Category Archives: sketchnotes

The Sketchnote Challenge: Those Algorithms That Govern Our Lives (Kevin Slavin)

Eva-Lotta Lamm and a great panel of sketchnote artists are running a challenge to sketch a particular talk. I managed to squeeze in a sketchnote just before today’s deadline.

20130317 Those Algorithms That Govern Our Lives - Kevin Slavin

What do I like about this sketchnote?

I captured enough to help me remember, and I had time for little doodles too. The light blue images and dark blue text look calmer than the red-black combination I used in some of my other sketchnotes. The brush size worked out fine in terms of the proportion.

I didn’t switch pen sizes or vary the size much because I wasn’t sure what was going to be important. Instead, I used simple borders to emphasize key points.

I’ve been experimenting with using a light shade to add more depth to my images. It usually takes me five minutes to go through an image. I didn’t do it here because the size and detail of the images felt right already.

Drawing with plenty of whitespace around each element allowed me to easily reposition things when I needed to rebalance the columns and reorganize the information. I’m sometimes tempted to go for more creative, overlapping layouts, but I do like the flexibility of being able to change my mind. I usually publish things shortly after drawing, so I didn’t spend a lot of time tweaking this image.

What would I like to improve?

I’ve been experimenting with different colour schemes. The first colour I drew the images in was too light, so I used GIMP to change the curve to something darker. Depending on what I want people to focus on, I’ve been trying out light text / dark images vs dark text / light images. It would be great to find a quick way of experimenting with the same image. Experimenting would be easier if I drew text and images on separate layers, but the presentation was information-dense, so I didn’t feel comfortable switching back and forth. I’ve tweaked my standard colour palette to include a darker blue like the one I used for the images here. That way, I can keep the light blue for shading, and I don’t have to adjust the colours after drawing. Next: Tweak my colour palette, and find a way to experiment more easily.

The presentation was only 30 minutes long. It turns out that the usual size I draw things at results in a one-page-per-hour sort of density, so I used only half the page. (Hooray for consistency!) It might be good to develop a dot grid that’s calibrated for half-hour talks so that I’m encouraged to draw at a larger size while preserving my usual landscape aspect ratio. Still, these columns worked out fine. Next: Try a different-sized dot grid for short talks, or get used to drawing larger.

It was pretty fast-paced, too. I don’t feel like I’ve fully captured the overall logic of the presentation. It would be nice to make this understandable for someone who hasn’t seen the presentation yet, which I think I can do with a little post-work (adding headings, explaining things in sentences instead of keywords). It feels a little disjointed at the moment, and I think I missed potentially interesting points like the one about the monoculture. The individual components are enough to remind me of what I want to remember about the talk, though. Next: Add more time for post-processing so that I can draw anything I missed the first time around.

Check out the other submissions! First set, second set: Kevin Mears (second set) has a good printout image. I like Andy Fisher’s (second set) puppeteer image, the cute robot, and the whitespace balance of the page.

Imagining an index of sketchnotes

With sketchnotes gaining in popularity, I’m often curious about how other people drew a talk. TED talks are popular for sketchnoting practice, and sketchnoters are beginning to bump into each other at conferences as well.

There are many avenues to share or discover sketchnotes, such as The Sketchnote Handbook Flickr Pool and the wonderful graphic recordings at Ogilvy Notes. Sketchnote Army is a blog that features lots of sketchnotes, and Twitter searches turn up even more. But there isn’t really something that’ll help you bump into other sketchnotes of the same talk, or even sketchnotes of the same conference.

Are we at the point yet where multiple people might be sketchnoting something? For popular TED talks, yes, and many conferences might have sketchnoters in the crowd. I think it would be interesting to make it easier for people to find each other and compare notes.

So I registered sketchnoteindex.com and created a quick spreadsheet to get a feel for the data that would be good to capture and how we might want to organize it. (Prototype with the lowest-effort thing first!) In addition to indexing topics, I’d like to eventually build an image and visual metaphor index too, so we can see how different people have represented time. Text search would rock someday. In the meantime, I put together a quick text prototype as an excuse to learn more about the Ember.js framework, although I’m thiiiis close to chucking it all and using Emacs or a Ruby script to generate static HTML.

Some things to consider:

  • We want to avoid spam and build good data for navigation. I can start off manually indexing sketchnotes, and then open it up for submission (possibly with an assistant).
  • Many sketchnotes don’t indicate their licensing, so technically, they’d be all rights reserved. We can link to things, and include thumbnails if we have permission.
  • I can coordinate with Sketchnote Army (Mike / Binaebi) for submissions, and I can set up notifications for other sources.
  • Revenue model: Advertising? Flesh this out into a system where conferences can pay a small fee to have branding on their page? Do this as a volunteer because I want to learn more about sketchnotes along the way? Hmm…

Right now, Ember.js pulls the data off the CSV I exported from my Google Docs spreadsheet. That way, I don’t have to create an admin interface or anything else. I’m not actually using Ember.js’ features (aside from a little templating and a few models), so I may swap it for something else.

