- How is this sketchnoting technique different to the traditional note taking?
Sketchnoting differs to tradition note taking in that it utilises both written and visual communication to assist the author with delivering his or her message. Particularly, sketchnoting enables the condensation of complex creative ideas down to simple symbols, words and shapes. This is particularly useful as it enables the reader to readily understand the “bigger picture” or macro-level of information being noted down. Using my “Making a Toastie” sketchnote, this technique benefits the reader by showing what each stage should look like prior to moving on to the next step.
Traditional note taking relies solely on communicating through language to deliver a particular message to the reader. Often, this requires more information to enable the reader to “visualise” the concept especially with the initial stages of understanding complex ideas and concepts. Understandably, traditional note taking is best utilised when micro-level information is required to provide more detail of stages of a concept whereby a visual might not provide sufficient information. In reference to my sketchnote, the traditional note taking is represented in the Method section, which assists the reader in interpreting what is required at each step.
- How does this visual approach facilitate communication of your ideas?
Conversely, how does it prevent it?
Broadly speaking from a reader’s perspective, I found that this visual approach helped simplify the required end-result of each complex stage of a concept. Further, visuals can often transcend language, meaning that by drawing each stage, the reader does not necessarily need to be able to communicate in the same language as the author. This has been extensively achieved by Ikea furniture that relies on high-quality visuals to help users of various backgrounds and languages understand the stages of the furniture building process.
Looking from the author’s perspective, by creating a visual, they can help trigger memories of detail that might have been excluded from the sketchnote or simply forgotten during the note taking process. In the example of the toastie, seeing melted cheese extruding from the sandwich reminds the author that the toastie needs to be cooked, not just simply placed in a sandwich toaster and then eaten cold.
Sketchnoting does have limitations both from the symbolism behind each visual as well as the limited skill of the note taker. If the notes are to be shared with someone beyond the author, then multiple audiences need to be considered when taking the notes. If a shape or sketch is not carefully considered, the author could represent an entirely different idea within their drawing. For example, if an author was to the draw the traditional “A-Okay” hand gesture whereby the index and thumb create a circle with the remaining fingers pointing forward, they would assume that in a Western-English speaking country, they were implying that something is good or complete. However, if their audience is Eastern-European or South American, they would in-fact be symbolising a particular body part as well making a sexual-slur. Therefore the author needs to carefully consider the audience whom would be interpreting their sketchnotes.
Moreover, limited skill with a pencil can make sketchnoting difficult and at times impossible. If the author cannot draw the intended idea and other words or symbols are too difficult to convey, then the concept may be lost to the audience. Unlike handwriting, sketchnoting clearly needs ongoing practice to ensure fast and simple visuals are created to convey the message.
- Personal challenges as a sketchnoter.
My personal challenge is certainly that I’m a lousy sketcher! Where this can be a disadvantage is that I would need more time to consider the layout of my sketchnote to ensure I create an overall visual that is easy to understand and interpret. This can be difficult when sketchnoting a presentation as I would most likely miss key information from what is being presented as I try my hardest to make my stick-figure man look less like a potato and more like a simplified human.
That said I believe the key to overcoming this is practice and planning for the end-result prior to commencing sketching. If you have a good understanding of your goal – whether it’s simplifying a recipe or condensing the concept of wearable tech to enable the deaf to hear – then you will be able to succinctly pull together both visual and written information to summarise in a satisfactory and easily interpreted manner.
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Below is my sketchnote, “How to Make a Toastie” which employs both visual and written information to convey the steps of the recipe process.