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Category Archives: sketches

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Sketchnote: Fun With Dead Languages: Damian Conway

Here are my notes from Damian Conway’s talk “Fun With Dead Languages”. =) I heard him give an older version of this talk years ago, and I’m amused to find that my Latin dabbling gave me a much deeper appreciation of this talk.

As always, click on the image to view a larger version, which you can print out if you want.

20130806 Fun with Dead Languages - Damian Conway

Please feel free to share this under the Creative Commons Attribution License! =)

If you like this, check out Damian Conway’s site or this paper on Lingua::Latina::Perligata. Like these sketches? Check out my other sketchnotes and visual book reviews.

My evolution as an “artist”, or why there’s hope for you yet

Although my mom had enrolled me in a couple of art camps and classes when I was a kid, I was definitely not one of those instinctively drawn to it. I had classmates who spent all their free time (and much of class) doodling in sketchbooks. I immersed myself in text, reading books, writing notes, programming computers. Well, I’d been mindmapping since grade school, so visual thinking was already part of my life – but it didn’t captivate me as much as text did.

Here’s how I rediscovered drawing.

2007. J- had been looking forward to getting a Nintendo DS. Since there were some interesting games with cooperation modes and one of the stores had a decent sale on Nintendo DSes, I bought myself one as well. I immediately loaded it up with an application called Colors DS, which let me draw using the Nintendo’s stylus. It was a lot of fun.

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080511-05.32.23.pngcolors_slot36.png

This was fun, so I started drawing on paper too. It wasn’t nearly as awesome, but it was a good mental challenge.

imageimage

I got into drawing my presentations on a whim. In 2008, I was a technology evangelist and web developer at IBM Canada. I was passionate about how social business systems like internal blogs and communities could transform the way organizations worked. An IBMer in New York told me that whenever she went on campus tours, the students she talked to simply couldn’t grasp the idea of why anyone would want a social network at work. To help her out, I put together a presentation.  I figured – why not make my rough storyboard the actual presentation? So I drew it on my DS and made this:

People liked it. A lot. And they wanted to know how I made it, so I made this:

And then I started sketching most of my presentations, because it turns out you can get away with stick figures instead of bullet points even at IBM:

I had some space in my opportunity fund. Since I was drawing a lot more than I used to, I decided it was time to invest in tools. I didn’t think I had the hand-eye coordination for working on a Wacom tablet attached to the monitor, so it was a toss-up between getting a tablet PC or a Cintiq tablet that lets you draw on a screen. I sprung for the Cintiq 12WX, reasoning that it would let me keep upgrading the computer it was attached to instead of locking me into something with limited upgrade capability. Using it with Inkscape was great, because I could tweak my drawings until they kinda looked like what I had in mind.


stick-figure-studies

When Slideshare organized a Best Presentation Contest, I thought, why not? I didn’t think I stood a chance in the “serious” categories, so I went for the self-introduction one instead.

I won, which was a little mind-boggling. My prize was an iPod Touch, which I immediately used for more drawing.

photoSketchBook-Mobile

In 2009, I made a couple of other presentations that got pretty popular: The Shy Connector:

and A Teacher’s Guide to Web 2.0 at School.

I helped organize lots of innovation workshops at IBM. I started drawing there too. It turned out this is called graphic facilitation. I took notes at other people’s presentations. This one is from Gary Vaynerchuk’s talk at DemoCamp in Toronto:

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Getting a tablet PC made a huge difference in how I drew. The Lenovo X61 was my first tablet PC. I bought it second-hand in 2010 and started drawing right away. For the first time, I could draw digital notes at meetups.

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In 2011,  I switched to using Autodesk Sketchbook Pro. I even started giving presentations using it.

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I looked at other people’s work for inspiration, and I played around with my own. I really liked how Exploding Dog and Hyperbole and a Half managed to say so much with simple figures and vibrant colours, so I tried that out.

future-ibmer-at-the-beach

I still don’t feel particularly confident about colour, though. Seriously, I have the computer figure out complementary colours for accessorizing. So I draw mostly in black and white, like in this three-word life philosophy.

