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What is Visual Notetaking?

Lesson 2 from: Visual Notetaking: A Beginner's Guide to Sketchnotes

Giselle Chow

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Lesson Info

2. What is Visual Notetaking?

Visual notetaking uses words and imagery to create a real-time representation of what is being said or being worked on.

Lesson Info

What is Visual Notetaking?

Before we get started and think about the building blocks let's also talk a little bit about definitions you know this is a relatively new field so often there are um sort of conflicts or there are discussions around what we mean when we say blank right so for today this is what we're going to operate under so visual note taking when we think about it is a big umbrella term and lots of terms sort of fit underneath that umbrella sketch noting is one of them which is what we're going to be focusing on today graphic recording is another one which I can also talk about briefly okay um but really it's an umbrella term that is the real time visual capture of what's being said or the work of a group it uses words and it uses imagery okay it can't be personal so it can be something that you do for yourself right so if you're in a lecture situation if you are in a situation where you were taking notes for for your own benefit it can also be public right you could be in a public setting taking n...

otes on some of that is being said at the conference it khun b analog when I say analog I mean like paper and markers you know in a notebook it can be digital you can use aps tablets um it could be face to face and it could be virtual is well um it's more engaging than text alone so brain research which has really exploded in the past twenty years tells us that when words and images are combined that the retention rate that you get from that is way over about sixty five percent after seventy two hours. So after seventy two hours if you were to hear nothing but spoken information, you went to a great lecture and you sat there and you're blown away by this great speaker in three days if someone says, hey, what was that? You seemed really excited about that speaker where they talk about you'd be able to give them about ten percent of what you've heard if you take notes and you combine that information with words and imagery, you gets about sixty five percent retention sometimes with my colleagues we have what we call the three week the three week rule, so if you have a chart, if you look at it three weeks later and it really puts you back in that place where you really remember oh my gosh, that was when that person talked about that anecdote around going on that trip in finding that person you'll remember that you won't get that same retention if you if you just listen to informational um okay um and also that memory retention works for the note taker and also for the viewer right? So it has mutual benefit that way because it is a practice and you can see on thiss chart that we have hanging here it's not something that follows a left to right orientation and information in vertical columns people are able to scan the chart in different ways and look panoramic lee to make patterns that make connections that people aren't necessarily able to dio when they're looking at tech space documents and also it shows the parts and the whole right so you're able to pick out okay what's the title o make work that matters right? Who who's speaking james victoria what are some of the main points oh one two, three I see what they are and then if you're interested if you have the time maybe you'll take a look underneath that some of the imagery some of the text right but you get to choose how you approach the information okay? Okay so that's a bit about visual note taking as the large umbrella term right scheduling fits underneath that umbrella and that really is what you're gonna be focusing on today. What you'll see me doing is actually called graphic recording because its largest public you can see it that's so we can facilitate this um this learning environment where you can see what I'm doing it's big enough for you to see what I'm doing right but you'll be working personal size for today so it's the real time capture of lectures, panels speeches, presentations, work groups, work sessions using words and images it is individual and personal, so we're talking about what you're doing now small scale, usually in a sketchbook, it can also be on a tablet is well, if some of you are more comfortable working that way, increasingly, now I find people that go directly to working on tablets and don't start working on paper, which is great and also can be shared or is usually shared through social media channels after the fact, right? So you can take a quick smartphone photo tweeted out hey, here I am and south by southwest, check out this great speaker! Here are my notes, right? Okay, so what we're going to do now is, uh, I'm going to give you a sense of what this looks like, an action and what we're going to do. It's actually listen, teo, a segment of a creative live workshop that was filmed here earlier this year. I'll tell you a bit about it in a minute. Um, but just a little bit more about about you know, I recall when I was working actually at the high school that I used to work at when I first encountered this methodology we used to meet in this faculty room that had this really large four by sixteen piece of paper on the wall that was a timeline of the history of the school this hand drawn timeline it was really clear that a lot of people had contributed to this history so this hung on the wall you know went into the faculty lounge and ate my lunch and looked at it and made copies and looked at it and it was such a um a document that told me so much about the people the history, the culture what had happened and had this energy that really resonated with me I've never seen anything like it but at the same time I knew deeply what it was and how it was working on me right? So I hope that I can't promise the same experience but I hope you get served some of that magic out of um seeing me do this in front of you and you will also have the chance to do it as well okay, so we're gonna watch a about eight minute clip um uh on