Sketchnotes — or how to visualise HackWeek #3

I’ll do this introduction the hackneyed way: “A picture is worth a thousand words.” (Now I’ve written that, I’m almost done with my article. That was easy!) What was the last HackWeek all about? To help refresh people’s memories, I’ve learned to do sketchnotes, which are first and foremost used as a means of memorising talks and meetings as ideas are captured in the form of notes rather than lengthy phrases or shorthand writing.

You’ll know what I mean if you’ve ever been to a conference: you attend lots of interesting talks and you try to listen and write notes about each of them. You can’t write it all down at once so you decide to revisit your notes a week later and then discover you can’t remember anything beyond what you already wrote. Maybe you can’t even read what it says in your notes because you wrote things too quickly or used too many abbreviations and can’t remmeber what they mean. Have I struck a chord here? The idea behind sketchnotes is that you enrich your notes with typography, images and symbols; basically anything visual that provides context and structure, in turn helping your brain recall what was said during the talks you attended while also making your notes more fun to look at into the bargain.

Sketchnotes aren’t really your cup of tea? Fear not! You don’t need to be an expert in drawing. In fact you’ll be surprised just how many different ideas you can map on your paper just by adding circles, lines, rectangles and triangles. The hardest thing for me was not the drawing, but structuring my notes. And while practising by watching TED talks, I always found myself afraid of missing something out.
The trick here is to limit your notes to the points you find important. You can practice this and hone your skills by taking sketchnotes during talks and meetings, or even sketchnote books, TV series, travel memories and your favourite recipes. The options are limitless…

Below are a few examples of my work where I sketchnoted all 21 HackWeek presentations:

Sketchnotes for the Barcelona and Munich offices
Sketchnotes for the Hamburg office

Have I got you thinking about sketchnotes and now you’d like to find out more? Just run a search online and you’ll be presented with countless guides and examples, such as this Smashing Magazine article or this short article (in German) about learning sketchnotes. And of course there’s the famous “The Sketchnote Handbook” by Mike Rhode which I’ve worked with in the past.

Happy sketching!

– Nina @nk_berlin