20121102 Three Word Life Philosophy - Sacha Chua

If you compare how I draw now (black and white stick figures, with some colour for accents/highlights) and how I drew in 2007 or 2008… there’s not that much difference. I still draw stick figures. I still don’t have a lot of depth or fancy layouts. I still don’t use pressure sensitivity. My lines are still a little wobbly. I use fewer colours, even. I like the colourful explosion of my Katamari drawing! I should make stuff like that again.

The main difference is that I know my tools more, I guess. I know how to set up a grid so that my text is mostly straight. I work with brushes so that my lines look clean and confident. I work with layers so that I can redraw or erase or move things around. I know that digital drawing works out much better for me than paper does. I know that I don’t have to be an “artist” and I don’t have to make art – I just have to make something that makes me smile.

From time to time, I’m a little bit envious of friends who doodled and drew their way through years and years of practice, and who can now make these beautiful drawings just from their imagination. It’s okay. I can draw well enough for my purposes, even if I probably draw worse than my 7-year-old self could. =)

So that’s my “evolution”. I haven’t actually made much progress in terms of drawing skills, because I haven’t needed to. Simple stick figures turn out to be enough. In fact, I probably won’t try to draw amazingly well, because I want to keep things approachable for people. I want people to look at this and say, “Hey, I can do that.” If anything, I’ve probably only grown in terms of vocabulary, confidence, and understanding. That’s just a matter of practice, and I’m looking forward to getting even better.

Sketchnote Lessons: Banners and ribbons

This entry is part 6 of 11 in the series Sketchnote Lessons

Banners and ribbons are a quick way to emphasize parts of your drawing. Instead of drawing the banner and then trying to fit the text into it, try drawing the text first and then drawing the banner around it. Here’s a step-by-step example.

1. Draw the text with plenty of space around it

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2. Draw a box around the text.

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3. Add two small triangles below the box.

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4. Draw horizontal lines extending beyond the triangle, and another set of lines the same distance from the top of the box.

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5. Add a ribbon edge if you want, or use a straight line.

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Want to get fancy? Add some shading, add more folds, and so on.

Here are some examples that you can practise with:

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Check out Kevin Dulle’s tutorial for other ways to emphasize things with shadows. Enjoy!

Series Navigation« Sketchnote Lessons: Arrows and ConnectorsSketchnote Lessons: Speech bubbles and thought clouds »

Visual metaphors and layouts for planning your life

Marty Pauschke was interested in sketchnoting/drawing as a way of planning your own life. I find drawing to be really useful in making sense of my life and planning ahead, because it allows me to see the bigger picture. Here are some types of diagrams and visual metaphors that I use. I’d love to see yours!

Life as a journey

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You can think of life as a journey. Imagine what the destination looks like, and think about the milestones you’d like to see along the way. You can draw obstacles and think about ways around them. This is great for celebrating your progress so far and seeing what’s next.

Example: 2012 as a sketch

Arrows

Here’s another way to look at it: as a target that you’re reaching with an arrow. Sometimes it helps to think about the goal first, then work backwards: what needs to happen in order for you to reach your goal? What needs to happen for that to happen? Continue until you get to actions you can take today.

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Crossroads

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Of course, life isn’t a simple journey – it’s full of decisions. Sometimes it helps to think about what some different possible outcomes are, and what you like or dislike about each one. Then you can figure out what you’re leaning towards.

If you’re looking at multiple decisions, a simple diagram might be easier to make and read.image You can see the branching-off points and think about what information you need in order to make the best decisions at each stage.

Mindmaps and other diagrams

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Great for branching out into detail. Example: Imagining the next five years and planning 2013. You don’t have to stick with having one central idea. Play around.

Charts are handy, too – make up your own labels and chart types! Example: Mapping my work happiness

Timelinesimage

Timelines are good for remembering because you end up filling in the blanks.

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I like making spiral timelines because they give me different amounts of space for things that are more important to me (ex: more recent memories). Spirals can go the other way, too – zeroing in on a goal.

