If you’ve ever seen the book Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson, you undoubtedly remember the cool illustrations attached to each chapter. The illustrator, Mike Rohde, later wrote his own book explaining his (underground) famous technique called “sketchnoting”.

Sketchnote Handbook

The Sketchnote Handbook explained how to incorporate visualization techniques into your everyday note-taking. Even if you can’t draw well, Rohde’s visual note-taking method makes it easier to learn materials by processing and absorbing the information instead of taking verbatim notes. It’s also cool…and fun…to see the finished product.


What Is Sketchnoting?

A picture is worth a thousand words (in this case, way more), so before diving in, have a look at a few sample sketchnotes.


WHY Sketchnoting?

Sketchnotes aren’t just fun and games. Sketchnoting is a sure-fire way to train your brain. The act of writing information down helps you to remember it. When you type, your mind’s processing is divided internally between learning and then deciding what finger to move to type the note. It’s horribly inefficient. Somehow, our brains can draw or hand-write without paying that processing tax.

Sketchnoting > Verbatim

As we’ve explained many times here at CaptureApps, note-taking is a key element of learning, but if your note-taking process is flawed, it’s harder to really learn. What sets sketchnoting apart is that as humans, we somehow commit pictures to memory more easily and we learn more of what we have “made our own”.


How Do You Sketchnote?

As the presentation begins you’ll listen, process and visualize. You’re not buried in your notes, but actively listening so you can convert what you hear into a story.


Even if you’re writing some text down, you can make it more evocative. Take keywords and make them “graffiti” on your note page. Absorb what the teacher is saying as you outline and shade.

Symbols & Ideas

When you hear a big idea, doodle it. Think “light bulb”, “dog dish”, “mobile phone” and other easy doodles, and you’re well on your way. Topic: Money… Draw a dollar bill. Topic: Justice… Draw the scales. Topic: Hollywood… Draw a film projector. Topic: U.S. Congress… Draw a snail 🙂


Separate key topics with lines. Moving to a new subject? Draw the line. Box the first idea to signify its completion.


Arrows are great to connect bigger ideas together or guide the “story” of your sketchnotes.


Rohde’s book goes into great detail on how to quickly draw notes that mean something when you look at them later.


Sketchnoting Tools

We love simplicity. You can use a black pen and a piece of paper, or you can use your iPad, or you could use a whiteboard (take a photo when you’re done). If you prefer complexity, you can go to sophisticated colored pens & markers, or use a stylus on your iPad/tablet. Whatever you do, start simple, get the hang of it, and try adding new skills over time.


Mastery of Sketchnoting

If you want to progress to mastery of sketchnotes, practice, practice, practice. Doodle. Research doodling. Then join the community at Sketchnote Army…and look at their sketchnoting samples.


Want more? Mike Rohde created a sketchnoting workbook to enhance drawing skills for those who are already familiar with the concepts from the original book.

Additional Sketchnotes Resources

A LinkedIn Group for Sketchnotes

A Pinterest Board of Sketchnotes Examples

A Demo Video using Sketchnotes



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