Recognizable over Realistic

If you’ve been in one of my sketchnoting or drawing workshops, you’ve probably heard me repeat this mantra a few times:

“Recognizable over realistic.”

Basically, when you’re drawing or creating sketchnotes, your job isn’t to be DaVinci, making the best and most accurate drawing possible… your job is to communicate visually! When you’re communicating with drawing, it’s less about the aesthetics and more about the meaning. Lower the bar and let go of perfectionism! As long as your drawings are recognizable as the object being depicted, you’re good to go.

You don’t have to draw a character– try drawing a stick person.

You don’t have to draw a mansion– try a house drawing with a box and a triangle!

Here are 3 tips to make sure your drawings are recognizable:

Nail the Defining features:

Defining features are what makes something different than other things. Cows, Oxen, and Bison are pretty similar animals, but they all have different defining features.  If I asked you to describe the defining features of a cow, you’d probably mention udders, spots, or maybe horns or wearing a bell. An oxen’s defining features are the swoopy ridged horns. A bison’s defining feature might be it’s hump or fuzzy coat on the front half. If your drawings skills aren’t amazing yet, nailing the defining features is the best place to start. Just ask yourself  the question “What makes a _____ a _____?” (Ex. What makes a cow a cow?)

Use labels:

Perhaps the defining features are there, but you’re still not able to tell EXACTLY what’s happening in the picture. In this case, use a label! Write exactly who or what your drawing represents so there’s no confusion… only clarity! 

Strategic color:

Sometimes color can change everything! Use color strategically so your drawings are clear. Just remember not to go too crazy! (Check out the Sketchnoters Guide to Confident Coloring if you want to learn more!)