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The sketchnote beginnings

In 2017 I got introduced to sketchnotes and it made my world all the more visual. Meetings were never to be the same again.

In March 2017 I had a creative epiphany that had been a long time coming. I was working for Eurodesk UK at the time and attending our biannual Eurodesk meeting, this time in Germany. Usually there are some optional workshops at these meetings, and there was this one about visual design that caught my eye.

I’ve always been into writing. Not so much about the meaning behind it (well, a bit I guess) but more about the shape of the words and letters. I’ve had a thing for calligraphy when I was younger and was/am fully on board with the whole handlettering hype.

Notebook cover with handlettering

Building an actual career out of something like that would be AH-MA-ZING but really only there for the lucky, and mostly very hardworking, few. At that workshop however it felt like two worlds and dreams collided, and found out I had a creative skill I could use in my day-to-day work.

The session was lead by Tanja Föhr, who does visual design, sketchnoting, graphic recording and/or graphic facilitation (there are many names and nuances) for a living. She explained us the basics and got us to practice some techniques, before having a proper go at it. As you can imagine I LOVED it! And I wasn’t the only one. During that workshop my former colleague Filippo from Switzerland had a similar ‘Aha!’ moment and he’s now actually working as freelance sketchnoter Sketchy Solutions, so go check him out!

During the workshop I created a visual agenda for an upcoming event. After having returned from Germany, fully enthused, I went to the nearest art shop and got myself some pens to actually make our agenda for the event a visual one. Encouraged by the positive reactions I started using sketchnotes more often, both during work and my free time.

What I would often do at work events is take notes during the event, and then spent the (often long) train ride back to Birmingham drawing it all out in my sketchbook. The very first one I did like that was at the YSDA conference I attended in Wales, the second one was after the Creative Collisions conference in London.

I also started applying it in my free time. In Birmingham the Impact Hub does some great events and in 2017 they brought the Fuck Up Nights initiative to Birmingham. I went to the first two editions and shared my sketchnotes afterwards on Twitter. I received some really nice feedback from the speakers so that left me feeling pretty chuffed!

Time to step up my game though! I went to our Eurodesk Multiplier Seminar in Brussels in June 2017 and I got a bit closer to live sketchnoting. I did some prep in pencil in my sketchbook before the meeting, and then added notes in pencil during the sessions. During breaks and in the evening I would overwrite these with proper pens and add some colour. A bit stressful at times, but very rewarding to be able to share the sketches already at the end of the day.

So this is how I got into it. Developing your sketchnote skills takes a lot of practice (like most things), so it’s great if you can find ways to use it in your day-to-day job. As you might expect I expanded my skills a bit since starting my sketchnote journey:

Did you catch the sketchnote bug? Where did you first encounter it?

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