Sketchnotes: Why I do them, how I do them, and how you can get started

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Why do I sketch my notes?

A few years ago, I sketched a presentation just for fun, to see if I could do it on my Nintendo DS. The Gen Y Guide to Web 2.0 at Work has been viewed more than 50,000 times. People told me they liked the style. So I sketched more, inspired by books such as “Back of the Napkin”, and videos like Common Craft and RSAnimate’s work.

I have a hard time sitting still and listening to lectures. I used to fall asleep in class. Writing and sharing helped me stay engaged. It also helped me continue the conversation and meet interesting people.

Combining sharing with drawing was natural, and it kept me focused on listening instead of distracted.

So, why? It makes me happy, others too.

How do I sketch my notes?

Mostly on a Tablet PC (Lenovo X61T) using Microsoft OneNote 2010 (good handwriting recognition) or the free Inkscape. I export using The Gimp (free) and upload it to my website ( That’s all there is to it.

Once in a blue moon, I’ll draw on paper and scan it in (Samsung SCX-4828FN), but it’s easier to fix my drawings on the computer: change size, add colour, move things around.

How can you get started?

Forget what you’ve been telling yourself: “I’m not an artist. I can’t draw.” Just take notes and have fun along the way.

Draw on paper. Take a picture, or scan your work.

Get a basic drawing tablet, digital pen, or tablet PC.

Learn from other people. (Search for visual notetaking, visual thinking, graphic recording, etc.)

Experiment and enjoy.

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