5 Truths About Sketchnoting

I know some people believe “There are no rules with sketchnoting!” and I don’t think I agree. There is a ton of freedom to be explored within sketchnoting, but sketchnoting itself has to have definitions, rules, or truths in order to differentiate it from other practices. I think there’s also some cultural behaviors and pressures to sort through.

These are the truths of sketchnoting, as defined by me, Emily Mills:

Truth #1: Sketchnoting doesn’t HAVE TO be something you show off online, or do professionally

I think our culture and the internet makes it too easy to show off and “jobify” everything we do. Before you know it, you feel pressure to make your passion your profession! What used to be fun (i.e. baking for friends) has you scrambling with your new “side hustle” and learning how to run a bakery business you never wanted in the first place.

So, here’s the truth: You can sketchnote just for fun, just for you. As much as I advocate for sharing your work, I think it’s also healthy to have private creative practices that only you know about. It’s okay to sketchnote for fun and not show it to anyone. I’d also go as far to say it’s okay to not want to improve your skills. It’s okay to be content where you are.

At the same time…

Truth #2: If you want to see improvement, you have to practice regularly

The truth is that sketchnoting is just like any other hobby or skill… you have to practice to be good at it. There are no shortcuts or silver bullets to improve… it takes time and intentional persistence.

Sketchnoting is a skill that’s often mastered over years, not days, weeks, or even months. Sketchnoting is a combination of 5 skills: Layout, Listening, Writing, Drawing, and Design.

That’s a LOT to juggle all at once! It’s no easy feat, and not everyone will have an easy time with it. Some might find they improve while practicing sketchnoting, and others might see improvement by practicing each skill area individually. It depends on your skill level and even your in-born talent and ability!

Truth #3: You have to have both text AND pictures

It seems obvious because it’s in the word: SKETCHnotes, but I keep seeing text-only notes, so here we are.

I’ve seen a LOT of really cool notes with artistic hand lettering, creative layouts, and use of color. But they aren’t sketchnotes. If your “sketchnote” doesn’t have any drawings, it’s not a sketchnote.

>>> Related post: Can you Sketchnote without Drawing?

Truth #4: Sketchnoting isn’t a fad and it’s likely not going anywhere anytime soon

In my work as a graphic recorder and sketchnoter at conferences, I always meet people who have never seen it before and think visuals at conferences are just a fad… here today and gone tomorrow. Just something conference organizers do to make things interesting, like puppy parties or dance-offs. They assume because they haven’t seen it before, it’s new, and won’t be around forever.

What these people don’t realize is that visual communication has been around for a long time!

David Sibbet pioneered graphic recording in the Bay Area in the 70’s.

Mike Rohde coined the term “sketchnoting” almost 20 years ago.

There are many conferences, organizations, meet-ups, and communities of sketchnoters and graphic recorders. Fads last only a season. Trends last a few years. Visual communication has been around for a long time, it’s just evolving! I expect to see more and more sketchnoitng in the world as time goes on, not less of it.

Truth #5: Sketchnoting is for everyone

I believe if you can write, you can sketchnote. I’ve heard of teachers  implementing sketchnoting in the classroom from early elementery grades to high school, and college and graduate students using it to study. And it’s not just for students. Professionals can use visual notetaking to capture meetings, take notes at conferences, brainstorm with peers, develop ideas, and organize their thoughts. Sketchnoting is a fantastic tool to help you learn and retain info… and you don’t have to be an illustrator!

Drawing simple icons, shapes, and pictures in sketchnotes is a skill anyone can learn and practice. The point of sketchnote images is to be MEMORABLE, not a masterpiece.

 >>> Take my free class on Beginner Drawing here!