Sketchnoting / by Becca Barton

A little over a year ago, I found myself in a classroom of Typography students, assigned a book on sketchnoting and tasked with filling a moleskine throughout the course of the semester for a grade. Our only prompt? "Doodle." 

It was one of those assignments that was so wildly vague and intimidating and seemed like so much more effort than just, you know, writing stuff down, that of course everyone put it off until the last minute, frantically trying to sketch and add visual cues to notes written months prior.

I was one of those students, drawing graphs and 3D-ing lettering at the last hour before final project turn-in, cursing our professor for making us waste our time on something so trivial when we could have been out there designing. And then about halfway through the notebook, I realized I was really enjoying it. It was fun making my notes look nice, and organizing the content in a way that made a little more sense than just writing line after line of text. 


After that assignment, sketchnoting started slowly making its way into my life, anytime my hand hit paper. I realized I was retaining more information, staying more engaged during lectures, and drastically improving my (heretofore, kinda primitive) drawing skills. It was addicting.  

There's a whole movement dedicated to furthering the spread of sketchnoting. Too often, doodling is discouraged, seen as a sign of being distracted or rude. However, it's actually an extremely effective way of learning: sketchnoters retain 30% more information with doodling than without. Consider this: instead of just taking in auditory information, you're creating visuals with it. And beyond just writing down what's being said, you're making instant connections to the information you're hearing and connecting it with visual cues in your notebook. This means that instead of just taking information in, you're taking in the information and immediately putting it to use, giving it a much better shot at being recalled later. 


At Flatiron, we often have multiple lectures covering multiple topics throughout the day. This is a lot of information coming at us. Sketchnoting has been a great way to help retain information that otherwise might have gone in one ear and out the other. Drawing out these complicated concepts gives the brain a second chance to process them right away, and offers a chance to organize these gigantic topics into more manageable, visual chunks. Sketchnoting has been an invaluable addition to learning (So, yes, Professor Scherer, you were right— I did thank you later), and it's super easy to start. Interested in trying it out for yourself? Check out the video below for some quick tips on sketchnoting. 

A quick overview of Sketchnoting: