran out of room so the composition could be better too.

Craighton's Feedback

What's good?
Love the simplicty and implied grid of the page

What could be improved?
The lines between sections helps to divide them up, but also acts as a barrier to connecting ideas-perhaps a bit too linear. Try exploring the page to see what structures might fall out

Brandy's Feedback

What's good?
I'm not sure a mathemetician would see an algorithmn as a ball of string - but I love that you made this abstract concept a living character and repeated the motif.

What could be improved?
I see some internal organization within individual points (ex. The radiant shape inthe third line). How would you work be organized if you used a horiozontal or square canvas? Or even used a vertical page as a whole canvas vs a series of rows?

Mike's Feedback

What's good?
Good job with a large, noticable title and well structured sections across the page. You've captured a good bit of info on a single page. Like the stealth fighter.

What could be improved?
Maybe add more hand-lettering with boldness to aid in identifying distinct areas of the sketchnote. 

Matt's Feedback

What's good?
Agree that the black ball of string is a great representation and works really well throughout the sketch.

What could be improved?
Practice a few decorative typefaces that you can then use for headings, for more variety. Could be more creative with layout. Also remember basic connectors, arrows, dotted lines etc all help to keep things interesting.

Eva-Lotta's Feedback

What's good?
You did a great job listening for the big points, chunking them together and capturing them in a nicely summarised way. I like the format of one sketch + explaining text per thought. This makes it really easy for the eye to follow the story. 

What could be improved?

I don't think you need the horizontal rulers. Try achieving the separation through spacing instead and maybe try experimenting with other structural elements to highlight which points are related rather than emphasising the order in the talk.  To improve on your format even more, try pulling out the important keyword in each chunk and play with larger lettering to make it easy to pick up when skimming the page.

Entries from the Sketchnotes Challenge – Part 2

Here are the next 10 entries:

Eris Weaver, US

Eris writes about her sketchnote:

What do you like about your sketchnote/what works well?

  • When I confine myself to two colors + black, I really like the look! It makes the pictures & words somehow hang together more than when I go crazy with too many colors.

  • My drawing is improving – the buildings look good, everything pretty much looks like what it’s supposed to be (except my airplane STILL looks like a dolphin…)

  • I tried to be consistent with lettering, using no more than two styles in an organized way, and that is working OK

What would you like to improve?

  • I took up too much space in the early minutes, leaving less space for later

  • Too much attention to stuff early on that ended up not being as important

  • Not sure I really included the main overall point of the talk in a clear way

  • I debated about where to put the last bit, the Dark Pools….since it was talking about stuff OUTside the algorithms, I decided to kind of put it OUTside the rest of the drawing, instead of in that little open space in the left below the city buildings…so it sort of works conceptually, but visually it just looks kind of dumb down there all by itself. If I were sending this to a client, I’d cut and paste it up into that space so the whole drawing would look better.

Craighton's Feedback

What's good?
Gold/blue color combo is very regal. 

What could be improved?
I would work on being more confident in your icon drawing

Brandy's Feedback

What's good?
Limited color palette definitely makes the sketchnote feel like an integrated whole. 

What could be improved?
Since you had space, you could have distinguished the dark pools as outside with a strong line/boundary. That could delineate algorithm v. not algorithm ad helped tied it in. 

Mike's Feedback

What's good?
Pretty clean work, which I like. Blue and yellow highlights work well against the black line artwork. Like the brain and head illustration.

What could be improved?
White space is pretty good, but it seems there are some holes left on the page which suggests a different placement of items might have made the page feel better balanced. Information seems a little lighter than some other entries, though there is a decent balance of illustration to compensate somewhat. Arrows could have been sharper and cleaner.

Matt's Feedback

What's good?
Like the non-linear layout!

What could be improved?
Work on expanding your visual vocabulary, so you have a larger repertoire of objects to include in your sketches with confidence.

Eva-Lotta's Feedback

What's good?
I like your use of a limited colour palette. Nice clear and simple sketches, too.

What could be improved?
I found it hard at first to see the title of the talk (being in the middle) as it has the same visual treatment and visual weight as other points in the talk. The big word ‘Stealth’ looks more like the title at a first glance.
You used colour very evenly throughout the notes. Try using colour to create visual hierarchy instead of using it as decoration.

You could, for example, use the yellow for main points and the blue for secondary points (both in lettering as well as the sketches). This will instantly make your notes much more structured and scannable.

Grant Baker from Omaha, US

Grant writes about his sketchnote:

What do you like about your sketchnote/what works well?

I think I had a easy to follow flow. Also had lots of room to work

What would you like to improve?

I would love to improve managing how much space I have left to work with and figuring out how to decipher what the important "meat" of the talk is versus getting caught up in drawing the illustrations. I guess I'd like to use the illustrations in a visual way to fully communicate the kernel of what's being communicated.

Craighton's Feedback

What's good?
Very visual, map like

What could be improved?
I would work smaller, and with thinner markers. I would use more text to help describe the images

Brandy's Feedback

What's good?
I can definitely see you're processing Slavin's talk spatially and visually. 

What could be improved?
Would like to see more text to help you retain the concept later. 

Mike's Feedback

What's good?
Pretty good use of the page. Like that you are using icons and imagery here.

What could be improved?
Not as detailed with written text to describe the imagery as I would like, which leaves me to guess as some of the information represented as imagery. Some areas seem to have had more time spent, some feel almost rushed. Like the idea of the gray marker for a highlight, but it seems to be a bit dry at points.

Matt's Feedback

What's good?
I like the large numbers, as they act as anchors for page structure

What could be improved?
Expand your visual vocabulary; try adding shading to bring depth to your images; capture more words; experiment with typefaces and type size; read a tutorial on how to clean up your scanned image

Eva-Lotta's Feedback

What's good?
I like the flow you created in the note by using big arrorws to show the order of the ideas in the talk. I also like your quick schematic style of visualising concepts.

What could be improved?

I think you might have fallen into the trap that some people experience when they do sketchnotes at first: they try to shift everything to visuals and can sometimes forget that it’s also ok to capture things as text. Don’t loose your wonderful visualisation but try to add some textual explanation or key points sometimes to get even more out of your sketches. Some concepts are so abstract, that language is a great tool to both summarise and to add precision.

Makayla Lewis from London, UK

Makayla writes about her sketchnote:

What do you like about your sketchnote/what works well?

I usually use clouds as separators and arrows to indicate flow which I rather like, I also like the sparing use of colouras it highlights key points. However I think I should of stuck with one accent colour.

What would you like to improve?

It was a rather hard presentation to sketchnote i.e. I don't know much about algorithms so I think I used too much space explaining what it was (which was offered at the beginning of the video) rather than sketching the different ways they are used which could be more valuable. However I think the way I've done it is rather appropriate given my knowledge of the subject as it will be useful reference in the future.


