Things I learned from sketchnoting the FITC design conference

FITC hired me to sketchnote the FITC Toronto 2013 conference/festival, which finished yesterday. Since the conference focused on art, design, and technology, visual notes made perfect sense. =)

20130423 FITC Toronto 2013 - 07 - Trying to Understand the Nature of Reality

Workflow: Because I do digital sketchnotes using Autodesk Sketchbook Pro on a Lenovo X220 tablet PC, I could sit anywhere in the audience, sketch during the presentation, and publish and tweet the finished, highlighted sketchnotes 5-10 minutes after the event ends. This was very convenient, because it meant that I didn’t need any special room setup (so I could go to whichever session seemed the most appropriate) and we could tap into the buzz on social media while the session was top-of-mind. It also meant that the speakers could see (and share!) the summaries right away, as they typically monitored Twitter for feedback.

I spent about five minutes before each session setting up the image: copying the speaker’s picture, spelling the title and the speaker’s name carefully, and so on. I used the colours from the track indicators, although that ended up with this shade of pink for most of the sketches. I drew using my base colour, moving things around as needed. I added highlights on a lower layer in order to make it easier to focus on key points. I didn’t use placeholder filenames this time. I simply switched back to laptop mode and typed in the talk information. Then I used WinSCP to copy the .PNG over to the NextGEN gallery directory I’d previously created, and I rescanned the directory using the web interface. This worked out much better than uploading the files through the web interface because scp-ing it preserved the filenames and allowed me to not worry about timeouts. After the system generated thumbnails for the newly-uploaded image, I copied the talk information into the image description, and I used that in the tweet as well. I used AutoHotkey to expand !f into so that I didn’t have to worry about mistyping the URL. (Although it turns out that I should probably choose shorter custom URLs…)

What would make this even better?

I can advertise the sketchnotes in the real world. A foam-core board on an easel would be a great way to point people to the URL for the sketchnotes. I could either hand-draw an image or print a poster. (Might even pull off a custom poster for a multi-day event!) That way, even people who aren’t monitoring Twitter or checking the blog could come across the sketches. It would probably be good to set up the publishing arrangements beforehand and include it in the program too, again to increase the value that people get from the sketchnotes.

I can try out reverse video. The room was kept very dark during talks to help people see the slides, so the light from laptops stood out. I created an inverse version of my grid, but I wasn’t sure how well I could deal with inverting the drawing colours too while keeping it printable. Maybe developing a set of colours that work well inverted? Might be something to consider for next time. Ex: Lynne Cazaly’s sketchnote of Frank Trindade’s talk

I can increase thumbnail size. In a week or two, once clicks have gone down or once I’ve gotten a proper development environment set up again, I’m thinking of tinkering with the theme on Experivis so that I have three columns of thumbnails that span the whole page. I might also experiment with embedding Flickr galleries, because Flickr might be a decent content-delivery network that takes the load off my server.

I can revise the images to remove information. If I write less, I can draw more. Revising old images is a way to prototype that look without having to think about getting to the right balance in real-time.

I like drawing conferences. I’m going to specialize in digital sketchnoting and book reviews with the occasional illustration or presentation design. No analog for me, as there are plenty of other people who can handle that and I don’t like doing post-processing as much! Winking smile

See for the sketchnotes. Enjoy!