So this was about eight hours including data entry (300+ sketchnotes; I did it myself instead of delegating because I wanted to sketch the idea out quickly), going through the Ember.js tutorials, and fighting with Javascript.

Sketchnote about mindmapping: Rock the Monkey: Visual Facilitation Skills and Brain-based Learning–Chuck Frey

Learn more about mindmapping in this sketchnote of Chuck Frey’s Jan 14, 2013 webinar on Rock the Monkey: Visual Facilitation Skills and Brain-based Learning. Click on the image for a larger version.

20130114 Rock the Monkey - Visual Facilitation Skills and Brain-Based Learning - Chuck Frey

Feel free to share this! © 2013 Sacha Chua, http://sachachua.com (Creative Commons Attribution Licence)

Learn more about mindmapping on Chuck Frey’s blog, The Mindmapping Software Blog. You can also follow him on Twitter (@chuckfrey).

For more sketchnotes, see http://experivis.com/ and http://sachachua.com/blog/category/sketchnotes . Enjoy!

This post originally appeared on Experivis, the company I’m building around the idea of turning experiences into visuals.

Sketchnote: ENT101 Lived It Lecture–Kunal Gupta, Polar Mobile

Update Jan 17, 2013: Added video!

I sketchnoted this live at the free MaRS Entrepreneurship 101 series (webcast and in-person session every Wednesday). Click on the image for a larger version of sketchnotes.

20130109 ENT101 Lived It Lecture - Kunal Gupta, Polar Mobile

Feel free to share this! You can credit it as (c) 2012 Sacha Chua under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Canada licence.

Here’s the video:

Lived it Lecture with Kunal Gupta of Polar Mobile ― Entrepreneurship 101 2012/13 from MaRS Discovery District on Vimeo.

Find more details on MaRS Discovery District’s blog. Check out my other ENT101 sketchnotes, or other sketchnotes and visual book notes!

[Read more →]

Imagining sketchnotes as a business

People tell me that conference/presentation sketchnotes are an amazing service. I’ve been getting paid to cover conferences and events, so I’m thinking of focusing on building this as a business in 2013. Here are some ideas I’ve been playing around with:

20121210 business planning - imagining wild success for sketchnotes

THE PAIN

Imagine you’re a conference or event organizer. You want to make sure your attendees get a lot of value out of your conference, and that a lot of potential attendees hear about it so that they’ll sign up for the next one. That’s why you’re using social media, you share slides, you’re working on getting videos uploaded, and so on. BUT you’re still only engaging a small fraction of your potential audience because most people don’t have the time to review all the materials, people aren’t interested in wading through lots of slides or text, or the materials are published long after people have gotten distracted by something else they need to focus on.

Sketchnotes can help you help your participants remember and share key points from the conference, increasing their ROI (and yours!). By sharing these images, people become ambassadors for your conference.

THE BENEFITS

This is about helping organizers engage participants through digital sketchnotes that are published throughout the event, taking advantage of the Twitter buzz. Sketchnotes can offer more information and more context than live-tweeted quotes, and they can reinforce the conference brand and sponsor relationships through templates. included in every sketchnote.

After the event, these notes also help participants remember and share key points from the conference. People can feel overwhelmed by all the great ideas they’ve picked up from a conference. When they get back to their offices, they probably need to justify their participation in the conference by writing a report on what they’ve learned. Few people have the time to review slides or re-watch videos. Conference sketchnotes are a quick way to trigger memory, and they can also be shared with people who have not been to the talks. This additional value gives conference organizers a good reason to follow up with participants after the event, which could influence feedback survey completion rates and scores.

Sketchnotes can also help organizers pre-market the next event. As a quick proof of the content covered in the conference, sketchnotes can spark interest in a way that slides may not. Often tweeted, reblogged, and searched for after an event, they’re an excellent way to share great ideas.

ALTERNATIVES AND DIFFERENTIATION

One of the great things about this is that I don’t have to build a market from scratch. Bloggers and live-tweeters are now part of many conferences’ social media and marketing planning, so there’s an established need for real-time sharing. Video/slidesharing is part of many conferences as well. Many companies and conferences have worked with graphic recorders and facilitators to capture and share discussions.