Craighton's Feedback

What's good?
I like the personal notes peppered throughout, the clouds and hatching add a nice texture

What could be improved?
I would reduce the density—perhaps work on a bigger page, or use thinner pens

Brandy's Feedback

What's good?
Great use of shading to create depth and distillation of language is strong. 

What could be improved?
Lighter colors of markers for the clouds and shading would help them recede so your overall page would look so dense and a little crowded. 

Mike's Feedback

What's good?
Love the bold title area, the bloody axe and the generally bold feel of this sketchote. Color highlights are nice too.

What could be improved?
Some lower case lettering would make the lettering friendlier feeling, a little more whitespace between objects would help the overall sketchnote.

Matt's Feedback

What's good?
I really like the clouds as a layout approach too! Plus the whole page exudes enthusiasm and positivity!

What could be improved?
I'd go easy on the grey shading of whitespace. Also one colour highlight is probably enough.

Eva-Lotta's Feedback

What's good?
Your sketchnote is clearly structured into groups of thoughts. They way you summarised the different concepts of stealth and black box trading is both very nice visual and very clear and easy to follow. The cloud separators work very well to separate the different talks while the arrows between them show the flow of the talk. Nice touch to have yourself in teh bottom corner ‘thinking’ of all these things.

What could be improved?

I feel like you followed the talk very nicely for the first half while you didn’t capture much towards the end. Did you maybe feel you ran out of space? In that case, don’t hesitate to start a second sheet. You sketchnotes don’t have to fit on a single page. You never quite know how a talk is going to go and how much interesting material a speaker has to share. You can always piece the separate pages together in Photoshop after scanning.

Michelle Park from Auckland, New Zealand

Michelle writes about her sketchnote:

What do you like about your sketchnote/what works well?

  • I like the idea of the cross section of the plane to help explain stealth/breaking stealth.

  • The red thread mentioned in the talk could be a great way to tie different parts of the sketchnote together

  • I like that by the end of the talk I could see how linear it was, though I didn't quite grasp that during the process.

  • I like capturing quotes from the speaker - make a great tweeting archive for after the talk :)

What would you like to improve?

  • use of colour
  • flow of information
  • would like to incorporate more figures - I think having people (even blobby ones) really bring a sketchnote to life
  • quickly capturing concepts with graphics

Craighton's Feedback

What's good?
I really like your style of making larger graphics from smaller pieces. Love the mix of line weights and color. Feels really dynamic and fun to pick through

What could be improved?
If this filled the spread in the notebook, this would have just enough room to breathe. Perhaps consider starting in the middle of the page and see what happens?

Brandy's Feedback

What's good?
Really good blend of imagery, text and highlighting ideas with light color washes. 

What could be improved?
I can see how much you like to connect elements to each other. Would love to see a horizontal canvas to let you connect even better and not have the right page feel like a bit stuck on the side. 

Mike's Feedback

What's good?
Really love the visual illustration style, colors and layered feel of this sketchnote. 

What could be improved?
Empty lower right area suggests a little less layering and more use of white space could help spread the information across the whole page. I love the feel of the overlapping elements, but it can also make the information harder to process.

Matt's Feedback

What's good?
Like the quotes in word balloons, the variations in type, and the common threads that weave throughout the notes (internet cables etc)

What could be improved?
Kinda busy—a bit more breathing space may give key concepts more space to shine.

Eva-Lotta's Feedback

What's good?
I like the colour scheme and the line quality of your sketching and your handwriting. The whole piece looks really dynamic and inviting to dive in. The sketch of the bank building connected to the internet in the center of the page is really great, it captures the point very well.

What could be improved?

Overall your sketch is super dense with a lot of varied elements. On the one hand, this makes it very intriguing to look but on the other hand also makes it quite hard see the structure or the main points of the talk. Try leaving more space between different points and thoughts, probably more than you feel is right or necessary. It will make it much easier to see where one idea ends and the next one starts. It also gives you the possibility to fill in missing or related points throughout the talk and add structural elements to help make the hierarchy of ideas in the talk clearer.

Bernie Quah from Malaysia

Bernie writes about her sketchnote:

What do you like about your sketchnote/what works well

The text and visuals are large enough to show emphasis and hierarchy between the topics. The characters in the visuals look welcoming and won't intimidate the reader. Managed to catch the main points and figured out a layout present the info.

What would you like to improve?

The sequence flow could be improved. Some of the visuals under "Black box trading" could have been better visualised and spaced out, rather tight right now. Wasn't quick enough to catch some of the points Kevin mentioned so areas like "Inscrutability" and "Dark Pools" may not be complete.
Overall I did my best and glad I learnt more about my capabilities.

Craighton's Feedback

What's good?
Clean, graphic, well structured, fun to explore

What could be improved?
Scan these — I want to zoom in more! Perhaps explore color, but don't feel like you must.

Brandy's Feedback

What's good?
Yes, very solid capture of the content with friendly characters bringing ideas to life.

What could be improved?
Would love to see a second color added to see how you could highlight and improve flow.

Mike's Feedback

What's good?
Really love your more detailed title area and illustrated imagery. Love that you weren't feeling tied to a single page and used a second page, rather than trying to fit everything into a single page. Good balance overall.

What could be improved?
Francis Galton's head is pretty close to the vertical dashed line, maybe the pool in the lower right corner of page 2 could use that space a bit better. Overall, not much to correct here.

Matt's Feedback

What's good?
Love the organisation, the cartoon illustrations, the type. Awesome.

What could be improved?
Consider adding some grey shading to bring depth to some of your imagery.

Eva-Lotta's Feedback

What's good?
I think your notes are great. Great structure and great chunking of key points, especially pulling out the big key words in the second half (OPACITY, INSCRUTABILITY, ...) in big type and then adding examples and details as smaller elements.
You also created lots of clever visual metaphors, like the conveyor belt with the different examples coming out of the algorhythm machine and the NY microchip (really cool).

What could be improved?
It’s hard to give tips for improving but I would be really interested to see you start experimenting with an additional accent colour. I am sure this would take your notes to an even higher level.
You could also try to do a little ‘warm up’ before sketching a talk. Your sketches get stronger and stronger throughout the talk. Doing some random little sketches before you start will give you a little head start and so you don’t have to warm up during the talk.

Ross Atkin from London, UK

Ross writes about his sketchnote:

What do you like about your sketchnote/what works well

I think they follow the flow of the talk quite well which in one way is an advantage because it's all there (but still easier to navigate than written notes) BUT...

What would you like to improve?

... looking at the whole page you don't get any kind of overview of what the talk was about which I would like to be able to be able to get across

Craighton's Feedback

What's good?
Love how clean, consistent and graphic the page comes across. Your illustrations are super.

What could be improved?
As much as I love the B&W approach, the hierarchy of info is a bit difficult to discern. Perhaps a spot color for important ideas, or less of a serpentine path might help witht he storytelling

Brandy's Feedback

What's good?
Stellar record of points paired with evocative icons. 

What could be improved?
If you think of this sketchnote as a first layer, could you add more structure as a second layer made with a second color? Create connections, framing, pull out themes. 

