I was asked recently on Twitter if this picture of my notes from Steve Wheeler’s keynote at LILAC 2013 could be used in a student skills session as an example of good note-taking:
I was delighted, and of course said yes. The request made me think whether I’d ever written anything on this blog about my visual note-taking. A quick search brought up this post from 2011, in which I wrote about a new approach to note-taking that I wanted to try. Given now how hooked I am on the technique I think it’s interesting that I’ve not followed-up on the original post…. until now.
When I started out I used a pad of plain A4 paper and a Sharpie. Later, to keep everything together I progressed onto a spiral bound sketchbook. In the beginning I wouldn’t say my notes were particularly visual and I don’t think that mattered. Anyone can do this, you don’t need to be an artist. I included the odd image used as a memory aid but found that the most liberating factor in this new technique was the move away from a linear style of note. With visual notes, and crucially a blank canvas, I could easily make links between ideas from different points in a talk. It also made my notes more concise and appealing, and therefore more likely to be returned to in future.
Here’s an example of one of my earliest notes:
In the past year or so the tools that I use for note-taking have changed; I’ve gone digital. I now use the Upad app on my iPad and a Bamboo stylus. I find this gives me much more flexibility and ultimately gives me a much more useful note.
Over the years I have been developing my own visual note-taking style and I’ve found some great resources to help with this. First up is the wonderful Sketchnote Handook by Mike Rohde. I’ve learnt a lot from this and it is also one of the most beautiful books I’ve ever seen. Finally, for anyone thinking they’d like to give visual note-taking a go I’d encourage you to start with this TED Talk from Rachel Smith: