Sketchnoting IxDA 2012

We’re working on a larger post about the awesome IxDA 2012 in Dublin last week, but in the meantime, I wanted to chat separately about sketchnoting.

I’m a drawer, there’s no doubt about it. I can barely manage to consider a design problem before I’m reaching for a pen and paper, or my Tablet PC and a stylus and cranking open OneNote for an explanatory drawing or mind map. But that got taken to the next level when I attended “Visual Thinking Through Sketchnotes,” a workshop by MJ Broadbent & Eva-Lotta Lamm.

In it we covered the basics of sketching and then went further into what that means for capturing the complex ideas communicated in lectures and speeches. I was hooked, and challenged. I spent the next three days both enamored of the excellent ideas being presented (high marks on all four things I look for in presentations, nearly across the board), but also trying my new skills at sketchnoting. Here’s the whole set.


I got some good feedback, but as a perfectionist, I still think I’ve got a long way to go. There are a few I’d like to call attention to where I made some mistakes or scored some points.

The order of information should be clear.

This first sketch is of Tony Dunne‘s talk about Crafting Design Speculations. The bust of Tony (which I used almost throughout the sketches) is a nice central anchor, but even with the arrows it’s tough to know what should come next and how this should be read. White space may help, but so does adopting a more traditional structure that matches Western writing, starting at the left and working right. It’s also simpler in shorter talks, where the ideas have to be simpler and more straightforward, as this note from Michael Hawley‘s 10 minute talk on UX Leadership shows.


Don’t make it hard to follow the logic of the talk.


Do use white space to make it clearer.

One colored pen helps a lot

I left my colored pen at home on the first part of the second day, and I missed it. Though I managed to keep it interesting in this sketch of Kel Smith‘s talk about Digital Outcasts, the addition of the color on the notes of Jonas Löngren‘s talks adds a great deal more visual distinction and interest.


No color.


Color!

Stick to one reading orientation

I tried some experiments with turning my page during the notes, but it actually only serves to make it harder to parse. See the notes from Jeff Gothelf‘s talk about demystifying design for the case in point. I’d recommend keeping the orientation consistent for each note, as I did for Amber Case‘s talk on the Future of Cyborg Interface.


This is like trying to s??? ???? bu?????os p???.


Ah. Much better.

Develop a visual vocabulary

This was one piece of advice given by Eva-Lotta and MJ that paid off well. The busts of the speakers, my all-nose figure thing, the icon for “search”, and consistent use of a “closer” that attempts to wrap up the big last thought help give these a consistency that makes it easier to parse and makes them work together as a whole. Inside of individual talks, we were encouraged to develop a sketchy shorthand for the core ideas and keep using them, while riffing on them with the content. The little dude with the x-ray heart is a good example. It takes a lot of time-intense visual improvisation, but it’s fun and worth it.

Sketchnoting is a fast and intense way to capture complex ideas in an engaging way. As I hone my skills, I’m also thinking about how to use this technique for documenting goal-directed research findings and our big ideas at Cooper to our clients.

If you’re interested to know more, there are a number of brilliant people working on topics of sketching. Check them out, and happy sketching!

8 Comments

Michael
Chris Thanks for sharing your sketches / doodles and the tipps. The color aspect is really important. It seems that most people use green or blue as secondary color. I like yellow a lot, but is hard to read solely by itself. In addition to your links there's also Michael Than
Chris Noessel
Thanks for these additional resources, Michael. It seems like it's an active community, and lots of good thinking going on about it.
Samara Watkiss
Chris, Thank you for posting your sketches and discoveries from the sketchnote workshop and the rest of IxD12. It is a great review for me and interesting to see how someone else has applied the tips we all received. I hope you will continue to post as you experiment with incorporating sketchingnoting into your research at Cooper. Great to sketch with you. Thanks, Samara Watkiss
Samara Watkiss
Chris, Thank you for posting your sketches and discoveries from the sketchnote workshop and the rest of IxD12. It is a great review for me and interesting to see how someone else has applied the tips we all received. I hope you will continue to post as you experiment with incorporating sketchingnoting into your research at Cooper. Great to sketch with you. Thanks, Samara Watkiss
Digital Sketching and the Engineering Notebook | engineering-matters
[...] another good answer to that question? Look no further than a post published by Chris Noessel titled Sketchnoting IxDA 2012. It gives some good insight into why and how he sketches. While this tends to be [...]
Tom
I am really enjoying your sketchnoting style. I have 2 questions 1. What concepts did you start off with for your visual library? 2. How do you decide on composition and heirarchy of your page? Thanks Tom
Digital Sketching and the Engineering Notebook - Lifecycle Insights
[…] another good answer to that question? Look no further than a post published by Chris Noessel titled Sketchnoting IxDA 2012. It gives some good insight into why and how he sketches. While this tends to be […]
Chris
Tom: the 2014 comment brought me to this page, and though it's 2 years too late, here's an answer to your two questions. 1. The visual library is an informal thing that was built ad hoc. That said, if you're interested in starting somewhere, how about the basic elements of interaction: person, people, computers, network, interaction, like, dislike, object, process/action, thought. 2. Composition and hierarchy are improvisationally decided, and part of the overall challenge. Hopefully it's apparent from the talk. If you're working digitally, you can adjust if you got it wrong. If you're working analog you just have to roll with it, or emphasize things later.

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