Beyond the Capture

Over the years I have connected with some wonderful and creative graphic recorders and graphic facilitators. I have seen them work as small as a 8.5×11 and as big as 5ft x 20ft. Each with a unique talent and style. This is what makes this profession so intriguing and wonderful. Yet there is still something missing with most people in the industry…

Not Packaging Their Work

When I started recording, I set out to understand the overall purpose of the work, not just the initial capturing during a session, but the entire life cycle of the work. How were clients using what was created and how were graphic recorders working with clients to leverage the work to its best?

I challenged myself not to just dive in a work it out as I go, but to formulate a complete process and offering. One that may need working longer with a client than merely the event performance. I read online, viewed websites, looked at examples of work and scanned through many social media postings to see what others were doing and how I could shape my offering to stand out in the industry.

What I discovered and wanted to avoid was most ‘do and dash.’ What I mean by this is that they “perform” the work, yet after completed, leave the work and move on to the next assignment leaving the client to handle the graphic work.This is very much like a music band moving from venue to venue. This action was leaving a huge opportunity on the wall to expand and extend the offering.

Before the Show

The first place to start is the pre-work time with the client. Many, I found, do not work deeply enough with a client on the expectations and possible applications of what will be captured. This is the time to have the discussion with the end in mind of what will be the deliverables and how can they best be used to convey the ideas expressed and captured. it is also the time to discuss the working environment.

Pre-work and initial expectation outcome meetings are important processes and may need multiple departments to be involved. It is best to understand what the client believes is going to be happening and guide their expectations to the possibilities. This requires preparing the client for what will be created during the session and the various channels it can be distributed after the session.  This also means there must be a method to capture the content cleanly and efficiently.


The next step is to ‘stage’ the performance for the best results. Typically I’ve seen and read is that the paper is hung in some inconvenient available space, usually not the best location(s) for doing the work.  Poor lighting and uneven work surfaces add to the complexity. The work environment needs to be controllable and optimal engagement for the client, observers and the recorder. If all possible, I believe in a site visit if all possible or at the least ask the client where they want the work to be done that is beneficial to all parties.

During the capturing, keep the end in mind. Having an architectural background, I tend to work in zones or blocking. This is important as it allows the image to be dissected into small usable pieces for later delivery. It also helps key segments of the event organized visually.

Extending the Show

After the event, the work needs to be scanned digitally in order to do corrections, enhancements and changes. By scanning digitally, I create an archive record of the artifact that can be reprinted later if a client so wished.

Size limitations of scanner technology needed to be considered.  I decided to work on the largest possible format that can be scanned at a local print service. Typically, large scanners can handle up to 36 inches wide and as long as needed. It also helps calculate cost of reproduction since they charge for square footage.

The next process is to transfer the digital scan to the computer for edits, clean-up and dissection to be used in various application that would have been discussed during the pre-work meeting. The files would also be saved at various resolutions for quick application by the client as most would not have access to image editors. Assume limited tech on the client’s behalf. Do the work for them.

Digital images are very easy to create various digital files for multiple applications such as print, digital communications, websites and even social media. Creating digital files allows me the ability to create a customized portfolio for prospects that match closely to their needs and the event.

The Package

Finally, the original artifact is rolled and placed into a sturdy and colorful shipping tube with a physical storage drive of the digital files and sent to the client. In some cases, I can also provide the same files on a cloud storage for quicker retrieval if the client request.

The Sum of It’s Parts

What I know and what I have learned before starting and now years performing is that the whole of the experience is far greater than the sum of the pieces to create the experience. Don’t fall short and don’t cut corners in order to save time or cost. What you do is your brand. Be complete and exceed what is expected.

I hope this helps others who wish to enhance what they do and help provide clarity that the fee is not just for the time doing, rather the time creating the visual experience.





Learning From Alice

In the Experience Economy, understanding the flow is critical in the success of any staged experience. A good example of how this works is through the story of Alice in Wonderland.

Flow of Exp

In order to develop a complete experience for your customer you must address every phase of the experience from the enticement to enter through the extending of the memory.

