in Writing


I’m trying out a new hobby: Sketchnotes. I think they’re used most often for capturing events: Creating concise, attractive, pop visual representations of talks at IT conferences is like a kind of sport for visual designers. As in jazz improvisation the masters are doing it in real-time, using pens not pencils, often wrapping up their works as the events themselves are concluding and Instagramming them out to attendees. In any case, the products of this are beautiful, useful, and help in a general way make sense of things.

Designers also create sketchnote drawings and animations of archived video lectures of the talking head variety in order to boil down a lot of information about, say, macroeconomics or the writings of John Stuart Mill into something sharable. RSA Animate is a master of this and where I became aware of it. Robert Reich is also an amazing sketchnoter of his own sometimes-abstruse points, for example in this YouTube video “The Truth about the Economy”. Above all Sacha Chua, whose very personal mix of diligence and curiosity and tech and art has been a real inspiration to me, esp. in the area of open visual thinking.

My goals for sketchnotes are smaller and more personal:


What I’m trying to get at is something like this:

  • Sketchnoting seems valuable to me mainly as a practice and not as a product. It’s sketchnoting, not sketchnotes. The virtues of this practice are:
    • Recollection & understanding: At a practical level, being able to distill something into a sketchnote means that you have understood it, and probably that you will remember it very well.
    • Re-presentation: I want to make a practice of publishing more, of “putting it out there”, and treating the things I write and make as if they will be published, which is a way of shaping them and taking care with how good they are, how they function.
    • Visual art: I used to draw a lot as a child and still doodle. My dad was an artist. Maybe sketchnoting can be a way to get back into something deeper, something more deeply pleasurable and immediate, something I’ve maybe dismissed. Or missed.
    • Slowness itself: The main practice here is…returning to things. Reviewing your own work. Being present. Trying to understand yourself, to slow down and understand.

I started my latest longhand journal with some tests of simple ways to make my tasks and notes to myself reviewable and crisp.

sktch1 sktch2

It’s fun and slow and above all, as I said above, a great practice, a way to take your own internal dialog more seriously. Let me know if you do it or want to talk about it.

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  1. Oooh, nice journal, and thanks for the mention! I’m always curious about people’s personal information management systems: to-dos, notes, things like that. I’d love to read more about your explorations in this area. The Bullet Journal ( ) might be a good place to pick up ideas for journal structure. Me, I’ve settled into a comfortable rhythm of daily-weekly-monthly-yearly reviews with my digital index cards in a sort of Zettelkasten. Hope those keywords help you find more resources! =)