What are sketchnotes?

They are not only a current trend, but also and above all a way to take notes more effectively. Sketchnotes are a tool to visualize thoughts and content from meetings, presentations and conferences in an understandable way. We'll show you what sketchnotes are, what you need them for, and why sketched notes will make you more successful in the long run. By the way: you don’t have to be able to draw to use sketchnotes.

[Translate to English:] Sketchnotes für die Aufzeichnungen im Meeting

What are sketchnotes?

At school, during training, at university and later in everyday office life, we are constantly faced with the challenge of gathering a large amount of information as quickly as possible. We automatically pick up pen and paper and take notes, but that’s not necessarily very efficient. If you try to write down everything said, sentence by sentence, it takes far too long. 

Sketchnotes help to record information quickly and compactly with symbols on paper, for instance, or on presentation systems such as flipcharts and whiteboards.

The method of sketchnoting explains itself, when you look at the term more closely. Sketchnotes use a combination of pictures and words to commit ideas to memory. So sketchnotes are nothing more than visual note-taking. Above all, sketchnotes help to visualise contents easily and understandably. 

[Translate to English:] Gezeichnete Symbole und Sketchnotes auf einer Wand

The basics of sketchnotes: achieve a lot with simple shapes

This technique is not about your ability to create beautiful paintings. Simple shapes are enough to visualize information. The basic elements of sketchnoting are: 

  • Boxes, circles, triangles and speech bubbles, to highlight information
  • Arrows, to clarify correlations or processes
  • Exclamation marks and question marks, to highlight important content or questions
  • Lines, to separate different pieces of information
  • Figures, to represent people (stick figures are perfectly adequate)
  • Symbols and icons, to simplify complicated information. 

There are no hard-and-fast rules to creating sketchnotes. But you will find that, over time, you automatically use certain elements over and over again, and they become a visual vocabulary for you.

The advantages of sketchnotes at a glance

By now it will be clear that sketchnotes are incredibly useful. All the same, we would like to summarize the advantages for you once again: 

  • They are easy to handle and material-independent. Whiteboards or flipcharts are just as suitable for sketchnoting as a notebook or a simple piece of paper. 
  • They are also suited to designing bullet journals.
  • They promote learning and memorising.
  • They are perfect for clarifying simple relationships between individual aspects.
  • They help to bring thoughts into context and to structure them.
  • They promote creativity.


Why are sketchnotes so helpful?

Sketchnotes help to capture content faster and encourage creativity. The most important thing is the interplay between texts and images. This is precisely what helps us humans to perceive content more quickly and to remember it better afterwards. The fact that this method works is not magic, but science, by the way. Around 80 percent of all impressions that humans perceive externally are visual.1 

The theory of double coding, which the American memory researcher Allan Paivio put forward, assumes that, when visual perception is linked with text, a double coding of the corresponding information is produced in the brain. Or, to put it more simply: text plus image equals double the awareness and therefore better memory performance.

1 Quelle: planet-wissen.de: Sinne Sehen

[Translate to English:] Sketchnotes auf ein Flipchart zeichnen

Who can use sketchnotes?

There is really only one correct answer to this question: absolutely anyone who would normally take simple notes.

Sketchnotes are a tool and, in addition to being recorded in your own notebook, are also ideal for summarising content together in workshops or meetings on a flipchart or whiteboard. Visualisation aids for the whiteboard are the usual presentation aids such as coloured magnets and pens. With them, ideas can be easily recorded and retained. 

So the question shouldn't be what you need sketchnotes for, but rather how you can use them most effectively. Everyone must find the answer to that for themselves, by trial and error. So grab your pens and start sketchnoting!