Making Intangible Ideas Tangible

There is an epidemic facing our business world. The symptoms may go undetected and has spread like wildfire in a drought. This type of epidemic can be so destructive that it actually destroys businesses from at the very core and no one sees it coming, especially when its company-wide.

This condition spreads through daily activities, mutual conversation and even electronically communications undetected. There is no way to spot once its too late to protect yourself or others.

No, I am not talking about a air-borne disease or some contagious virus. No, I’m talking about the loss of information and key ideas created and then lost forever. I am talking about the inability of groups to capture and share ideas and goals effectively. There is a method of inoculation and eventual cure to this epidemic…

Graphic recording.

Okay, so it sounds like a commercial right. True, but in reality, it is a statement of support. When an organization creates ideas from interaction of co-workers, capturing these ideas so that they are documented as well as shared aids in the propagation of these ideas. One of the most powerful tools is graphic recording, capturing ideas in both written and graphical documentation so that the information can be reflected upon and shared.

Different descriptions and scale of graphic recording
Different descriptions and scale of graphic recording

Graphic recording does not always have to be done larger than life on huge sheets of paper on the walls, no, you can scale down to sketchbooks or even small notebooks. Whatever the size you choose to use, make sure you share. When you share ideas captured, you inoculate against the epidemic of forgetfulness, the killer of great ideas.

So to all those who meet, share, present, communicate, doodle on napkins, capture these ideas and document them to share. You never know who may see them and build on the idea to make them real.

Always remember, make intangible ideas tangible so others may SEE!

Words with Emotion

Sketchnote Lesson:

In sketchnotes, we share the idea of capturing emotion with smiley faces on stickmen and these are easy and classic, there is also a way to add emotion to words with a bit of forethought and practice. 

Let’s have a bit of visual fun and add stronger emphasis on those words we use.

SKNT lesson

A great source for lettering with emphasis are comic books, children picture books and graffiti. Learn from others who communicate with strong visuals to enhance your visual notes. So, just as you build up your visual library, try building your word emotion library as well. The more you add visual clues to your Sketchnotes and Graphicnotes, the greater the impact of the underlining information.

By the way, did you notice your eyes went right to the “POWER” word. Color also is a great add to emotion.

Remember, keep your ideas sketchy and visual, because the best ideas are ones seen by all.


Public Transport Theatre

Graphic recording, visual thinking and even sketchnoting are all things hard to communicate via email, phone conversations and even one-on-one, so how can you share what you do with impact and clarity?

Find a captive audience and let the show begin!

Recently, on a trip to Vancouver, BC, I was onboard the Clipper heading over to Victoria on Vancouver Island. Ferry crossings are slow and take a good amount of time. Like all public transportation, the seating is adequate. On the Clipper, seats are arranged in tight groups of four around mini tables that are provided for eating, reading or just relaxing. The advantage of traveling with one other person is that you always end up seating across from two strangers.

On this trip as with so many others, I pulled out my sketchbook to record some ideas I have thought about. I opened up my pad, grabbed by pens and began visually reconstructing an idea. Immediately, the couple across from us became interested and then hooked. Their eyes followed as my hand moved from one node to the next as if unveiling chapters in a story.

Eventually, one of my audience speaks up. “What is that you’re doing?” That’s my cue. Start the music from the Calliope, put on the smile and it’s showtime? My response is always the same… “I’m capturing ideas visually so others can understand later on.” This is vague enough to get a head nod or a tilt of interest.

The next few minutes I explain how visually we all think and remember things as well as show examples of earlier work, either on my tablet or from the sketchbook. I share with them how others have used my talents to better communicate or identify ideas to larger groups. While all this is happening, curiosity spreads around the nearby seats and more eyes and ears are drawn in on the conversation.

I demonstrate how it helps, not by using the spoken word, rather by starting a new page and banner title it “Interesting People I Have Met”. I ask them to share why they do what they do and begin the recording. I ask eavesdroppers also. Soon a handful of people join in and the fun begins. People begin connecting with me and with each other.