a workshop called power your podcast with storytelling by alex bloomberg he's a former a contributor to this american life and to planet money he started his own podcast company recently called startup I actually just felt like I was doing in this american life voice while I was doing that I listen to too much of it um so he did a workshop called power your podcast with storytelling and so what we're going to dio is we're going to play the video it's about eight minute clip I'm gonna show you on the board. What? Ideo I would really encourage you if you would like open up your box of markers, take a look at what's inside, follow along you have some really nice goodies. And if it seems too overwhelming because you have all these markers, all these pens just shoes, you know, one drawing pen, one marker and just try to jot down what you think or the main ideas. Okay, um, I'm going to see I'm going to do a large scale so you can see what I'm doing, okay, the clips about eight minutes long, and after that, I'm going to ask you, um, a serious of questions, which I'll just put up. Now we're not going to talk about them now, but I'm gonna ask you all to respond. Tio, what you noticed me doing so a bit about the process about what actually created anything you notice about the product and then about your experiences as a viewer. So what was it like watching me do this? Okay, any questions before we get going? All right, so I think we're ready to start, okay, so we can start whenever focus already, so you got this power, you've got this power of sort of emotional connection, right? Um the audio has and you've got this, you've got this. So what, audio? I think I think about different media and sort of what it wants or what it needs, and I feel like television it sort of once movement, it wants actual things happening in front of the camera, it wants conflict and what? And so and then I want to think about audio what audio wants is at once honesty, it wants emotional honesty um and when you supply it it's very effective to the audience um and so and it can come up in all sorts of different venues, so I have been doing, and I've been using it actually it is part of my ads this this sort of this this power of audio to sort of form honest connection between the listener and the person talking I've actually I sort of stumbled on something that I think actually works well, azad way of sort of doing my so I've started this podcast called startup, which is about me launching my podcast company, uh and it's uh, that's a little logo that we have in the itunes store and so we've done five episodes right now, and we have these ads that we ran on that we've been doing, and I've been doing the ads in this in this interesting way, but people haven't heard so I'll just play a clip of start up just to give you a sense of it so it's been I've basically been I left uh my job at planet money and this american life going out to start my own company but is going to tell stories podcast stories uh we're gonna launch a bunch of shows we're in the middle of it right now and as part of that I've been documenting the process we have been documenting all the conversations I've had with investors I've been documented conversations with my wife just sort of like laying there this process which for me has been surprisingly nerve racking and emotional and confusing and bizarre uh so so that's the that's the thing and so we just got the episode five which was all about the process of trying to come up with a name for our company which was again all this stuff seems simple and it turns out to be very, very complicated it only took seven months to come up with the name uh and so I'm gonna just play a clip right now this is a clip right where my my co founder and I have been sort of going back and forth every different names and we finally come up with one that we like and then I go and go home that night and I share it with my wife hello hello hello what is that? What is that supposed to mean? What uh it's here in esperanto good what d'oh organically oh does that come up organically? I was like thinking as ferrando wear one of those things that, like my former boss and mentor ira glass always says is that like especially in public radio and in journalism in general there's like you're only allowed a couple of emotions you know you're allowed sort of like brooding you know this is horrible and you're allowed sort of like maybe judgment like you did something bad but you're not really allowed like you don't really get, like unbridled sort of joy you know, very often in in sort of a least like the traditional media like the news media but it's a great emotion, you know and it's a wonderful thing to sort of like get and so that's another like that it doesn't have to be, you know, sort of like sadness around it could be just like sort of like actual belly laughs you know are very rare effective so anyway that's that's and then I listen to that everytime my favorite moment in that clip is what is where you can hear her clap because she's like uh um so sorry but that's start up so so but I was talking about how I'm harnessing the power of honest connection too to sell products for sponsors on dh what so our sponsors are male chimp right on male chimp does a lot of podcast as you heard him there an email service and when I was launching the show it sort of came up organically that I was going to just do the do the sponsorship sort of the same way that the that the show is being done so I sort of did this documentary style sponsorship where I would play the special music that you knew was the ad but then I would sort of do look a little mini little one minute sort of story about the company and that worked and then with the male chimps spots what I decided to do is just like talk to somebody from within the company within male chimp about whatever you know, I talk a little bit about male chimp and then we'd have like this sort of nice little conversation and it's like they're thirty five forty you know a minute along these spots and my on ly goal with spots is to get some honest moment from the interview something where like you hear a person sounding like a person and all the sudden and that you can connect with so I'm going to play the two of them there