 

Strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats

imageThe SWOT analysis is used a lot in management schools and in consulting, and it’s useful for personal growth as well. I like focusing on my strengths and finding workarounds for my weaknesses.

 

Pre-mortem and post-mortem analyses

imageSpeaking of weaknesses, I like doing pre-mortems – anticipating ways something could go wrong. Gravestones are a nice touch. Example: Experiment pre-mortem

These are just some of the ways I use drawing to help me remember and plan. How do you draw your life?

Sometimes you don’t know what you know until someone asks; why I like preparing talking points for podcasts and chats

Update 2013-07-31: You can find a table of contents and associated links at http://sach.ac/accel. Here’s the video!

Quick link to talking points as a Mural.ly map

From time to time, I say interesting-enough things that make people want to pick my brain further. When people do, this is excellent! Sometimes I don’t know what people will find useful or interesting until they ask. When the opportunity comes up, I try to wring out as much as I can. In the podcast interviews I’ve done so far, I’ve always been delighted by what we learn from the conversation.

An interview is entirely different from a presentation, and it would be a waste to treat it as one. I love where other people’s questions, interests, and experiences can lead me. So I don’t want to structure it too much – but I also want to give people the benefit of clear thoughts and useful replies. Having struggled with making good conversation myself, I also want to help people find things that they or other people will like instead of wandering until they bump into something good.

It’s a little like the media training I got when I was at IBM. One of the tips I remember is to think about your story before you talk to people. You don’t have to stick to the script, but you should know the key points you want to get across, and try some ways of expressing it so that you can be clear and concise.

So here’s what I e-mailed to Timothy Kenny in preparation for our chat about accelerated learning (which will be this afternoon):

I thought about what I do the most differently and what your subscribers will probably benefit from. Here are some topic ideas. How about picking whichever one you think will resonate the most? =) I’m sure there’ll be future conversations, so we don’t have to get everything covered in one chat.

  • Sketchnotes
    • Ideal outcome: People are inspired to take visual notes for their own use
    • Learning and reviewing presentations and books; Connecting with people; Understanding your thoughts; Sharing what you know
  • Making the most of your blog through the years
    • Ideal outcome: People are encouraged to blog for the long term; people who have been blogging a while are inspired to organize their work
    • Weekly, monthly, yearly reviews; Indexes; Other people as part of your memory; Collections; Backups
  • Tracking and experiments
    • Ideal outcome: People are inspired to make better decisions by tracking
    • Time; Money and an opportunity fund; Clothes, decisions, etc.; 5-year experiment with retirement
  • How it all fits together
    • Ideal outcome: People see how the different techniques can support each other, and they are motivated to take the next step
    • The flow of learning; How different techniques work together; Getting started; Getting better; Going from strength to strength
  • Continuous improvement in everyday life
    • Ideal outcome: People examine their processes
    • Understanding your processes; Handling weaknesses; Building on strengths; Learning from experiments

He wrote back to say that he was curious about sketchnotes, blogging, connecting, learning flow, and what I considered my strengths and weaknesses in terms of learning.

I spent some time on Saturday night thinking about what I’ve learned and what I want to help other people learn. A podcast isn’t the place for technical instruction; blog posts are better for that because I can include step-by-step tips, links, and other resources. A podcast or videocast is great at communicating enthusiasm, helping other people see that they can get started. It’s also great for the back-and-forth, bringing two people’s ideas together.

So my goals for the chat are:

  • Inspire people to learn more about some learning techniques that they might find useful
  • Encourage people to get in touch with me
  • Explore follow-up questions that I may want to write about or draw
  • Learn interesting things about Timothy Kenny or share other tidbits that can lead to further conversations

In preparation, I drew this on Saturday. (Click on the image for a larger version!)20130727 Accelerated Learning

(Not only do I sketchnote events, but I can sketchnote the future!  Winking smile)

The idea is that these talking points can let Timothy pick whatever he wants to focus on, while giving him a peripheral awareness of related topics or other things we can talk about. They also give me visual aids that I can refer to (or draw on top of!) during the chat, which is probably more interesting than watching a bunch of talking heads. And if we run out of time or focus on some things instead of others, no worries – the blog post and the sketchnote will be there as a way to follow up. =)

I’ve done this before, like the digital sketchnoting workflow that I sketched in preparation for my podcast with Mike Rohde (episode, transcript). Our target time for that was 12 minutes, so it was great to be able to zoom in and talk about key parts knowing that other things could be left for the blog post or sketchnote.