Mike's Feedback

What's good?
Great amount of info capture, like the clear, small icons.

What could be improved?
However, the large amount of info in small disconnected sections with arrows for flow makes for a very complex sketchnote visually. With so much to process, my mind reacts by wanting to just scanning the icons and stopping there.

Matt's Feedback

What's good?
Love so many little icons scattered around the page. Had the fun of a Where's Wally book!

What could be improved?
May want to consider which elements are important (elevate, with stronger lines, larger type, shading etc) and which are less important (let them fade to the back). At the moment everything's at the same level.

Eva-Lotta's Feedback

What's good?
I love your little sketches. They are neat and witty and have a distinct style. Your own variation of doing star people gives them their own character and works very well within your style. And you are quick! You managed to capture and sketch lots of material.

What could be improved?
What is obvious at the first glance of your sketch is that everything you capture has the same size, the same visual weight and the same spacing. It make your sketchnote look very nice and even, but at the same time it doesn’t help to make it easy to read or scan. It almost feels like you are steno graphing the talk idea for idea.

Try to get some variation into your sketches and your writing. Try to decide which things are more important than others while you listen and express this hierarchy through variation in size, line weight, colour and spacing. Try different sizes of writing for key points compared to details. Make sketches of key concepts bigger. Try to use separators and frames to group clusters of points that belong to the same thought.

Paule Andre from Belgium

Paule writes about her sketchnote:

What do you like about your sketchnote/what works well

I was able to capture some ideas using drawing (like the Crystal ball) and ended up linking some initial drawing with things that came in later in the speech (ie: linking the hide and seek to the initial attempt to have big as small particle, linking the Dark pools to the "outside" of the crytsal ball)

What would you like to improve?

Almost everything ... mainly the typo/handwriting is not consistent, there might not be enough text, I did not draw the speaker (but had fun with with Firs/last Name), I used the color but I am not satisfied with the outcome... I also noticed that recording a talk in English is harder , specially when it's not your domain

Craighton's Feedback

What's good?
Love the KeVIN SlaVIN detail.

What could be improved?
Meandering stripe is very distracting—I would look to push that to a lower layer, and perhaps add more structure

Brandy's Feedback

What's good?
Good use of imagery and scale. Really like the title used as a hub with the examples as spokes around it. 

What could be improved?
What you did capture, you did a good job integrating it into a whole picture. I wish for more detail in the content

Mike's Feedback

What's good?
Clever structure for the speaker's name, interesting flow structure.

What could be improved?
Yellow flow inficator works, but seems to cover some under elements more than I would like, maybe coloring around solid black arrows would help with this.

Matt's Feedback

What's good?
Like the idea of a meandering snake following the presentation journey. Risky if there is no big pay-off at the end though!

What could be improved?
I'm not big on lots of colour. Also, consider expanding your visual vocabulary so you have more imagery that you can just whip out without thinking to represent various concepts.

Eva-Lotta's Feedback

What's good?
I like the clear path you created in your notes by using the yellow stream running through it. There are some nice clever details in your sketchnote like hiding the word ‘BIG’ in the grid of little boxes and the speed lines on the lettering for ‘Faster Network access’

What could be improved?

The structure in your sketchnotes is really strong. I think you don’t need the fat arrows in between the items to make the flow work. The yellow stream does this nicely already. It feels like you found it easier to summarise the first half of the talk. You have captured the key points nicely. In the second half it feels like it was harder for you to distill all the examples and smaller bits into clear bigger chunks. To practice summarising and structuring key points of a talk, you can try and do a first run through a talk only using words, but paying a lot of attention to the different levels of hierarchy within the ideas and express these with different sizes, frames and colours. In a second run, try to pick out the main concepts and add sketches for these. Over time, you’ll be able to do both more easily at the same time.

Chris Noessel from San Francisco, USA

Chris writes about his sketchnote:

What do you like about your sketchnote/what works well

Visual hierarchy, cartooning

What would you like to improve?

The typography and flow

Craighton's Feedback

What's good?
Love the looseness mixed with digital. The little iconic characters you draw are super

What could be improved?
Perhaps a bit more structure to tighten the story

Brandy's Feedback

What's good?
Confident cartooning with a lot of personality

What could be improved?
Your loose drawing stlye has a wonderful energy to it. If you were sharing these or sketchnoting for a wider audience, I'd like you to make these a little neater and tghter without losing the character. 

Mike's Feedback

What's good?
Love the overall feel and flow, great illustrations! Two-tone highlight works well.

What could be improved?
Not much to improve on here - maybe more stylized lettering in the title block under Kevin's name.

Matt's Feedback

What's good?
Love the dark pools! Love the caricature of the speaker!

What could be improved?
Consider using a pen that produces a more interesting line—the pen you've used is very fine, and the only variance we get is the outline of the speaker

Eva-Lotta's Feedback

What's good?
Your notes are really charming. Your way of sketching concepts and injecting mini stories by using characters is great. I love the simple way you sketch your little characters. A big head with arms and legs is really all it needs :) You also have a good balance of individual details and summarising statements for each of the ‘chapters’

What could be improved?
Not really much to improve, but you could try expereimenting with your use of colour, to use it more effienciently to guide the eye to the main points. Right now the green appears in objects that lend themselves to be filled for visual reasons (to create some even spots of colour throughout). Try using it on the parts that actuallu hold the key bits of information. If this ends up looking too boring or unbalanced to you, you could use a second lighter shade of the smae colour to add some more ‘decorative’ balancing shading.

You might also look at slowing down just a tiny bit when you do your block lettering. With a little bit more attention when doing it, you’ll get it way neater with not much more effort or loss in speed.

Clare Mills

Clare writes about her sketchnote:

What do you like about your sketchnote/what works well

I like the colours they help balance image.

What would you like to improve?

I drew extra birds, maths signs and money bags in when finished... i would do less in future as i think more white space would be easier on eye.

Craighton's Feedback

What's good?
Great spacing between text and drawings—dense but balanced

What could be improved?
Color is a bit overwhelming, perhaps simplify to one to two spot colors. Perhaps less filler doodles

Brandy's Feedback

What's good?
The repetition of symbols to create areas on page is unexpected and works well...

What could be improved?
... And yes to more white space and/or doing all of one symbol in one color (i.e. all the moeny bags green, all the math symbols blue and all the birds purple) to support the structure and the different areas even more.

Mike's Feedback

What's good?
Love that you are using purple, rather than black for a base color with highlights. Really different! Also quite like your simple and clear icons and use of space.

What could be improved?
Light blue and green lettering right in the center seems hard to read. Maybe purple there with highlight colors used in another way would help. Could use maybe a little more descriptive text to balance imagery.

Matt's Feedback

What's good?
So colourful! Normally I'm not one for too much colour, but I think this totally works.

What could be improved?
I'd try for some more distinctions between important and less important concepts. Flash Crash stands out, but the rest sits at the same level. The symbols and birds in the whitespace don't help this.

