Book Review: Sketchnotes by Mike Rohde

May 13, 2014



Above: A quick sketch I made while talking with Dick on Saturday morning, well, actually we were talking and then I just had to sketch and then we talked a little more, you know how things go in a domestic situation. But I keep sketching while we were standing there talking because I'm rude that way, and after all these years together he not only expects it, it also makes him laugh; and then when I look up at him and query why he's laughing he says something endearing like, "Cutie you know I adore you," to which I usually raspberry. Then I get right back to whatever it is I'm doing because while I may have the superstitious turn of mind of a professional baseball player, I'm not at all sentimental. Not really. Sometimes I just might seem like I am, but I'm telling you I'm really not, and if you knew me at all you would know that was true, because as I like to say "I'm a cold bitch," to which Dick always laughs and does that silly grin he has (that not even puppies and kittens see) and says something like, "Munchkin…," well you know—it's sort of like a continous loop here sometimes but when I'm sick for any length of time it really kicks into overdrive, and if you know me at all that's just fine by me too. I just grabbed a piece of the yellow paper I use for my loose journal sheets and went down one edge of it (it's about 4 x 8.5 inches). I held the paper in my hand, standing as I looked at and talked with Dick. And I kept thinking of little connections to our private jokes, because my mind had just been reading the "Sketchnote" book, and so while this isn't a sketchnote it was inspired by reading the rather fun book I write about below.

Some while back I found Craighton Berman's sketchnote work. I posted about it in January 2012.

Anyway time passed, I went on with my life, I didn't think much more about this, except that it did effect the way I was thinking about the pile of information in my life and how it continued to build up.

Then just a few weeks ago I saw an interview with Mike Rohde the author of "Sketchnote Handbook: The Illustrated Guide to Visual Notetaking." I thought it's really just another form of visual journaling, or could be, so I thought I'd check it out and I ordered his book. 

(Let me just say April-May was an expensive time for me with Amazon! I can't be stuck indoors with no way to get about—and with a connection to Amazon Prime!)

The book arrived almost instantaneously and I have to say it's great fun. If you have ever doodled during a lecture, or in anyway tried to group your thoughts around visual condensation (as in a design meeting where you are trying to convey to a client your grand vision for their project) you will understand what this is about and you already know how linking verbal to visual increases retention (and can provide impact for selling an idea). 

But the book systemitizes all this with some very straightforward guidelines so that anyone who wants to start implementing this technique in his life can do it right away.

And one message I particularly liked: Good structure before good art.

Rohde's point is that you need to listen, really hear, capture the concepts, get them down in a well-structured way and NOT WORRY whether the visual aspects are stick figures or fantastic art. 

I have tried to get across a similar concept to beginnning visual journal keepers. I think that visual journal artists would benefit from having a look at this book whether or not they want to sketchnote. The book describes a way to think about using lettering, diagrams, and logo forms, while organizing your page, and making something that is USEFUL to YOU. That's really what visual journaling is about too.

The book is well organized and presented in an interesting fashion (almost like one big sketchnote). It contains examples of sketchnotes from the author and a bunch of other folks as well, so you can see the different ways that people approach this. 

One of the things I liked most about the book was the spirit of "just jump in." It took me back to my school days with doodles and maps and plans, and verbatim notes because for most subjects I was a verbatim note taker in addition to doodling. (I think it was a compulsion.)

While I've been under the weather I have not been able to paint or journal much. And the result is an interesting change in the past several weeks in my journal (something that I'll share with you at another time). Coming after this change Rhode's book reminded me of the days when I didn't fill a page spread with one sketch, but just jotted many things down—and so when Dick ran his fingers through his hair I just had to catch that moment.

Before reading Rohde's book I might just have made a note and written about this event, but having just read the book, even though I was sick I wanted to capture something visual, something a photo wouldn't do, something that connected me to the joke of the moment.

So today's image of a journal "page" is not a sketchnote, but inspired by them.

Even if you have no intention of going to a meeting and taking sketchnotes but words and pictures, or words and ideas, matter to you and you want to retain them, you'll probably enjoy this book. It also reminded me of all those English grammar lessons and diagramming sentences (which I enjoyed, of course), of brainstorming ideas for an essay—in short it will feel familiar enough for you that you'll enjoy reading the book.

To see some more sketchnotes check out the links I provided in my 2012 post on sketchnotes which I linked in the first paragraph of today's post. Be sure to watch the video of Tom Wujec that I give you a link to in the postscript of that post.

In addition, here are some other fun links you might enjoy:

Another link from the TEDBlog on sketchnotes. And here is Stefani Blanchetti and her sketchnotes.

There's a Sketchnote Army, and they have a cool T-shirt!

There's a guy named Mark Koekemoer doing a sketchnote a day for a 100 days (that sounds like visual journaling to me!)

You'll find sketchnotes on Pinterest and sketchnote images on Google. If you want to start doing this Rohde's book has laid a great foundation.

I'm still on the Hiatus, but I just wanted to share this with you in a "real" post.

    • Miss T
    • May 13, 2014

    This sketch actually looks like Dick! I knew who it was before reading the text.

  1. Reply

    Mike, that’s for stopping by. I’m glad you liked the review. I really enjoyed your book and am going to take it to the MCBA Visual Journal Collective’s summer reading meeting. We make either a list or video of all the recommended books so there will be more news about your book in a post about that.

    I think that while your book’s focus is for taking notes there are so many more applications that I’m glad you’re doing a sequel to address this! I will follow the progress eagerly! It’s very important for me that people get as much encouragement to draw as possible. There are many ways to approach this and I think yours is fun and immediate. Keep up the great work.

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