Nov TripThe show is in full swing, time to spread the word…

Eventually, someone inquires about applications of this thing you do. Time to get contact information and spread out the calling cards. Remember, you’re not just creating new friends, this is you livelihood and the best way to promote yourself, because you never know if they may be the next client or stepping stone to that client. At this point I always politely try to get email addresses to send them links to see the final work as well as my portfolio.

“Storytelling is the key to adding value to anything you offer, especially if it’s others providing that story.”

Storytelling 01

Anywhere there are a mix of people waiting for something, you have an audience to entertain, share stories and eventual educate to the world of graphic recording and visual thINKing.

What 2 Sketchnote

Part 1: The Page

I am not usually one for creating How-To-Dos, but I created this to help other sketchnote enthusiast develop their skills by explaining some of the techniques I use to develop quick sketchnotes.

Key Sketchnote Thoughts

When starting a sketchnote, keep in mind it’s about brevity of content and not dictation or transcription. Sketchnotes are more about getting the sense of the conversation or communication than it is gathering details and full sentences down on a page. On that word “Page”, let’s take a look at the typical page and I’ll show you some ways on how to layout out your sketchnotes before your recording begins.

The Page

what2note grid
Illustration 01

First, let’s look at the common Moleskine or sketchbook layout in portrait mode. For those not familiar with this term it means when a page is in the tall mode as compared to landscape which means its in a wide mode. Okay, back in portrait mode. To make it easier when recording and controlling placement, I imagine my page like a Tic-tac-toe game. I divide the page up with three columns and three rows as illustrated in image 01.

what2note titleblock
Illustration 02

For speakers or presentations, this nine box layout works nicely. Over the years I observed that good presenters who present consistently normally keep their presentation to three to five key topics with a good summary. The grid allows you to use each small space as an area for each topic or key point.  In the next illustration (Illustration 02) I choose the upper left hand space and the upper center space for the Title and speakers name plus the date and time of the event. Some other sketchnoters will also include at which event the sketchnote was made.


Illustration 03
Illustration 03

Let’s talk about flow and I don’t mean the waitress at the diner or that funny woman who sells insurance on TV. Flow or directionality is very important when you or someone else reviews your sketchnotes later on. It is important to determine how your content will flow along on the page. I find it best when starting out to pick a flow style and practice in that framework until you get comfortable with organizing content on the fly.

The first flow pattern is what I like to call “NewsPaper”. It is similar to what it represents. Like a traditional Newspaper layout, the content flows down columns as seen in the  illustration below labelled “Illustration 04”.

Illustration 04
Illustration 04

Starting from the left hand side just beneath the title block, content moves down each column and over to the right. The advantage of this flow pattern is that most readers already have been familiarized with this pattern subconsciously and follow along quickly. I like this pattern for another reason. This pattern uses a controlled directionality forcing the summary or highlights of the sketchnote to end in the opposite corner of the title block, anchoring the page.

Illustration 05
Illustration 05

The next pattern I call “Book Read”. Like the Newspaper, Book Read follows a historic pattern of content moving from left to right, top to bottom. Unlike Newspaper, this pattern is a single column as you would find in any literature publication. Because it is a traditional flow, readers can follow very quickly the content. This is also a good application if a presenter uses many quotes that may be  relevant information. Also, quotes can be used as dividers within the content.

Illustration 06
Illustration 06

The next pattern which I lovingly call “Wind-Up” shown in illustration 06, is a bit more in-line with a style I’ve seen when recording sales pitches, discussion groups, think tank sessions or general conversations. Here, the title is paired with the recap or big idea. As you can see in the illustration, the flow content moves around in the lower six spaces working its way up towards the recap. This is a visual adaptation of the old presentation motto, “Let me tell you what I am going to tell you, then tell you and then I will tell you what I told you.”

Illustration 07

This next pattern (Illustration 07) limits the creative flow of the sketchnoter. This pattern I spitefully call “Andthen”. I call it this, not because of any pattern or flow issues, rather because of 3 presentations I was unfortunately required to record. In each of these presentations, the speaker did not transition well between key ideas nor was there any connectivity of most of the ideas expressed, except for the speaker’s choice of connecting phrase “and then…” My hopes are that you never need to use this nor experience a presentation like this, but you will… some day… and then… you’ll get the pun.