Eva-Lotta's Feedback

What's good?
I love how neat your sketches and your handwriting are. They also have a very nice dynamic to them. The sketch of the DJ is great and full of character, the sketch of the vehicle generating algorhythm is really nice simpified and captured.

What could be improved?
I would try to limit your colour palette to just one base colour and one accent colour. While you notes looks really nice and friendly now, the use of colour is mainly decorative. You could get much more clarity and structure into your notes by just adding splashes of colour  to attract the eye to key points.
You should also not be ‘afraid’ of white space. The little birds and symbols you added throughout the note don’t add information and even make the structure harder to see because everything gets very evenly distributed. Good sketchnotes need a lot of visual hierarchy and a lot of contrast, which can sometimes go against our initial feeling of wanting to create a ‘harmonious’ picture.

@jacqsqueezy

20_jacqsqueezy_smaller.jpg

@jacqsqueezy writes about her sketchnote:

What do you like about your sketchnote/what works well

  • I sketchnoted on a mobile app called Papyrus, so I liked that I was able to move around columns, to make each "chapter" closer together or further apart, and the ability to switch between colors. It also offers "infinite" canvas/page size, so I'm able to keep topics or Slavin's "chapters" all in one (or two) columns - I did not experience any, "oops, I ran out of space at the bottom of the page."
  • Basic illustrations

What would you like to improve?

  • Live recording - I was not comfortable with not being able to pause the video, so I'd like to practice more live recordings so I don't miss as much information.
  • Visual Hierarchy - I'd like to work on and incorporate general design principles (Contrast, Repetition, Alignment, Proximity) and typography
  • Overall - More illustrations and better use of color

Craighton's Feedback

What's good?
Columns feel logical and clean

What could be improved?
Push yourself to visualize more and write less

Brandy's Feedback

What's good?
White space between points and columns very clearly show structure

What could be improved?
I tend to be more spatial, and anti-linear - so I'm curious how you'd reorganize this talk in Papyrus not in vertical columns. How would you understand the content in a new way with a new shape?

Mike's Feedback

What's good?
Really like the clear structure on the left side. Nice that the title is clearly marked for visibility.

What could be improved?
Right page is starting to look sparse and not as structured or as visual as the left side of the page.

Matt's Feedback

What's good?
Like the subtle use of colour and the variation in type

What could be improved?
Experiment with different layouts; practice lettering with a couple of typefaces to gain confidence. Watch the clock and compare to available space on page.

Eva-Lotta's Feedback

What's good?
I like the column structure. Good use of white space to make individual points stand out. I like the title treatment as well. Looks almost like the labelling on an architect's blueprint. 

What could be improved?

It seems like you started struggling with capturing things in the second half of the talk. Try pushing through, even when energy gets low. The numbering of the columns helps; you could even try to give each block a summarising title in big letters.

Have you seen the other parts of the challenge?

The initial challenge
Entries Part 1
Entries Part 3
Entries Part 4
The expert feedback

Entries from the Sketchnotes Challenge – Part 1

I am blown away by the response to my little challenge. The quality and variety of the submitted sketchnotes is great. But most of all, I am happy and impressed by the great  reflections you guys sent along with your notes about what you think went well and what you would like to improve. You guys actually don't need any expert feedback at all... ;)

UPDATE: You can now find the feedback from the panel of experts below each sketchnote

Here are the first 10 entries:

Sarah Moyle from Portland, Oregon

Sarah writes about her sketchnote:

What do you like about your sketchnote/what works well?
My favorite part is the finger poking the brain

What would you like to improve?
I need to work on information filtering. I always have to go back at the end and fill in some spaces that I left myself. Also keeping my handwriting neater when I am rushed.

Craighton's Feedback

What's good?
Like the spot color usage. The vertical format feels great for blogging

What could be improved?
Breathing space—feel slike parts are very dense and others are a but uneven. This is tough to work out, but will be the page snap into focus

Brandy's Feedback

What's good?
Very strong capture of all main points with good distillation of text. Long enough phrases for good referral and rentention. 

What could be improved?
A little more white space, breathing space around block letter and such to make text clearer. Ex. the text along the long, green, horizontal arrow mid-page.

Mike's Feedback

What's good?
Love the title emphasis, use of arrows for flow and balance of imagery to wording. 

What could be improved?
Would have liked to see numbering for additional reinforcement of flow, green dots for all bullet points.

Matt's Feedback

What's good?
Green highlight works well; great title text too!

What could be improved?
More variance in type—not just in the title, but in key phrases/quotes/concepts

Eva-Lotta's Feedback

What's good?
I like your use of colour to structure the page and draw attention to some points. The sketchnotes feels really well balanced in terms of capturing main points, adding enough detail and visualising concepts. The big banner that separates the two halves of the talk works really well to structure the page and to introduce the second part of the talk.

What could be improved?
If you want to improve on your use of colour, try using it to highlight the actual content / key points rather than the arrows inbetween. It is tempting to fill the big arrows with colour to give the overall look some balance and rhythm, but from a information clarity point of view, it is better to use colour as an accent where you want the eye to be drawn to. You use this very nicely in the filled banners and big numbers already.
In some of your sketches I also noticed that you use lots of little strokes to form a line (for example in the building of NYC or the brain that gets squished). Try practicing sketching things with one clean continuous line. Even if the line is sometimes not perfectly in the right spot, it will make your sketches calmer, cleaner and easier to ‘read’.


Kevin Mears from Cardiff, UK

Kevin writes about his sketchnote:

Found that particular talk tricky since it was SO dense - so many ideas and metaphors thrown in there it wwould have been impossible to caprure them all. It emphasised to me the importance of having the confidence of deciding what is important to you. The act of doing a sketchnote that you know will (or might) be shared subtly changes how you think towards it.

I find that I'm happy with a sketch-note if I think I could talk someone through a decent precis of a talk based on the notes. This one passes that test for me. I felt that I didn't really capture one big idea - but the subject seemed to be all about how algorithms have become pervasive and what might be the responses, so maybe that's reflected?

I've been working recently on a different kind of sketchbook for the past few months. I found this one being thrown away in work, and it's got lovely shiny paper that takes ink really well, but is a little slow to dry. It's making my notes use more blacks since it's so enjoyable to let the ink flow.

It would've have been nice to draw up some references to the visuals that Kevin Slavin used in the talk, and some of the great images he suggested, like cities listening.  I think that a really good talk can be strangely hard to sketchnote since there's less 'dead time' in the talk to catch up with the drawing.

Craighton's Feedback

What's good?
I like the grid-like feel—feels logical

What could be improved?
I would work to capture meaningful bits, not just the catchy words

Brandy's Feedback

What's good?
Very solid use of imagery and text as images.

What could be improved?
Curious how you'd work with a landscape/horizontal page, or across the double page spread. Would love to see more flow and connection between the ideas. 

Mike's Feedback

What's good?
Like the title area of the sketchnote, use of imagery too.