Organizers use several alternatives for engaging people during and after events, some of which are complementary services. Here are a few:

  • Doing nothing: No cost. However, this misses out on the opportunity for engagement.
  • Live-tweeting: Often on a volunteer basis, although sometimes there’ll be a small team dedicated to monitoring, responding to, and posting on social media networks. Live tweets are good for engagement, but are difficult to curate or read afterwards.
  • Live-blogging: Often on a volunteer basis, or in exchange for admission. Variable quality and shareability. Sometimes results in lots of text that people don’t enjoy reviewing afterwards.
  • Posting the slides: Many conferences post slides on Slideshare, Lanyrd, or similar sites. This tends to be a split between presentations that have too much text in them and take much time to review, or presentations that have practically no text in them and are impossible to share with people who have never been to the conference.
  • Posting the videos: This can take months, if it gets completed at all. It takes time to review these and find the key points.
  • Transcripts: Very few conferences post transcripts of talks. It’s expensive and time-consuming, although transcripts can increase the searchability of a talk.
  • Graphic recording / facilitation: Excellent for discussions. Visually impressive, as artists work on huge sheets of paper at the front of the room. Can be distracting if people are tempted to watch the graphic recording instead of watching the speaker. Takes time to post-process the images for posting, so not well-suited to publishing during the event itself. Less flexible when it comes to content because it’s hard to erase or move segments of a drawing. Matching colours, adding logos and sponsor information, and using other template elements may not be cost-effective.

I think there is a space right there, in the gap between

  • social media blog posts / tweets / slides / video on one hand (a “good” conference these days), and
  • full graphic recording / facilitation

where digital sketchnoting makes sense, especially considering the advantages to working with an all-digital workflow. (Quick publishing, templates, non-distracting setup…)

Also encouraging: I’m not the only one looking into this! Here are some companies offering digital sketchnoting/digital scribing services: The Grove Consultants International, Imagethink, See in Colors, The World Cafe, WrightMarks, LearningTimes, Virtual Visuals

Potential differentiators:

  • I have a technical background, which means I’m fine with acronyms, diagrams, and lots of abstract/obscure concepts (especially related to web design/development, social media, social business, mobile development, and other topics I’m personally interested in)
  • Many visual communication companies focus on large-scale graphic recording; by specializing in digital sketchnoting, I can get really, really good at it
  • Many sketchnoters / visual communicators are coming from paper-and-pen backgrounds or Mac backgrounds; I use a different toolset, and I continually experiment with making it better
  • I’m comfortable with social media, and have set up many tools to help me make even better use of it
  • I can offer complementary services, such as getting a talk transcribed and turned into an e-book
  • I speak, too! People enjoy my practical, down-to-earth illustrated talks, and hundreds of thousands of people have viewed my presentations online.

SALES AND MARKETING

Most conference and event organizers won’t be looking for sketchnoting in particular, so I’ll want to start by identifying potential clients, reaching out to people, and figuring out the possibilities together.

Another way to find potential clients would be to work with event producers who help organize lots of events. Sketchnoting becomes another capability they can offer to clients in order to add value.

People might not know how to make the most of sketchnotes as a resource. By handling the social media publishing and coordinating with the event’s social media team, I can simplify the process. I’ll also put together a guide for organizers who have existing blogs, Twitter accounts, Pinterest accounts, and other publishing platforms, so that they can take advantage of the sketchnotes that they’ll have.

My long-term evil plan

One of the reasons I’m interested in building a business around sketchnoting is because I want to learn more about sales and marketing. I could learn these business skills using web development or consulting instead, but those engagements involve longer iterations and less tangible services. Sketchnotes are easy to appreciate and share.

In addition, sketchnoting business and technology events also helps me build my visual communication skills, my understanding of topics, and my archive of content. This will come in handy when I write more books and work on more experiments. I think there’s room in the world for more visual books like the Sketchnote Handbook, especially as we shift towards reading less and wanting to understand things faster.

I think that sketchnoting might turn into an interesting 12-16 hour/week business that takes advantage of and fits in well with complementary strengths. Looking forward to trying this out!

More notes: Business idea: Digital sketchnoting agency

Tips for growing as a sketchnoter

New to sketchnoting? Aside from reading Mike Rohde’s The Sketchnote Handbook (see my sketchnote of it!) and Dan Roam’s Back of the Napkin, how else can you grow your skills? Here are some ideas from how I keep working on improving my sketchnoting. Hope you find them useful!

Click on the image for a larger version of the sketchnote.

20121216 Growing as a sketchnoter

Feel free to share this! You can credit it as (c) 2012 Sacha Chua under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Canada licence.

Check out my other sketchnotes and visual book notes. Want me to sketchnote your event? Know of any interesting tech / business talks coming up? I’d love to hear from you!

Thanks to Tamara Paton for the nudge to share this. =)

Sketchnote and got tips to share? Curious and have questions to ask? Comment below!