An attempt at visual note taking

It's as simple as making classroom, meeting or seminar notes more appealing to the eye by translating words and phrases into amateur doodles. And in this post, I'm including evidences of my initial attempt at carrying out visual thinking methods that help the formation of ideas and facilitate the mental processing of information.

My summer visual notes in philosophy class.
Making theology typographical.
Plato: Highlighted.
Camping: calendared.
The difference between philosophy and religion. Chart!
Moses carrying the Ten Commandments.
One of the main challenges in visual note taking -- or making "sketchnotes" as some like to call it -- is the envisioning of random abstract statements and putting them on paper with less use of words. Using our good old school writing way, we jot down as much verbatim as we can place from our short term memory and leave them for future reference. And this is how learning can become drab and even routinizing.

The compromise in visual note taking is the investment of time to already visualize concepts, draw them on paper in charts, maps, images or spot-on layout while listening to the speaker. They can be reviewed easily in the future   since the images make the reader capture the thought in a glance without having to go through lines and lines of gray text.

In this way, learning does not just involve the sense of hearing and memory, but the powerful sense of seeing as well. Sketchnoting engages multiple senses and makes memory more powerful, and thus also readily transforms mere information into true knowledge. And this is not something I just made up, several studies (such as this) have come up with bits of proof.

Discovering a more effective learning style

Sure it takes loads of practice to sketch and listen to the ongoing lecture at the same time, but it also comes naturally to many people. I encountered some difficulty at first when I tended to concentrate on my notes more than the speakers' flow of words. But once I discovered my own doodling techniques, the habit has gone from distraction to petty sleep prevention to a considerably helpful technique.

Now that I've sufficiently learned how to take visual notes, I'm convinced that the technique follows human logic than the regular note taking does. In the first place, people are inherently more visual than auditory. Just consider the success of TV over radio (remember the Buggles' hit "Video Killed the Radio Star"?) and the much-preferred YouTube medium over podcasts.

You can argue, however, that reading text is also a visual activity. Of course it is, there's no contention there. But there's truth in the adage, "A picture is worth a thousand words" and it's also true that great speeches have moved history and peoples into action because of the imagery these speeches create in listeners' minds.


Many internet articles have been written on the topic, and several how-tos are also available. In my case though, visual note taking is a rather novel discovery, without having read anything on the topic. I just explored at first knowing that I'm a visual learner more than an auditory one. To my surprise, Google results have also yielded so much content about it, most interesting of which are those by Austin Kleon and Mike Rohde. There's also Eva Lotta-Lamm's fine slide presentation that's unmatched by anything I've seen.

It is slowly becoming a popular step in the design process, especially when coupled with mind mapping.

Core77 has also a curated thread on sketchnotes-related articles, and many other newbie visual notetakers who blog about their first few decent pages.

But I can't draw! Whoever said we had to be Da Vincis to take visual notes? All we need are pen, paper, some intuition and imagination. We're not trying to create a masterpiece here, only a tool to help us form more coherent ideas. Stick figures are as effective, promise. If not, arrows, boxes and shapes can do as well. #