What could be improved?
Empty space in the lower right makes the rest of the structure feel compressed. Work on opening up your elements a little more to accommodate the page.

Matt's Feedback

What's good?
Like the thicker line around the outside of the wine bottle ... would have liked to see this effect used more throughout! Also liked the caricature of the speaker and the variety of typefaces.

What could be improved?
Add some grey shading to bring depth to objects on the page. Also don't rule out capturing more choice quotes, and watch the clock to avoid being left with whitespace at the end

Eva-Lotta's Feedback

What's good?
You have great sketches in your notes. I like the quality of your lines and the simple but dynamic way of sketching objects (the printer with the paper coming out is great). Lots of personality.

What could be improved?
You could try experimenting with adding more structure to your notes. Right now, you have a lot of different styles, sizes and visual elements going on. This is great to create some visually interesting and diverse notes, but makes it a bit harder to see the structure and how things hang together. Try choosing one style of lettering for main points and one style separator or frame to group things and use these consistently throughout one talk. I think it will make your notes easier to process and skim afterwards. If the consistency gets boring, you can always change styles between talks, but within one piece, try reducing styles to enhance the readability.

Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson

Jennifer writes about her sketchnote:

What do you like about your sketchnote/what works well?
I got some space between the main points and some distinction between them

What would you like to improve?
My dividing lines need to receed relative to the points 1 through 5.

Craighton's Feedback

What's good?
I like the loose, meandering feel. 

What could be improved?
I would work to balance out the page more, make the white space feel more balanced

Brandy's Feedback

What's good?
Good sense of organization and levels of information within each section.

What could be improved?
Yes, a lighter color for your dividing lines would help show the 5 sections while looking less sliced up and separate. 

Mike's Feedback

What's good?
Good use of the page and white space, use of imagery is pretty good too.

What could be improved?
Would like more emphasis on the title area, lower portion of the sketchnote feels a little more cramped than the upper area, though that can be tough to gauge.

Matt's Feedback

What's good?
I'm a sucker for type empathy, so I dig that the word STEALTH begins to disappear. Nice. I like the page structure here too.

What could be improved?
Expand your use of grey shading to give your sketch some depth beyond a narrow shadow along the underbelly of each image; explore new type options

Eva-Lotta's Feedback

What's good?
I like how you used lettering to visualise the meaning of Stealth within the actual word by making the ‘H’ disappear with a dotted line. I also like your little bar diagram, visualising the realtion ship between the length of pipe and the amount of money made as a result. You also structured the talk into very clear chunks of ideas.

What could be improved?
I suggest that you could try playing around with colour in your next sketchnotes. Colour is a great way to create visual hierarchy and to make key points stand out. Try using one single highlight colour to make the key words stand out. It will enhance the structure and the scanability of your notes.

Tom Kealey

Tom writes about his sketchnote:

What do you like about your sketchnote/what works well?
Kevin's presentation is well structured and punctuated with lots of stories, analogies and metaphors; lending nicely to the imagination and easing the process of synthesis. It was an interesting talk and fun to doodle. 

1. Dividing the page in two helped with the layout.
2. Keeping an eye on the clock helped pace the space.
3. Writing keywords and moving on; knowing I can return later to fill in the gaps from memory when the talk slows, repeats or ends.

What would you like to improve?
1. Cleaner structure and more obvious flow.
2. My ability to synthesise - reduce the urge to capture everything.

Craighton's Feedback

What's good?
Love the open-ness of the page. The linework is nice as well.

What could be improved?
I would add a bit more hierarchy to the sections

Brandy's Feedback

What's good?
Fantastic capture of the ideas and good complementary imagery.

What could be improved?
Each piece is roughly the same size, so it is hard to see what points are more overarching headlines and which are supporting details Trying playing with scale more to bring in more organization. Listen to ascertain what concepts feel bigger.

Mike's Feedback

What's good?
Really nice use of white space and elements on the page. You've done a great jpb of spacing these out visually so they feel very balanced. Love the highlight colors added to the sketchnote as well. Financial services stack of digital documents breaking the square is a nice visual touch. Overall I really like the simple line drawn icons and images - super clear. A, B, C, D markers are a great solution for flow direction.

What could be improved?
I think the only real addition I could see here would be a bolder, more pronouced title area up top. Because it seems very similar to the body, it doesn't immediately mark the talk name or speaker. LIFT is well emphasized - I would like to see the talk title and speaker more emphasized as well.

Matt's Feedback

What's good?
Comprehensive, plus the subtle use of colour works well.

What could be improved?
Try and experiment with different typography and sizes of type

Eva-Lotta's Feedback

What's good?
Your sketchnote has a great balance of concept visualisation and detailed capturing. I like how the text parts complement and explain the sketches (for example in the first part about stealth) and how the sketches visualise key points (for example the visualisation of mono-culture: very nice and clever use of colour).

What could be improved?
You have a very nice use of whitespace going on that makes each idea  stand on its own. You could try to use frames to group several ideas that belong together to make the overall structure of the talk stand out more. You started doing this by labelling the different sections with A, B, C and D, but using actual borders and frames would help to make it very easy to see these parts at a glance.

Andy Fisher from Norwich, UK

Andy writes about his sketchnote:

What do you like about your sketchnote/what works well?
I think generally I was pleased with the decision to use a 'path' approach and by the interplay of images and text. I sketched out all my key ideas in pencil and then inked them, added to them and coloured the Sketchnote while I listened to the talk a second time.

What would you like to improve?
Handwriting is a little clunky in places, the keynote speaker's portrait is distorted due to the angle I was sitting at when I sketched it and I was annoyed that I didn't leave the room to fit all of my email address in on the same line!

Craighton's Feedback

What's good?
Logical AND emotional. This is a really nice page!

What could be improved?
I almost don't believe you did this all in the time it took to listen to the lecture!

Brandy's Feedback

What's good?
Great use of scale and organization. Treated the page as a whole composition. Very strong. 

What could be improved?
Since you penciled in first, try squinting to see the density of the information over the page. This may have helped you spread the pieces out more to lessen the squished, dense information in the bottom third of the page.

Mike's Feedback

What's good?
Very nice illustration style. Like the title section top left - clear where the reader should begin. Great mix og description and visuals here. Love the little icons spread across the piece and how you have marked A B C as well as CH 1, 2 and 3 with markers. Orange makes a very nice highlight here.

What could be improved?
Not much to improve on here - you have found a nice balace of words and images, good spacing and structure. Maybe the base of the piece feels a little more tightened than the top, as though you were working hard to keep everything on a single page.

Matt's Feedback

What's good?
What's not to like? Great illustrations, cool caricature of the speaker, nice splash of colour ... I think the pupper master is my favourite.

What could be improved?
Clearly not created within the 30 mins of the talk ... but it looks so damn good that I'm prepared to turn a blind eye to this fact.

Eva-Lotta's Feedback

What's good?
Great notes. Clear sketches and handwriting, great use of structure, space and colour and some lovely visual metaphors in here (like the puppet master and the blindfolded guy). I like how you injected little stories into your sketches by making the object / people talk.