Illustration 08
Illustration 08

Final pattern as shown in illustration 08, is what I like to call “Popcorn.” As the name implies, content is located around the page almost randomly. Strangely, this actually works well during brainstorming sessions where participants share key ideas and little supporting information. this form of sketchnotes is a very high level recording process. (See example) By placing ideas at various, unconnected locations on the page, each idea stands on its own merit or premise. By adding cloud shapes, boxes or other graphic elements, the share the space, yet are still individual thoughts. Another addition to this is slightly shifting the angle of the text to add a visual separation in the ideas and re-enforcing its uniqueness within the group of other ideas.


Illustration 09
Illustration 09

Speaking of directionality, let me show you another quick trick to add emphasis to your content by shifting the direction of your text and icons. Look to illustration 09 and see which text jumps out at you. Two of them should have caught your attention; “Ideas, One sees change in patterns” to the left of the large word “BREVITY” and to the bottom right hand corner the word “See!” Why did these catch your eye?

The simple reason is that they did not follow the pattern of text like the majority of the page. They disrupted the flow, thus drawing your attention to them. This is a tactic used by many advertisers to draw your attention to an object or a key word or phrase, Even the arm of the figure catches your attention since it slant down at an angle opposing the direction of the rest of the text. This is a very powerful tool when done right. Over use this trick and your page begins looking like the “Popcorn” page. I use this method when I want to emphasize a key idea or an opposing idea of the group that creates discomfort. Think of it as the 800 pound gorilla of text. You can not but help see it if everything else lines up properly.

Last Words of Advice Before You Record

what2note 1perpageFirst words of advice, try to keep your sketchnotes topics one per page. By doing this you can organize your sketchnotes easily and efficiently. If you use a digital sketchnote or scan your sketchnotes and store them digitally, you can tag each sketchnote with key information that makes retrieval easier for you and your readers if you share them on a blog or gallery. A great example of this is  visit Sacha Chua’s gallery blog and search content to your heart’s content. She is an amazing organizer of data.

what2note fillinlaterSecond, fill in details later. Get the most important things down first, you can always come back later and fill the text to make it bolder or add dividers and icons to help improve retention. Don’t feel like you must have each image or text completed before moving on. In many cases, conversation as well as presentations, have filler conversation which will give you time to go back and add details or supporting images.

what2note rulesLast words, my four rules sketchnotes and graphic recording.

One; know before you go or in this case, if you’re going to be sketchnoting a presenter like those at TED or other industry events, research before you sketchnote. Find out about the person you’re going to be recording if possible. With YouTube, Vimeo and the like, you can experience the style of the presenter and be ready to know how much detail is going to be recorded.

Two; Research some of the content to get a feel for the language the presenter may use or is  related to the topic or industry they speak from. Knowing the language will help your keep your sketchnotes filled with headline type copy and avoid transcribing the conversation. 

Three; Keep your text to headlines. Avoid being a transcriptionist and be brief and bold.

Fourth and last; Practice. As the old adage goes… “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” ask the passenger to the taxi driver. “Practice, practice, practice.” the driver replied. SO practice with anyone, anywhere and at anytime you’re free to sketchnote. Just practice. By doing this you build your library of icons and hone your page style as well as page usage.

To learn more about sketchnotes read Mike Rohde’s book “Sketchnote Handbok” a great guide to the methods and strategy of sketchnoting.

I hope this helps and keep those notes sketchy and flowing.

Twitter Chat #SKNTchat June 29

We had a good launch of sketchnotes Twitter Chat called #SKNTchat on Saturday, June 29th. Instead of going through all the written language text copy. I am just posting it here for viewing. A sketchnote of Sketchnotes Twitter chat.

SKNTchat 6_29

Using Graphic Language

Insight for the sketchnoter, visual recorder graphic facilitator.

ElementsIt is important, just as in the written and spoken languages, to treat your graphic elements the same as you would use words. Combine them to convey information. A stand alone image may be a good representation of something expressed, yet they work better when combined to clarify an idea or convey a story.