What I’m learning from the sketchnote index

So here’s something that I’m learning about sketchnotes and why I like drawing and sharing them, and also why I like reading lots of blogs and books in the same field, and why I like reading open source, and why I like self-tracking and sharing data.

I like seeing the different ways people see something – especially when they’re drawing the same topic, but even if they’re covering different conferences. I like reading different words circling the same topic, trying to express it; lots of programs trying to solve similar challenges; lots of experiments trying to pin down the same mechanisms.

I like building indexes and tables and graphs showing the relationships among points that people might not otherwise connect. I like putting them side by side and using the similarities and differences to learn more.

Following up on something I’d been thinking of making for a while, and prompted by a chance remark by someone else on Twitter, I’ve made one of those indexes public.

I’ve been keeping track of other people’s sketches in an Evernote notebook, but it was difficult to see who had covered the same topics unless Mike Rohde or Binaebi Akah mentioned them specifically on sketchnotearmy.com. I started to build Sketchnote Index as a way to map out this world of sketchnotes, to see the topics that people sketched. It’s been a terrific exercise even though it involved a ton of data entry (some automated, most not) – I’ve seen lots and lots and lots of sketchnotes, and I’m getting a better sense of where my style falls in the spectrum. (Spectra? So many ways to compare…)

I think of this as a way of saving time. I don’t have the time to explore all the alternatives, but if I can see how other people have traced out different possibilities, I can recognize what I want to move towards.

I like indexing a lot. It’s a different form of value, not as straightforward as drawing something or coding something. I’m good at it well because of my familiarity with spreadsheets, automation, programming, productivity tools, and the occasional bit of delegation. I wonder if this can grow into something later on. I’m sure that it’s going to be a useful core skill for accelerating how I learn things like sketchnoting, and it’s great for referring work to other people. Yesterday I went through my index to look for sketchnoters who might be able to cover technical topics. I think it would be great to do that even better.

Next steps: Start mapping artists by style, so that we can see more of the options.

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