What could be improved?
The only part I can find that is a bit weaker than the other is the one about the cities and the connection between the internet connection and the real estate prices and shape of the cities. This connection got a bit lost. 

Linda Saukko-Rauta from Jyväskylä, Finland

Linda writes about her sketchnote:

What do you like about your sketchnote/what works well?
I like the fact that I was able to draw some kind of a big picture and that I didn't throw in too many colours.

What would you like to improve?
Can one ever be satisfied with the end result? I would have liked to emphasize the algorithm part a bit more. Is the main thing lost there now? Or does the big picture cover it? I also seem to have nearly non-existing hierarchy in my sketchnote, as usual. But that's just how it is with my brain: the ocmplex structures might end up into a result - or not. 

Craighton's Feedback

What's good?
Love the color choice. Love the large overall shape as anchor. Love your handwriting

What could be improved?
I would strive to capture a bit more of the lecture, although I do love the minimalism

Brandy's Feedback

What's good?
Limited color palette, confidence in line and use of scale make this a very strong visual.

What could be improved?
Curious how much of the content you would retain with so little text?

Mike's Feedback

What's good?
I love the mapping of the head profile here. Initially I didn't even see it, so when I realized the sketchnote was mapped to a head, I had a moment of joy realizing it. Like the simplicity of black and orange with a little blue/black in the middle. Computer as master around the neck is great. Love the monster!

What could be improved?
I see there is a blue/black section in the middle for the Bank, but I'm not sure of the significance. Without hearing or seeing the talk, I wouldn't be sure where to start - I assume top left and down and then right, but that would be a guess.

Matt's Feedback

What's good?
Lovely illustrative style, great use of colour.

What could be improved?
Looks like an abstract illustration that was inspired by the talk, created after it was complete—visually interesting but doesn't really capture key points

Eva-Lotta's Feedback

What's good?
I love the visual richness of your notes and how you pulled it together with the big head chanined to the computer framing all the ideas. A really clever visual conclusion of the talk. Your sketches are very charming, too. 

What could be improved? 
The main part of your sketchnotes is almost exclusively visual. I’d try to add a bit more language to some of the ideas, at least some overall keywords that summarise some of the concepts. This will make it easier for you to remember details later and for others to follow along (in case you’d like to share the notes for others to see and use).

Pia Villför Larsson from Stockholm, Sweden

Pia writes about her sketchnote:

What do you like about your sketchnote/what works well?
I just followed the flow – didn’t stop and correct things.
I was lost some times but came back on track again.
I learned something about algorithms that affects me today (I have actually given it a thought already especially when it comes to music and films).
I think if somebody asked me I could give a short summary of the presentation.

What would you like to improve?
The color setting: Too much?
 I tried to make a “red thread” through the story but I am not sure that it helps at all.
The layout
The spelling

Craighton's Feedback

What's good?
Colorful, graphic, love how it all flows into one piece

What could be improved?
I would use a thinner marker, or bigger paper—it feels a bit too thick overall. This would also give you more room, so you're not "stuck in a corner"

Brandy's Feedback

What's good?
Simple icons that have a lot of life to them.

What could be improved?
Yes, I couldn't pull out the red thread with all the color going on. I recommend trying a there color palette: black, a bright/dark color (ex. red) and a tint/pastel of that color (ex. pink) Using less color to make more meaning. See what happens.

Mike's Feedback

What's good?
Very bright, bold sketchnote style. 

What could be improved?
Spacing could be better (empty areas on right page) and it feels a little rushed, Bright use of many colors gives a strong feeling - maybe limit colors to 4 or 5.

Matt's Feedback

What's good?
Like the caricature of the speaker and the talk title ribbon!

What could be improved?
I'd definitely recommend using a thinner pen. Would make things easier to read ... also less colour will make it look less busy

Eva-Lotta's Feedback

What's good?
I like your sketch of Kevin. It has a great dynamic line quality. I also like the ear on the skyscrapers. This is a nice visual metaphor for cities that had to learn to “listen”

What could be improved?
You are using a lot of colours. I can see how you are trying to use the different colours to structure the talk, but I think with 7 different pens, it is getting a bit too much and is not adding clarity. Try picking one or two accent colours in addition to the black and use them consistently for different levels of information, e.g. all key points in colour 1 and all sub points in colour 2.
I’d also try using thinner pens as the lines get slightly too thick for your size of writing and sketching which makes everything a bit harder to read.

Katie Buchanan from London, UK

Katie writes about her sketchnote:

What do you like about your sketchnote/what works well?
I like the use of arrows as I think it helps the flow of the piece. 

What would you like to improve?
I would like to improve my sketching of people and also the amount of information I capture whilst maintaining the flow of the piece. 
I also wonder if I could use colour a bit more effectively?

Craighton's Feedback

What's good?
I like the airiness of the piece, yet the contained feeling

What could be improved?
I would reduce the impact of the arrows—they jump out at me the most

Brandy's Feedback

What's good?
Distilling of text is strong and font styles support the content. Good use of white space and use of whole page.

What could be improved?
Another way to use color is using a very light color that recedes to create containers around ideas and show flow. 

Mike's Feedback

What's good?
Really like the structure and whitespace of the sketchnote, use of color and arrows as well as simple, clear illustrated elements.

What could be improved?
Maybe the title above could be more impactful and bolder. Since this could be something you do before a live talk in practice, you could have this done before the talk begins. 

Matt's Feedback

What's good?
Very neat, confident hand; great splashes of colour for highlights

What could be improved?
Consider experimenting with typography a bit more

Eva-Lotta's Feedback

What's good?
I love the overall look of the sketchnote. Your sketches and handwriting are neat and readable. I like how you chunked the examples of things that algorithms influence. Overall I feel that you really got into great summarising  in the 2nd half of the sketchnote.

What could be improved?
I’d try to add some textual detail / explanations to some of the points. In the first half of the notes (where you have the sketch of the city with the ear) the meaning and connections between the points (listening cities, the invisible and the black box) don’t seem clear. A few words of explanation could help (as you have done in the second half).

Ryo Sakai from Leuven, Belgium

Ryo writes about her sketchnote:

What do you like about your sketchnote/what works well?
I like how the protrait of Kevin Salvin turned out.

What would you like to improve?
Whoa... that was a really tough talk to sketchnote. I struggled to sketch such a complex and already abstract talk and grasp the main message. He mentions a lot of visuals, but they are connected in a rather abstract way to form core messages and he goes through them quickly... I wondered if you could give me any advice of how to capture both the details and the main message in live...  And I wish I could spell "algorithm" correctly...  

Craighton's Feedback

What's good?
I like the portrait! The general looseness is nice and casual.

What could be improved?
It feels very unbalanced, I would play with starting in the middle of the page and radiating outward

Brandy's Feedback

What's good?
Good use of white overall and use of the 3D box to pop the last point off the page.