I discovered the power of sharing my notes (showing my work!) when I was giving a lot of presentations. Knowing that my talking points were on the Net somewhere (ex: my Shy Connector presentation for Women in Technology International, or my talk on How to use Evernote to improve your visual thinking) meant that I didn’t have to worry about forgetting anything important, because people can always look up my notes. It gave me more freedom to ad-lib or go off-script, too, following whatever people were interested in.

So really, the main reason to come to one of my presentations or to interview me is to ask questions and figure out answers together, which is exactly the way I want it. If I can do the braindump outside the time we have, then we can use the time for interaction. In presentations and conversations, I want to give people just enough to get good questions. Questions are my pay-off for the preparation. Questions spark my curiosity and turn into follow-up conversations and blog posts and presentations.

Unrelated observation: making my own URL shortening thing was totally worth it, even if the domains are expensive. Much better than squeezing long domain names into my sketchnotes. Although I’m still flipflopping between sach.ac and liv.gd in sketchnotes because I think my nickname is hard to spell… Any opinions?

I’ll post the recording when it’s up, and I’ll probably work on transcribing it too. Fun!


Here’s the e-mail announcement that Timothy sent:

Hundreds of years ago during the Renaissance, creative geniuses like DaVinci revolutionized science by visualizing information for the first time. Huge leaps were made in engineering, math, architecture and physics because of this new focus on visualizing information.

A new visual Renaissance is coming…

Today at 1PM EDT (New York Time) I’m interviewing Sacha Chua on her accelerated learning techniques and especially how she visualizes information to learn faster and understand new concepts better.

Click Here to Join the Hangout:

https://plus.google.com/events/c1irfbcfio2q6qn20387trhdnjk

Sacha is also a programmer. Programmers have the ability to see and create systems because coding requires that you build a system to process information.

All businesses are systems. And the more you can systematize your business the more stress free it will be for you. The starting point for understanding systems is learning how to get them down on paper as visual diagrams (much the same way programmers sketch out their program on a white board before building it) and that is a big piece of what we will be discussing today.

We’re doing it live so you can chime in with questions or observations during the interview.

Why You Should Come

Many people know about learning and productivity hacks but I have never met someone who actually put so many of them together into such a coherant system.

Sacha is also a visual genius. She created both of the images below. You will learn how she does it and why it is so important to get comfortable drawing and visualizing for your business and your learning.

What We Will Talk About

20130727 Accelerated Learning

 

Example of Sacha’s 1 page visual book reviews

20130705 Visual Book Review - The First 20 Hours - How to Learn Anything... Fast - Josh Kaufman

 

See you at 1,
Timothy

 

PS

Sign up for the Hangout here, then check out the learning profile I did on Sacha here:

http://timothykenny.com/accelerated-learning/accelerated-learning-profile-sacha-chua

Visual book review: The First 20 Hours: How to Learn Anything… Fast (Josh Kaufman)

