D is for drawing - a visual alphabet for non-liner note taking - verbal to visual - doug neill

D is for Drawing: A Visual Alphabet for Non-Linear Note-Takers

For the past year I’ve had a consistent warm-up routine that I turn to when I sit down to begin a visual note-taking session.

I start with a sequence of shapes – circles in the middle then curves and other shapes as I work outward. It’s nice to start with random marks that help the hand remember how to move.

After those basic lines and shapes, I move on to well-practiced and recognizable shapes – those of the written alphabet. I’ve developed a strange fondness for my go-to all-caps font and it feels good to write it out completely.

It used to be that at that point I would jump into some sketchnoting, but I recently recognized that I was missing a valuable step in the warm-up process – that of getting down a visual alphabet in addition to a written one.

That would bring the warm-up process to a fitting conclusion – start with marks that have no meaning, move on to well-practiced letters, and finish with less-polished icons that just might come in handy in the notes to come.

To meet that need, I give you my visual alphabet for warm-up and icon-practice purposes:

A Visual Alphabet for Non-Linear Note-Takers - art, book, clock, drawing, earth, flower, guitar, headphones, idea, journey, kite, look, mountain, notebook, ocean, phone, question, reuse, search, think, umbrella, video, write, xylophone, yoga, zigzag

In addition to warming up the hand, the eye, and the brain, this routine has the added benefit of giving you the opportunity to grow your visual vocabulary over time, which will make real-time sketchnoting much more enjoyable.

Drawing a visual alphabet takes a whole lot longer than writing a verbal one, so don’t feel the need to draw out every element in this alphabet each time you warm up. Instead simply pick a letter to start with and work in order until you feel ready to get started with your notes.

Visual Alphabet Warm-Up Example - stick figures, standing, walking, power walking, thinking, running, exclaiming

Can you spot the three stages of my warm-up in the photo above? There you’ll also see some stick figure sketches that I made for the newly-released Visual Vocabulary Pack.

If you get bored with any particular combination of letter, word, and image, swap it out with something new – that’s how your visual vocabulary will grow.

Practice until you can draw out your entire visual alphabet from memory. Then a few weeks or months later, pick different words and do it again.

Do you remember all of those handwriting exercises you did in grade school? Doesn’t this sound more fun? Give it a shot and let us know how it goes.

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