What could be improved?
Looks like you lost focus in the last third. Perhaps focus less on imagery to be able to get more content down. Even if it's tough to follow, try to get something on the page that may help spark your memory later, or you can build on it with a second listen.

Mike's Feedback

What's good?
I like the portrait! The general looseness is nice and casual.

What could be improved?
I could see you emphasizing areas a little more as it seems you have a fair amount ot space left on the page and are writing with small lettering.  For instance, maybe Opacity could be larger to more clearly mark out that section (a solution could be to number and start the heading and come back later).

Matt's Feedback

What's good?
Some great imagery to reinforce key points

What could be improved?
Watch the clock, so you can plan to fill your canvas better; work on the consistency of your letterforms

Eva-Lotta's Feedback

What's good?
I like the portrait and how you visualised the concept of 'Stealth'.

What could be improved?
It feels like you struggled a bit towards the second half of the talk. If you feel like you run out of steam, try capturing at least some key concepts as words. You can always add visuals and fill out gaps later when your energy is back. I'd also try and use more variety in sizes of lettering. Try making key points larger and bolder to really stand out at a glance.

Stuart Copans from Brattleboro, Vermont

Stuart writes about his sketchnote:

What do you like about your sketchnote / what works well? 
I like the combination of drawing, writing and the use of hand-carved rubber stamps.  The 5 UBU's are part of an ongoing pataphysics project, but as the talk developed I suddenly realized the relationship between pataphysics and the threat of algorithms.

What would you like to improve?  

More care, and faster drying stamp ink which doesn't smudge.  I left the space for the stamps once I realized their relevance and used stamps for Kevin's name.  I like the contrast between the formal and mechanical (stamped letters) and the hand written.  I used 2 rapidograph pens (0.35 and 0.5) and a brush pen, but would like to do more with the brush pen because of its flexibility.  My preferred art form is papercuts, and I'd like to think about how to incorporate those into my sketchnotes, but it would have to involve visualizing them. leaving space for them, then later cutting them and pasting them in. Looking at it upside down (so I'm not distracted by the content) I'd like a little more solid blackness in the middle.

Craighton's Feedback

What's good?
I'm not sure I understand where the stamps come from but damn I love them. The title and bottom anchor the page in such a handsome way.

What could be improved?
The middle is just not as interesting—I would work on your ability to draw icons on the fly and give hierarchy to the ideas

Brandy's Feedback

What's good?
Very personal sketchnote. Appreciate how you're making new connections in your own learning while using your favorite methods.

What could be improved?
The boundaries around text feel constricted and confusing. Perhaps if the shapes were more fluid of in a lighter color the outlines would compete less with the text.

Mike's Feedback

What's good?
Immediately drawn to the title and the gray markered figures at the base of the sketchnote. Like the fish illustration.

What could be improved?
Because the dark gray areas are so bold, the non-color other areas feel almost invisible by contrast. It seems with just some additional colors in the open areas, this sketchnote would have much more vibrancy. The shapes just under the fish are fascinating to me, but I don't know their significance - maybe labeling would help here. Feels like the information is less important than the drawings overall.

Matt's Feedback

What's good?
The rubber stamps are a very cool and unique style

What could be improved?
Explore different typefaces and sizes of type—the containers of text are a little hard to read

Eva-Lotta's Feedback

What's good?
I like how you added your own interpretation of the talk, connecting the ideas in the talk with a topic you are interested in at the moment and showing the parallels between the two.

What could be improved?
You could try to add some more visual hierarchy into you notes by using different sizes of lettering. Draw out main key words in big writing and add the details in normal sized writing. This will make your notes easy to scan. You could also try to distinguish the ideas from the talk and your own commentary on it, for example by using different colours.

Have you seen the other parts of the challenge?

The initial challenge
Entries Part 2
Entries Part 3
Entries Part 4
The expert feedback


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Want to learn sketching hands-on?

See where Eva-Lotta is teaching and speaking next:
Upcoming Talks and Workshops

The first sketchnotes from the feedback challenge are in!

The first week of the make-a-sketchnote-and-get-feedback challenge is almost over and the first entries are in. So far, 3 people sent me their sketchnotes of Kevin Slavin's talk about algorhythms from last year's Lift conference.

I want to share them with you and hope they encourage you to participate and to benefit from the fantastic opportunity to get feedback from the panel of experts I gathered for you. As I said in a tweet earlier this week, don't be afraid to get your sketchnote in:

If you want to give it a go yourself, you can learn all about it here. You have time until the 17 of March. After that, we will put together feedback for each piece and post here.

UPDATE:

You can no longer enter the challenge, but have a look at all the fantastic entries:

The initial challenge
Entries Part 1
Entries Part 2
Entries Part 3
Entries Part 4
The expert feedback (coming soon)


sketching.png

Want to learn sketching hands-on?

See where Eva-Lotta is teaching and speaking next:
Upcoming Talks and Workshops

Take the sketchnotes challenge and get expert feedback on your note taking

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I like taking visual notes (as you might have noticed). I use them to remember and visually summarize all kinds of things: from conference talks to meetings, from books I read to things I need to do.

Over the last few years sketchnoting (and visual thinking in general) has gained a lot of fans and many people have started practicing the skill of taking notes in a more visual way. Learning a new skill and knowing what to practice can be quite difficult when you are just starting out. And even when you have years of experience, there are still things to improve.

This is why I decided to put on a little challenge for us as a community to learn from each other and sharpen your visual notetaking skills by sketching the same talk. I also brought together a panel of experienced visual thinkers to give you direct feedback on your note taking.

How it works

Everybody sketches the same 30 minute talk, sends in a picture or scan. I will gather all entries and put them up on the blog (update: the first entries are in!) so we can all compare and learn from each other's work. On top of that, the panel of experts will give feedback for each entry. Find all details on how to participate at the bottom of this page.

What’s in it for you

You have the opportunity to get your work seen and evaluated by a fantastic panel of experienced visual note takers. Each of them will look at your work and give you 2 pieces of feedback: 

  1. One thing they like about your sketchnote. 
  2. One thing they suggest you work on.

If you want to improve your visual notetaking, this is a fantastic way of getting constructive criticism and insight in what to focus on when practicing.

You’ll also have the opportunity to see how other people interprete the same material and learn from their approach to sketching the same talk as you. The more people participate, the richer and more varied the picture will be, so spread the word to as many other visual notetakers as possible.

The panel of feedback givers

I’m lucky to have gathered some of the finest sketchers and doodler’s around to offer feedback on your notes:

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Sunni Brown

Co-author of Gamestorming and leader of The Doodle Revolution. On a mission to get words and pictures back together.
@sunnibrown

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Craighton Berman

Designer, creative director, illustrator, and idea-shaper.
@craightonberman

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Brandy Agerbeck

Artist + graphic facilitator. I draw + think for a living. 
@loosetooth

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Mike Rohde

Designer. Author of the Sketchnote Handbook. Illustrator of REWORK, The $100 Startup and Little Book of Talent. Husband, father of 3. Coffee!
@rohdesign

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Matthew Magain

Designer. Illustrator. Entrepreneur. Co-founder of @uxmastery. Director of @useractive. Creator of @cweatherburn.
@mattymcg

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Eva-Lotta Lamm

(that’s me)
A friendly person with a soft spot for design, bears, improvisation and s
ketchnotes.
@evalottchen

The added bonus

You can also win a little something.
Besides giving feedback, the panel will also choose their favourite 3 sketchnotes out of all entries. 