The idea of learning a new skill can be overwhelming. If you break the skill down into specific things you can learn, it becomes much more manageable. Tim Ferris used this to hack cooking (video) by dissociating it from shopping for groceries or cleaning up. Josh Kaufman’s new book The First 20 Hours fleshes out how to rapidly learn, illustrating it with stories, examples, and practical tips for a wide range of skills. A key insight? You don’t have to be amazing, just good enough to enjoy the skill, and 20 hours is enough to get you there if you learn effectively. (Even if it turns out to be more complex than that, stick with it anyway, and then see where you are at 20 hours.) Click on the one-page summary below to view or download a larger version. 20130705 Visual Book Review - The First 20 Hours - How to Learn Anything... Fast - Josh Kaufman Feel free to share this visual book review! (Creative Commons Attribution – I’d love it if you link back to this site and tell me about it. =) ) It should print out fine on letter-sized paper, too. The book is both practical and entertaining, especially if you’ve been curious about some of the areas he covers in his chapters. =) While the advice is common sense, the application of the advice makes it interesting – and the stories might nudge you into taking similar steps towards the skill you’d like to develop the most. Besides, the book has stick figures in the chapter on yoga and shell commands and a Ruby tutorial in the chapter on programming. Not that many books can pull that off, although if you’re the type who reads things like travel books for just one chapter, you might grumble about paying for all the other chapters you’re not interested in. 20 hours isn’t going to make you an expert in something, but it might get you farther than you think. Intrigued by the ideas? You can check your local library to see if they have a copy, or buy your own: The First 20 Hours (affiliate link). What I’m going to do with this book One of the benefits of this experiment with semi-retirement is that I have the time and space to explore what I’d like to learn. Not all of it at once, but I can certainly make decent headway on a few skills I want to improve. I rarely start from scratch, so it’s not that I’m really spending my first 20 hours on something – new interests are usually offshoots of something that I already do well or enjoy, because unfair advantages lead to other unfair advantages. I like programming, writing, going through flashcards… I even get along with accounting.

    The biggest new thing that I don’t yet intrinsically enjoy is strength training, which (as the name indicates) is probably more about

training

    – my body has to adapt to it, and that takes time.

So, let’s pick another skill. Something that I haven’t dived deeply into, but that I’m curious about. Some candidates:

  • Creating animated videos (and not cheesy fake-written ones, either)
  • Programming speech recognition macros (NatLink)
  • Visualizing data with D3.js or other visualization libraries

Of the three, I think visualizing data with D3.js will be the most fun for me. I can break that down this way:

  • Manipulate the data into a form that’s easy to work with in D3.js
  • Create typical graphs
  • Create custom graphs
  • Add interactivity
  • Use D3.js for non-graph applications
  • Integrate the visualizations into web apps or blog posts

In terms of barriers, it’s really just about sitting down with some data and the documentation. I’ve worked with D3 before. I just have to practise enough to grok it. The most important skill to master first, I think, is creating typical graphs. If I get that into my brain, I can imagine custom graphs and other applications from there. So learning this skill might involve doing “programming kata”: take an existing data set and visualize it in different ways using common chart types. It’s also useful to look at how other people are breaking down skills and learning them. Duncan Mortimer (who I think is the same as the Duncan Mortimer behind this WriteOrDie mode for Emacs?) wants to write blog posts better. He came up with this list of skills that he wants to work on in terms of blogging:

  • Choosing a topic
    • Brainstorming
    • Asking yourself questions
    • Topics that choose themselves — blogging what you’re learning or as you’re learning
  • Drafting the post
    • Structure
    • Avoiding editing while writing
    • Writing quickly
  • Editing the post
    • Textual tics
    • Restructuring
  • Publishing the post
    • Scheduling posts for future publication
    • Uploading to the hosting service
    • Adding categories and tags; making it ‘discoverable’

I’m also interested in writing more effectively. For me, the key things I’m working on are:

  • Outlining: Planning the structure before I start writing. Doesn’t work for all the posts, but I might be able to use it to speed things up. Practice: Flesh out my sharing outline (hah, you can even send patches or make suggestions through the issues queue) as a separate activity from writing. (See how I’m doing so far in terms of time.)
  • Illustration: Coming up with a hand-drawn image to illustrate my blog posts nudges me to think about the key point or idea in the post, and it’s good practice for sketchnoting too. Practice: It’s like adding an item to my blogging checklist to quickly sketch an image if I can.

Anyway, here’s the book again if you’re curious. Disclosure: I’ll get a small commission if you buy anything from Amazon using the links in this post, but you could also see if your local library has the book. (I got this one from the Toronto Public Library!) Check out first20hours.com for more info. Like this? Check out my other visual book reviews!

For another visual take on this (pretty colours!), check out Cynthia Morris’ summary. Enjoy!