were two of them the first and so this is the naming episode so I called up they got from male chimp and I was like I asked them about the name male chimp just how did you guys come up with the name male chimp anyway it was around the time of the super bowl I think maybe two thousand won there are a lot of chimpanzees in commercials of the time it was kind of this trend of chimps being used to upsell things and so you millennials out there that really happened it was red it was a chimp trend was weird so that was it it just it just just we're short excuse me you spit on sorry about that I was so excited about these ads I'm drooling I'm so glad I'm literally drooling on stage uh uh the so the that is like just like again any in an advertisement it's just it was just funny to hear I'm sort of embarrassed laugh right like it's a funny little embarrassed left it's a very human moment and it's very authentic and all of a sudden it doesn't matter like you just form a human connection with male chimp because he's like giving this shy little chuckle right so that's one thing but my favorite one is the one that we did next which was sort of like we're so again I was talking about the name this is our second ad that we ran in this in this one if you were naming the company today you think you would call it male chimp? I don't I don't know that we would have uh it's hard to say you started to say a word that they stopped yourself I was going to say I don't know that we would have the courage to call it, but today I think you know, we've become so familiar with it and it has become so rich with meaning to us now just having you live with it for so long and built feels like a great name, but I don't think that by itself it really is particularly meaningful and it doesn't have, you know, it just feels not growing enough no, not growing up at all so that again, you know, with a little dame grams and I'm right, I like like, he was the start to say something he said another thing and I and I was like, it sounds like you're going to say something and he got this, like, again, a little sort of honest little little moment. Um so uh, so again, so this is so to recap, sort of what we've been talking about emotion is one of the main things they're going for, an on it assed honesty and emotion sort of honest, authentic feeling great. All right, so don't fret if you found yourself a little bit lost along the way I know for some of you, this might be the first time you're trying this that's great okay, we all start somewhere and, um I hope throughout the day you will find that as we talk a bit about the building blocks about the skills, what makes up this practice and you practice some of those pieces by the end of the day you will really look back at what you just did and you will see a lot of improvement. So um let's go back to these questions and if you could think about this and I'll just column folks for responses, what did you notice me doing? Like what? What was I doing? Ah, what did I create? Any thing you notice about the quick rapid fire eight minute capture I did and then how did it make you feel? I know some of you were looking looking down at your work, but I've noticed some of you were looking up but what I was doing a cz well, but so what was the impact on you? I need to talk a little bit about your familiarity with sketch noting and talk a little bit about that as well, and then we'll hear from other folks too, so thoughts on that? Yeah, I've never formally been trained, but I've always tried to do it especially lately and I think it's interesting and also seeing what you've done as faras what can be translated into icon's air imagery versus what would be so obscure you know, if you were to draw that it just makes sense to do it in words and summarize it and show that he's talking right so it's nice to see that it wasn't all graphics like a cat or a hard or a monkey so what about it that's actually what's happening okay, I know I know I do a monkey you're not an illustrator but it's fun to kind of push it and try to be fast and balance it also great. Thank you. Okay, other reactions yeah, kevin so I'm new to visual note taking haven't donated before uh I found the difference between what you're doing what I was doing with had trouble capturing key words or phrases that appeared in years and you change the highlighting colors and they've been bigger so I'm going on my page kind of looks the same like size wise air like trying to capture this moment so I'm already noticing the attention to detail forwards it's important to capture the essence of video conversation something that's been recorded yeah great. Thank you. What else? Other folks yeah, russell I noticed I thought you went to text first and then sometimes when he was talking and maybe you had familiarity what with what he was talking about you went back and did the visuals sometimes I'm curious about how you balance when you decide to write verses when you decide to draw and how you're both listening and creating at the same time yeah, thank you before I do want to answer your question before that a little bit about your level familiarity or how I'm I've never formally done visual note taking, but I think I naturally tend to make my notes pretty visual, but certainly not with drawings more like with the layout of text, so incorporating drawing is new for me, right? So for for me, um, different people have different approaches, but this is sort of the training that I received in so I'm here in my mentor's voice in my mind right now is she would always say when in doubt, default to the text first because really your primary job is to capture what people are saying and represent the work of the group as accurately as you can, so if I get hung up and I almost did, this is a great example, I'm glad this happened, I don't see chips every day, I don't really know what they look like. When I thought of a chimp, I thought of them toy clapping and I'm like, whoa that's taken me way off track and I have to keep listening so I left this blank space, but I didn't want that to happen with the imagery, so I wanted teo to make sure that I recorded the texas honestly as I could and then I thought, well, maybe something will happen and I'll be able to dash off a nikon I do