The prizes

A printed copy of Brandy's excellent 'The Graphic Facilitator's Guide' (Thanks, Brandy) + a digital version of 'Sketchnotes 2012'

A printed copy of Mike's 'The Sketchnote Handbook' (Thanks, Mike)+ a digital version of 'Sketchnotes 2012'

The criteria for choosing the winners are

  • Summarising and capturing of key points
  • Structure & visual hierarchy
  • Use of images and visual metaphors
  • Overall style

How to participate

  1. Get you pen(s) and paper ready
  2. Go to this page:
    Kevin Slavin: Those algorithms that govern our lives at Lift 2012
  3. Start the video and sketchnote the talk. The video is 30 minutes long.
  4. Take a picture of your sketch or scan it (a resolution of 150dpi is fine as it’s only for viewing on screen and not for printing)
  5. Take a minute to reflect on the sketchnote you did and give yourself two little pieces of feedback:
    a) What do you like about your sketchnote / what works well?
    b) What would you like to improve?
  6. Email your sketch to evalotta@evalotta.net with 'Sketchnote feedback' as the subject. Also include your own feedback (see point 5), your name and location (city and country) in the email.

Entries must be sent before 12pm PDT on the 17th of March 2013.

By sending in your entry, you are ok with me publishing your sketchnote and the feedback on this site.
For winners to be chosen, there need to be at least 10 entries. So spread the word to your sketching friends ;)
We will also announce the overall prize winner as well as the two runner-ups here. I'll announce on twitter when the result are out. You can follow me at @evalottchen is you don't want to miss it.

One thing before you start...

This whole thing is about live visual notetaking. It is about practicing to summarise and visualise key facts of a talk or discussion in real time.

We are not looking for the best, most polished illustration of the talk. We encourage you to approach sketchnoting this talk the same is if you were sitting live in the audience: Spend the duration of the talk to make your  notes. Don’t watch it several times to create a perfect summary. Don’t spend hours re-drawing your notes.

Just sketch what you can capture in real time. It’s about practicing to handle these here-and-now situations and getting better at summarising and synthesizing as you listen.

Happy sketching!

UPDATE:

You can no longer enter the challenge, but have a look at all the fantastic entries:

The initial challenge
Entries Part 1
Entries Part 2
Entries Part 3
Entries Part 4
The expert feedback (coming soon)


Want to learn sketching hands-on?

See where Eva-Lotta is teaching and speaking next:
Upcoming Talks and Workshops

My favourite pens for sketching

Over the last year, I've been regularly asked which pens I use for sketching. Instead of replying with individual emails, I thought, I'd write it down to share with everybody.

A word to start

Although I love pens, I don't think that they are the main thing to worry about when sketching.  Any pen is better than no pen. If you want to get started, you don't need a set of special pens to dig in. Any pen will do. Your hand and your brain are the important parts.

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But if you want to start experimenting, you should, as there is a lot to discover and a lot of fun to be had. There isn't a pen that is perfect for everybody in every situation. You need to try out for yourself, see what feels good and what fits your sketching style. So without further ado, here is a list of my favourites.

The pens I love...

Pilot Hi-Tec-C 0.4

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Super thin. Lovely for small writing and line drawings. This pen is my absolute favourite for sketchnoting. I like its ultra fine lines and the slightly scratchy feel on the paper. 

MUJI 0.5 Gel Ink Pen

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Not as thin as the pilot, but great for any kind of writing and sketching. The MUJI pens have a great flow to them and they come in all kinds of colours! I usually only use one accent colour for my sketchnotes and in most cases, it's one of the MUJI pens.

Pilot V fineliner

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My pen of choice when I need a slightly stronger line.
I like the nice rich ink flow of the Pilot V.

Tombow ABT Dual Brush Pen

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The magic weapon for creating a bit of depth: a light grey Brush Pen to quickly add subtle shadows to objects and give a bit of depth and dimension to your sketches. The N75 is the perfect shade of grey, light enough to not look too heavy and dark enough to be picked up by photo copiers.
The Tombow ABT comes in dozens of colour. Its pointed brush shaped tip is made from foam and if you are into experimenting with brush script, this pen is for you as well.

The pens I love a little less...

Sharpies

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"WHHHHAAAATTT? You don't like Sharpies?!?!" 

I can hear the outcry of (at least) the UX designers amongst you. Yes, Sharpies are not my first pen of choice. 

Reason 1
The bleed. If you forget to put anything underneath your paper, the table will be ruined with spots. If you have other paper and sketches underneath, the table is safe, but the sketches will be ruined. In either case, the back of your paper can't be used at all, as all the Sharpie marks bleed through. 

Reason 2
They stink. If I work with Sharpies for a while the solvents give me headaches. 

Reason 3
This is absolutely personal. Most of the time Sharpies are too fat for the size and fidelity I like to sketch at. Everybody has a 'natural' size they are comfortable sketching at. Mine is more on the small side. Thinner pens work better for me. 

Other markers like Copics, Magic Markers, ...

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As they come with fatter nibs, they are really handy when it comes to big format sketching on flip charts and wall sized graphics. But for most of them, the same reasons (1 & 2) apply as for Sharpies: the bleeding and the solvents make me unhappy. 

To the rescue for the big format

For when I do go to the big format, I recently found a fantastic alternative type of markers especially developed for graphic recording and large size sketching. They contain water based inks, so no solvents and no smell to make you dizzy. And they are refillable and come in over 20 colours.

Neuland No. One WorkshopMarker

Wedge-shaped tip for sketching and writing on flipcharts and wall graphics.

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Neuland No. One ArtMarker

Same size as the WorkshopMarker but comes with a pointed foam brush tip (similar to the Tombow ABT).

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Neuland No. BigOne

Comes with an extra big wedge-shaped tip for really big lettering or filling in large areas.

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Bonus Tracks

Not really for sketching but for playing around with calligraphy and lettering, these two pens are great.

Pilot Parallel pen

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Refillable broad nib calligraphy pen, comes in 4 different nib widths from 1.5mm to 6.0mm.

Pentel Color Brush pen

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Refillable brush pen with a tip made from individual synthetic fibre bristles. You can control the ink flow by squeezing the body of the pen.

Here you go. Have fun pen shopping and happy sketching!


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Want to learn sketching hands-on?

I teamed up with Smashing Magazine to teach 2 full-day hands-on workshops in Freiburg (Germany) in March and I'd love to see you there!

Visual Thinking Through Sketchnoting

Sketching Interfaces