To doodle, one needs only a piece of paper and
a pen or pencil. For sketchnoting, Mike Rohde mostly
uses Moleskine notebooks and gel pens, but has
begun experimenting with the iPad Pro and a stylus.
“It works a lot like pen and paper, with the advantage
of undo and moving and stuff. But I wouldn’t call
it really a replacement for paper.” Robert Dimeo also
uses a Moleskine and sometimes a sketchbook, but the
majority of his work has been done using an iPad Pro
and Apple pen. “The app that I use is called Procreate
and I can tailor it to my workflow. Once I had that
optimized to my liking, you don’t have to think about
it anymore. It’s not much different from using pen
and paper, except that it’s a lot easier to edit.”
The Sketchnote Army, which is dedicated to showcasing sketchnotes and
sketchnoters from around the world.
Giulia Forsythe, a special projects facilitator at the Centre for Pedagogical Innovation at Brock University, is also a big visual note-taking
enthusiast. In 2013, she was invited to a TEDx Talk in Puerto Rico to
digitally draw the visual notes for the talks as they were given.
“I am a fan of sketchnoting because it resonates with my love of doodling, helps me keep my focus and it’s fun,” she says. “Relatedly, I like to
challenge faculty to create mind maps of their course to see how their
material fits together and flows,” she says.
Brock is running a pilot project this fall designed for teaching assistants in the classics to help students make connections between what they
learn in the large-classroom lectures and their discussions in small-group
seminars. “We are going to model a variety of instructional strategies for
teaching assistants, and one of them will be encouraging students to try
visual note-taking, which will include drawing practice.” Ms. Forsythe
adds that one of her goals at Brock is to remove the stigma around
doodling and show people that it can help with active listening.
Robert Dimeo echoes this opinion. “If you are interested in developing
better recall, if you’re not satisfied with how well you are able to retain
information, if you’re looking for better comprehension, if you’re interested in not sleeping through faculty meetings, then this is a good way to
stay engaged and focused,” he says. Dr. Dimeo is director of the Center for
Neutron Research at the National Institute of Standards and Technology,
a U.S. government agency in Maryland.
Dr. Dimeo started sketchnoting in 2014. He says he’d attend very complex meetings at work and struggle with some of the concepts that were
outside of his breadth of knowledge. Nonetheless, he would fill his notebook with notes, which he would then never look at. In a moment of frustration, he Googled “note-taking” to see if he could find a solution to his
problem. During his search he came across articles on visual note-taking
and eventually sketchnoting. After exploring some of the examples online,
he likened the sketchnotes to billboards.
“You have a very short period of time to assess what is going on and
what the message is. In the sketchnotes that I saw, I really liked the use of
lettering, typography and very simple doodles that all combined to tell a
story, or at least support one message.”
Is sketchnoting for everyone? It can be, says Dr. Dimeo. “It’s been a
performance game-changer for me,” he says. “But there is a time commit-
ment. Doing one or two and getting frustrated when you’re not happy
with the outcome is pretty common for people. But once you have mas-
tered the specific skills – listening, rapid doodling, being able to boil a
message down – it all comes together.”
Nancy White, a graphic facilitator based in Seattle, agrees. “I would
say, for many people, moving into the visual realm may help unstick them
in areas of their thinking and move them through areas they might not
have seen otherwise because it asks you to think differently. It asks your
brain and your body to work with a material differently.”