First attempts at sketchnoting

I’ve been thinking about sketchnoting recently since I came across Sketchnoting 101: How to create awesome visual notes. This should have rung alarm bells for me straight away, as anyone who had to sit in my high school science classes while I tried to draw diagrams on the board can attest that I cannot draw.

This wasn’t the first time I had come across sketchnoting, and I’m always amazed at what people can do, especially while listening to a conference speaker, for example. These people are incredibly talented. When it comes to drawing/art… I am not.

However, for some reason I decided to give it a go. I remembered reading a blog post on how to get started if you can’t draw, using dots, lines and shapes. I couldn’t find this specific post again, but I found a similar one, Sketching for people who really can’t draw. If I’m honest, I didn’t really read this post, I just skimmed through it. It suggested that anyone can draw these dots, lines and shapes. I’m someone. Therefore I can do this…

The Sketchnoting 101 post suggested getting started trying on a recording such as a TED talk. I thought, ‘Great! There’s plenty of those and I haven’t watched any for a while!’ I figured I’d choose a short one to get started with so as not to make it too complicated.

I started with Marily Oppezzo: Want to be more creative? Go for a walk.

5 minutes 25 seconds. Seemed doable. Or so I thought. Here’s the result of my first sketchnote…


I knew it would be a little difficult, but I quickly¬†realised that a 5 minutes TED talk just means that all the good stuff is crammed in. For someone who doesn’t draw, trying to sketch out the key points was pretty much impossible. I don’t think I could tell you much from my sketch what the talk was about.

Time to try another. This time I went for something about 10 minutes in length. Take 2 was Glen Henry: What I’ve learned about parenting as a stay-at-home dad.

And the result of my second sketch:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The longer video definitely gave me more time to think and draw, however I’m sure I still missed quite a bit. Perhaps this doesn’t matter. The key messages from this video, which I think the sketches head towards is that being a stay-at-home parent is plain hard work… until you’ve been one, you don’t understand; and the thing that turns a parent into being a superhero is just being present in the lives of their children.

So, my first foray into sketchnoting has perhaps been less than successful, but I think it’s something I might like to have more of a go at. As I’m learning, I think I want to:

  • stick to recordings (live will just be too hard for now)
  • make sure they’re a reasonable length so as not to have too many key points in a short space of time
  • don’t be afraid to hit the back / rewind / ‘fast-forward backwards’ (as my kids like to say) button and go over parts again
  • consider brainstorming using (some) sketches at work when faced with a new project/challenge etc.

Have you given sketchnoting a go? If you have please share your tips and challenges in the comments below. If you haven’t, why not give it a go and share how it goes here as well.

By the way, both of these TED talks are really good, so do watch them!

Nathaniel Written by:

Nathaniel is passionate about people reaching their full potential. He has expertise and experience in education, e-learning, face-to-face and online facilitation, virtual mentoring, training, leadership and school governance.