A Sketchnote is a way of visually taking notes and structuring the information for discoverability. This is not about capturing every detail that is presented but providing an aide-memoire, something to jog your memory and take you back into the event.
I was at the SoCraTes Belgium conference and was impressed with the notes @michelgrootjans was taking. My own notes were scribbled down and all over the place, compared to Michel's there was no structure to them and they were not as easy to scan to get the relevant information back out.
There were many others who were also impressed so on the second day of the conference he ran a session showing us some simple techniques, most of which I'm showing here.
I came out of the session with the confidence to change how I laid out my notes, even with the same pen that I was writing with before I changed how I wrote my notes. I will stress that you do not need to buy new pens to start sketchnoting, I spent some time just with my normal pens before I did my usual thing (I bought all the tools... fineliners pens, watercolour highlighters etc).
Sketchnotes are all about the content and although there may be drawings and arrows in them there is likely to be a lot of writing, so you want it to be clarity, consistency and readability at speed.
The exercise described above is to keep repeating the same sentence that uses every letter in the "English Alphabet". Simply try this out many times, try writing in ALL CAPS, Mixed Case and even Cursive to find the style that gives you the readbility that suits you.
The consistency means that things you emphasise by increasing the size, colour, or weight of the text.
When creating a sketchnote I want it to be discoverable. I tend to add the following elements to the page:
These are things that I normally add to the page by default, I tend to get to the room a few minutes early, get settled down and add them to the page while everyone else is arriving (and the initial introduction by the speaker).
You can easily add structure to your documents by using arrows, to guide the reader's eye from one piece of information to the next.
The rest of the page is up to you. All you have to do is make the first mark, just start somewhere, there is no right or wrong place to start.
It is the decoration that brings the sketchnote to life but the decoration should always be secondary. If there is a lot of content, you are focussed on listening and summarising the content of the talk then you should not be focussing on decoration, but you can come along later and add the decoration in your spare time.
I don't necessarily follow any rules when decorating, I do what "feels right", but I try to keep it simple to things like:
I typically use a book icon next to any books that the speaker references, as I scan through the pages I can easily scan through to find my next book to read.
It is fairly easy to create simple, but effective sketeches of people, retaining the same basic body shape a lot of expression can be added in the arms and in the facial expressions. All it takes is practice.
We all make mistakes and even though I publish most of my sketchnotes there are some that I do not because they contain the wrong information, or they are just a mess. I know that I should publish some regardless but there is still a bit of the perfectionist about me. However, I'm willing to try, I try different techniques and I sometimes make mistakes but they are only notes (mostly for my own benefit) so even if things go horribly wrong I can still gain some value from it.
In the picture above I made a mistake when writing the first sentence, I didn't like the size, or the position of the first 'T' but I coloured it in and made a feature of it by making a similar block for each of the other sentences to turn it into a bullet point. I made a feature of the mistake and hopefully, if I hadn't pointed it out no one would notice.
This is the final sketchnote for this talk, with everything put together, I have shown how you can build this up, piece by piece. There is a high-resolution picture of this and just for comparison here is a version I made using only two coloured fountain pens:
Note, you do not need much to start, using simple techniques and a few ordinary pens (one main colour and one highlight colour) you can create impressive sketchnotes. However, if you want to do more, then here are some resources for you.
For writing I tend to use a set of pens that have ink that doesn't bleed into the page and is waterproof (once dry!) as when applying the colour the ink may run from other pens:
The colour is for accent, it does not want to dominate, so often I am looking for something in more pastel shades, more like a watercolour pen, here are some of my favourites:
I look for a plain notebook with a decent weight to the paper so that the inks and colours do not bleed into the paper or bleed through as much. I go for A5 mostly for the convenience of carrying around. Currently I'm using this notebook.