know and I can go back and fill it fill this in later you know? So that's what I tend to dio there are a lot of people who think more readily in imagery and we'll do an image first sometimes I'll try to challenge myself and say ok let's try to do an image first like if I have a personal learning goal for a job that I'm working on but usually I tried to capture text first and then add graphics later and I think for people starting out that tends to be a good way to go so other yeah, I don't think I had a quick question about when you started till late out um of very large panel like that do you always start in the top left corner? Do you start in the center? Can you basically begin your sketch note anywhere on the pay? Yeah yeah so we will talk about that and more depth later on, but because I knew this was gonna be a relatively short capture and because we weren't looking to create sort of um a what do we want to say another kind of format or structure on top of it? I started in the upper left I kind of went around here I kind of started going down um went this way, you know? So I kind of went left to right, but I was imagining kind of three individual columns you know and that's what I tend to do when I'm not sure where the conversation is going sometimes if there's a conversation that is going to be where people are getting lots of ideas there's one question posed and people are giving lots of ideas or people are addressing a single issue I might actually start over here like around three o'clock because it breaks the habit for me of just immediately going to a list which I think is a default convention that all of us do. So did you want talk a bit about your familiarity with scotch? No winning or how you came to this? Sure, um I've been an artist an illustrator for a very long time I've loved drawing and mice notes have always been so image and visually oriented that's how I think and I've recently been doing a sketch not meet up here with kate rudder and I love keeping the practice up of really listening to what people are saying and then accurately capturing it with words and images on a page it's when you see the delight in someone's face when they see what you've done that's already like overworked reward enough yeah for sure thank you other reactions about the process what about what I created about the impact on you? Yeah sammy um I just noticed that you didn't record everything that was being said yeah, you just recorded you were able to pick out what the key moments where and what would maybe need to be recalled for later instead of recording, you know, direct transcription of what the conversation was right exactly. So this is not, um and this is not a transcription of what we heard, right? This is a way to present information illustrating main points main themes helping people the connection's certainly there is a level of detail, but because, you know, the person is speaking because it's happening in real time it's not possible to capture all of it. So really our job is how do you listen? How do you sympathize? What's being said, pull out those main themes, decide what to write or draw and then write or draw so there's a lot of stuff happening even though if someone you know, if some when we're to just look at us they're like, oh, they're drawing but there's so much internal stuff happening also, and we're also gonna be practicing that as well. So don't talk a bit about what your experience? Yeah um so I'm a graphic designer I haven't really been sketched owning too much just started seeing it pop up in social media a lot recently in recent months um so I just just started trying it out recently okay great. All right one final comment yes oma listen we'll hear from kate quickly then we will no one so I'm very new to the sketch noting uh ah when I have one question so will you uh record that there are some very abstract concept like honest I find it very difficult to uh to create a you major for that if it's for tv it's easy to draw that but for the very abstract concept how can you think about that and the grieved that so quickly yeah so we're actually practicing that very thing at the end at the end when we talked about icons so let me know when we get to that if you need me to talk a little bit more to it but we are showing me practicing that like now in versus concept right? Okay thank you. Yes I'm kate and I'm a huge fan of visual note taking and I've been doing it for a while thrilled that so many more people are wanting to get involved and I love what you said about the artist you know it's not about the artist is about capturing listening and I was really intrigued and impressed with the way you captured this story the humorous story of our well oh, you know, the that happened on the on the video, because I think capturing stories between people is really challenging and then tying it back to kind of the information is there. And and I wanted to know, like, where did you pull this going on in your mind? Because you were trying to capture that one story because you did a great job of it, but I didn't see that coming, right? So I think what I was trying to do is capture the key emotional high point, um, the part of the sort punch line of the story, right, that would be something that would resonate would be something that people would remember, you know, so that was served and and also thinking about about time as well, what could I do that would communicate that effectively and quickly and kind of keep it, keep it moving along, you know? So, yeah.

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Ratings and Reviews


Wonderful overview of sketch noting with tons of opportunities to practice, learn, and refine skills! Appreciated the side benefits of recognizing sketchnoting involves active listening and the opportunity to practice that too. Thank you! 110% recommend this course.

Tran Phuong

Great fundamental skills for effective notetaking! I love Gisele and all her lessons! They are super easy to follow and understand. Would recommend it of course!

Lisa Houghton

I really enjoyed this class. I am a beginner sketchnoter and found it very helpful. Great pace and delivery by instructor. Every minute was worth it. Thank you!

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