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Imagining an index of sketchnotes

| drawing, geek, 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 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

| sketchnotes

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, (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 and . 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

Posted: - Modified: | sketchnotes

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!


Jan 9, 2013 #ENT101
Lived It Lecture

Focusing less on entrepreneurship and more on the ENTREPRENEUR

Our story:
While we were studying at Waterloo: iPhone App store, still

one year away
Inspired by mobile experience in Hong Kong: Watching TV!

The great thing about Co-op was that I learned I don’t want to

work for anybody. So we started a company!

Nobody knew what apps were. (Huh?)

Prototype of magazine on Blackberry

Why would anyone use this?
Where are the ads?
How do we get content in?

Q: Finding talent?
A: Referrals, events
Q: Pricing?
A: Listen. “How would you like to pay for this? -> Model neg.

Go out there and talk to customers
even big companies!

Nobody knew what I was talking about! (What’s an app?)

We’ll think about it. (3-6 months..)

We could’ve given up. We didn’t.

10 weeks, 9 phone calls… BUSINESS!

Professional persistence!

We launched 6 months before the App store
Went after US market in between exams

Q: Negotiation
A: Put off pricing -> validate problem first
Early days – no one expects you to have a rate card. As a

supplier, you want to use your own agreements eventually.
Q: Explaining ideas to people who pass it on
A: 1. Keep it simple. 2. Ask if they understand 3. Don’t need

to sell in first meeting.
Q: Small startup e-mailing/selling big companies.
A: Short, links at bottom. Put yourself in their shoes. Would

I reply to this?

We graduated and went full-time.

There’s so much noise about the difficulty of getting FUNDING.

/ Is there a proven market?
/ Do you have a product or service of value? Can it SCALE?
/ Do you have the TEAM you need?

Singapore is an AMAZING country. They always shoot for gold.

Learn from lots of places around the world.

Q: Future of mobile?
A: Amount of consumption -> 30% of traffic now mobile, will

cross 50%.. mobile-first. Changing the way people interact.

Manufacturers – what are people buying? Investments? Growth?
Q: Deciding between do and delegate?
A: What’s the most important thing for your business at this

time? That guides your time.
Q: Managing cofounders
A: Transparency -> trust. Expectations, concerns. Alignment.

How did we get Time Warner?
E-mailed the president!

What’s a little Canadian company doing in New York?
Blackberry -> made in Canada

9 months to get to a deal

I was so stubborn I insisted on having Sports Illustrated as

part of the deal

What we thought this would take

What it took

Hire for aptitude and attitude, train for skills
What should we do?
You know more about this than I do

Alignment is important but hard

New vision

People become more similar…

When you’re starting out, you need to keep REALIGNING

Chief Everything Officer } It’s not the right thing to do! You

can’t scale

Guarantee: You’ll make more mistakes than your team. Get over


Your body
barometer for business: stressed? focused?
Hey, is everything all right? You seem a little off.

Should I finish school?
Yes. Learn how to do things you don’t want to do.

You have to learn how to make tough decisions.

Toronto: Great place to start!

listen and develop product

Vancouver: Happier?

Imagining sketchnotes as a business

Posted: - Modified: | business, planning, sketchnotes

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


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.


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.


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.


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

| drawing, kaizen, sketchnotes

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!

My digital sketchnoting workflow

Posted: - Modified: | process, sketchnotes

2013/07/29: Update: Watch the episode or read the transcript!

Mike Rohde’s The Sketchnote Handbook (see my sketchnotes of it) focuses on pen-and-paper sketchnoting. I really enjoy digital sketchnoting, although there’s a bit more of a barrier to entry in terms of hardware. I’ve figured out a pretty sweet workflow for live-publishing conference/event sketchnotes so that you can catch people while they’re looking at the Twitter hashtag. Mike and I will be talking about digital workflows and tips for one of his podcasts, and I wanted to sketch my thoughts/talking points in preparation.

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

20121212 My digital sketchnoting workflow

Not specifically mentioned there because it’s more of a blogging setup, but WordPress + NextGen Gallery + Windows Live Writer + Text Templates plugin = great.

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

Like this? 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!

Sketchnotes: #ENT101 Meet the Enterpreneurs: Social Innovation – Izzy Camillieri, IZ Adaptive; Kaela Bree, AussieX; Dessy Daskalav, Greengage Mobile

Posted: - Modified: | sketchnotes

This sketchnote was captured live during the free MaRS Entrepreneurship 101 series (webcast and in-person session every Wednesday). Feel free to share this! You can credit it as (c) 2012 Sacha Chua under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Canada licence. Click on the image for a larger version of the sketchnotes.

20121212 ENT101 Meet the Enterpreneurs - Social Innovation - Izzy Camillieri, IZ Adaptive - Kaela Bree, AussieX - Dessy Daskalav, Greengage Mobile

Check out my other ENT101 sketchnotes, or other sketchnotes and visual book notes!


Dec 12 2012
Izzy Camillieri, Iz Adaptive
Kaela Bree, Aussiex @theaussiex
Dessy Daskalov, Greengage Mobile

Izzy Camillieri, Iz Adaptive

doll dresses -> friends -> models
now: clothing for people with disabilities

There weren’t many options for people out there.
Determination. Also, walk before you run.
coat. aha! seated position
I feel HUMAN again.

My “waitressing” jobs -> reduces stress, enables growth

Working from home
cut-off times
leave as needed

Changing lives

Next opportunities?
Aging population

Don’t lose sight of the goal.
Sometimes experience helps. (oh I see..)
Learn the industry.

pick up the phone
be involved

Kaela Bree, Aussiex @theaussiex

O-ring bracelet -> actress -> working with kids

physical activity for kids, employees
Aussie rules football

Working from home
change clothes/space
try coworking

CASH is king
Understand your finances!

HR is complicated and important.

Partners must be aligned in terms of values. -> get external validation?
due diligence
different strengths

Funding: Data and track record

Think BIG and start small.
ask for help

Contacts: Persistence and determination

user stories
Be grateful for the Journey

School for Social Entrepreneurs

Vision: transform physical education in school
3-5 a day
movement and stillness

Choosing opportunities

ex: 3 months
then evaluate

1. Have a go.
2. Good on ya mate.
3. Have a ripper.

Industry contacts and Board of advisors

Have FUN.
Laugh once in a while.

Dessy Daskalov, Greengage Mobile

sustainability contests -> mobile



Surround yourself with great people and ask for help

Can be safer to raise money and get yourself on a good TRAJECTORY.

Business partners

Choosing opportunities

Pace of change
curious minds

Working from home
pair up (partner or other freelancers)

Don’t wait to be READY. Jump in.

Global vision

Contacts: What can you offer them?

Getting started
Experience and contacts
Network at events