Sketchnoting is the massage

Sketchnoting is catching on at Cooper for all the reasons that it’s catching on in a lot of places. It's a way to pay deep attention and do active sense-making of a lecture in real time. (And one that produces a fun and memorable document to share at the end.)

In the spirit of getting better at it, Cooper designers took a lunch break to give themselves a massive challenge: Try sketchnoting the 1967 audio recording of The Medium is the Massage by Marshall McLuhan and Quentin Fiore. If you've not heard the audio recording, it's a pastiche of clips from his lectures on the subject, blended with Laugh-In like radio theatre sounds and sound effects, which chaotically and repetitiously illustrate some of his main points.

It’s challenging because the material is meant to be a mind-expending blast of ideas, akin to the visual design of the book. There’s no linear flow to the material. It’s hard to know what is meant to be most important. Many things zip quickly and it's dense with big meaning. (It’s prescient and still surprisingly insightful, even if the “massage” part is clearly of its time. I'd recommend it to designers heartily.)

On the other hand, it’s awesome because it forces you to let go of the temptation to be a transcriber while sketchnoting. You can try, but you quickly learn the limits of treating a sketchnote like that. You just can’t keep up. Instead you learn to relax, pick up what interests you, illustrate it, structure it, and let go the rest. Ultimately, we're pretty happy with the results of the stress test, but will still be doing our next practice with a good old linear TED talk.

In the meantime, here’s our invidividual results. Jump here to play some of the audio while you feast your eyes and before you let us know what you think.

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[Thanks to our sketchnoters. In order of their drawings in the gallery above: Chris Noessel, Glen Davis, Jason Csizmadi, Jenea Hayes, Kendra Shimmell, Kim Applequist, Nate Clinton, Nick Myers, Nikki Knox, Pamela Sisson (guest sketchnoter visiting from Thomson Reuters), and Teresa Brazen!]