Devastated, she stopped drawing and went back to traditional study
methods like highlighting and written notes. But, a funny thing happened, she says: her grades began to slip. “I realized at that point that I
learned through doodling. Doing those daily doodles really helped when
I was consolidating my learning for the day. I started to doodle again and
my grades came right back up. Now my dad supports doodling,” she says
with a laugh.
Currently finishing her second year of residency at U of A, specializing in cardiac surgery, Dr. Maruyama admits that her doodles are much
fancier than most. Regardless, she does find that they help to clarify complex topics for her – and seemingly for others. After one of her exams
during medical school, she says, a fellow student came up to her and
said he’d been stuck on a question about bone metabolism but recalled a
doodle she’d posted to Facebook on that particular subject and was able
to answer the question.
Like Dr. Maruyama, others have taken up doodling as a type of
visual note-taking. Designer, author and illustrator Mike Rohde, who
lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, says he always considered himself an expert note-taker. At meetings or conferences, he would meticulously write
down everything the speaker said, comforting himself with the thought
that he could go back and read the notes later to really grasp the concepts.
But what actually happened? “I would look through my notes and think,
‘There’s no way I am going to hack my way through all of the info to try
and find the value.’ It’s just too much.” he says.
So, in 2007, he changed tack and traded his large notebook and pencil
for a small Moleskine diary and a pen. At his next conference, he captured
the main concepts of the speaker by sketching them on a single page. “I
would only focus on the things that I thought I could make use of. I had
to really listen closely and then make an analysis on what was valuable
info and what wasn’t. Because I was doing this analysis, I actually had a
little bit of availability to start playing with lettering and imagery and
even layout. So I started to experiment with that.” He called his technique
“sketchnoting,” and in 2013 he penned The Sketchnote Handbook, an illustrated guide to visual note-taking for beginners.
“Sketchnotes don’t require high drawing skills, but do require a
skill to visually synthesize and summarize via shapes, connectors and
text,” says Mr. Rohde. He now gives workshops on sketchnoting, where
he helps newbies to create their own “visual vocabulary.” He’s also
written a second book, The Sketchnote Workbook, and launched a podcast,
Doodling for Academics, the book.
Not strictly about the benefits of doodling, the book
Doodling for Academics is a tongue-in-cheek take on
academic life. Author Julie Schumacher organized
the book around a day in the life of a hapless, lowly
professor. “It’s a satirical activity book, I suppose.
I think what’s fun about it is it’s a lowbrow rendition
of an erudite field,” says Ms. Schumacher, a professor
and director of the creative writing program at the
University of Minnesota.
Pages in the book include “the 4 a.m. fantasy,”
which depicts a pile of bestselling books, money flying
through the air and champagne bottles popping; a
fashion activity page where the reader must match the
accessories depicted (Swiss Army knife, sceptre,
mug) to the appropriate person (donor, grad student,
department chair); and a “promotion path” game,
including squares for vengeful colleagues, failure
to publish and arriving at full professor. “I think people
in academe are eccentric, often. And I think
the doodling book helps to point that out,” says
Ms. Schumacher. “It’s a very particular universe
that we operate within.”