From Index Cards to One-Page Sketchnote

Earlier this week I took notes on Elizabeth Gilbert’s interview on The Chase Jarvis Live Show.

In my most recent video, I highlighted a few ideas from that conversation.

Today I’ll take you behind the scenes to show the full process that I went through to capture and remember some of the most important ideas from that hour-long conversation.

Stage 1: Index Card Notes

I started by taking notes on index cards, pulling out the individual ideas that were interesting to me.

Taking in-the-moment notes on index cards.

Remember that you get to decide what you want to get out of any sketchnoting session. It doesn’t have to be about capturing the full set of ideas. You can choose to focus on just those that are the most interesting to you.

I captured short phrases and occasionally added quick visuals or made certain words stand out.

Here’s the full set, after an hour-long interview!

If I had wanted to, I could have stopped there. Those cards would have been a helpful reminder of what stood out to me from the conversation between Gilbert and Jarvis.

But I didn’t want to stop!

Stage 2: A Rough One-Pager

In the middle of the conversation, a particular set of ideas came up that I knew I wanted to do something more with, to bring together into a single-page sketchnote.

So I grouped all of the index cards into different piles depending on theme, and then focused on the subset that I was interested in – those connected to learning in public.

It’s helpful to group the cards by theme prior to creating a one-pager.

I was actually surprised when that specific phrase “learning in public” came up.

The idea of documenting what you learn as you learn it goes all the way back to when I first got into sketchnoting and chose to document my experience at a blog I created called The Graphic Recorder.

Here at Verbal to Verbal, the third online course that build supports others who want to do something similar – share their skill development in a way that creates personal and professional opportunities that wouldn’t have existed otherwise. That course is called Learn in Public.

It’s also a big component of my new podcast and video series The Doug Neill Show, in which I share the lessons that I learn as I work to build a sustainable creative career.

It’s even at the core of the latest videos I’ve been making in which I pick a sketchnoting project to take on and record how it goes!

So, all of those reasons made it easy to spend a bit more time on that part of the conversation, because I wanted to explore in more depth what Gilbert had to say about the topic.

After gathering the cards connected to the concept of learning in public, I drafted how they might come together on a single page, with a person’s life path as the primary image.

Bringing multiple ideas together into a single sketch.

By the time I had filled the page, I felt pretty good about what was there, and decided to go one step further.

Step 3: A Three-Color One-Pager

In addition to creating a slightly polished one-page sketchnote for my own purposes, I figured that others might be interested in these ideas too, so why not make a video about them!?

To support the recording of that video, I numbered each element on the rough one-pager so that I knew the order in which I should sketch out the ideas once the camera was rolling.

The full rough one-pager, with the ideas number to help with the video I decided to make.

I then pulled out some 9×11-inch drawing paper and three Permapaque markers, and got it all down!

I decided on-the-fly how I’d use each color, with the starting point of text in red, images in black, and helper elements in gray.

The semi-polished three-color one-page sketchnote!

Since I knew it was going to be a bit text-heavy, I decided to use gray for some of the text (and even black in a few places) to maintain a bit of contrast throughout the page.

Want to see how that video turned out? Check in out here: Elizabeth Gilbert on Learning in Public.

Some Reflections

I feel like it’s worth pointing out that there is no requirement that you go through these three stages for every sketchnote you create!

It just seemed to fit well for this particular application.

I hope that it was helpful to see the progression from index card notes taken in the moment to a quick one-page sketchnote to a slightly more polished but still not perfect version of those ideas.

Each stage has its own value. There’s value in those index card notes. There’s value in the rough sketch. And there’s value in the final three-color one-pager.

I think with each additional layer, you make it more likely that those ideas will stick and that you’ll put them into action.

Fell free to take some (or all) of the techniques that I shared here and apply it to your own work.

Dig Deeper

If you’d like a deeper dive into the development of your own sketchnoting skills, then check out our online courses, starting with An Introduction to Visual Note-Taking:

Reconnect to making marks by hand as you learn to use text, layout, imagery, and color to engage your visual brain.

That course will walk you step-by-step through the process of developing all of the individual skills you need, then bringing those skills together into your own sketchnoting process.

And if you’re curious about the idea of documenting your skill development online, then check out Learn in Public:

Create new opportunities by sharing online the authentic journey of your skill development.

Best of luck with your next sketchnoting session!