Google's Massive Archive of Simple Drawings - Vebal to Visual - Doug Neill - sketchnoting, visual note-taking, graphic recording

Google’s Massive Archive of Simple Drawings

Today I would like to share with you my new favorite resource to help folks overcome their fear of drawing and build up their own visual vocabulary to support their sketchnoting efforts.

If you’re new here, sketchnoting is a form of visual note-taking that brings more visual processing powers to the way you work with ideas.

It’s about adding quick sketches alongside short phrases to help you better remember or share the ideas that you’re learning or presenting.

One of the common fears that comes along with developing this skill is the fear of drawing.

The resource that I’m going to share today will help you address that fear in a low pressure and maybe even fun way.

It’s an experiment that Google created and it’s called Quick, Draw!

Google’s Quick, Draw!

For that project, people around the world contributed drawings of single objects in under 20 seconds.

When you look at any individual one it will show you the way in which that particular object was drawn – the specific series of strokes to make it.

It’s that capture that makes it very useful for someone who’s just learning how to take visual notes.

Stroke-by-stroke drawings.

You can select from a large list of drawn objects and animals – different additions that you might like to make to your visual vocabulary.

Let’s Practice

So that’s a brief overview of what Quick, Draw! is.

I’d like to share two suggestions for how you might use this tool to develop your visual vocabulary and become more comfortable drawing so that you can weave that particular skill into your note-taking process.

The first way you might use this tool is to simply select one thing from the list, find a version of it that you like, and practice drawing it!

Practice new icons.

Once you’ve selected a particular drawing, it will keep that going on a loop so that you can continue to watch the stroke-by-stroke steps for drawing it.

I would say that drawing it four or five times is probably enough for it to stick pretty well, so that tomorrow or a few days from now or a week from now you’ll remember the general way in which you drew it out.

Create your own variations.

Once I have a starting point, I like to experiment with different alterations (like drawing a putter instead of a iron).

That type of alteration can be helpful because it can make the drawing more relevant to the idea that you’re capturing.

So that’s skill building activity number one, where you get to take your time looking through the list of drawn elements, pick any particular object that you’d like to learn how to draw, watch it loop as many times as you want, and draw it in that particular way (or your own!).

Let’s Play the Game

The second way that you can use this tool to work on your simple drawing skills is by playing the game!

Play the game!

You’ll see beforehand what you’ll have to draw, but once you hit “Got It” you’ll have just 20 seconds to draw it.

That allows you to first visualize in your mind how you’ll draw that particular object before the pressure of a clock gets in the way.

Waterslide mid-draw.

While you draw, the AI engine will try to figure out what you’re shooting for, and that’s where a helpful feedback loop comes into play.

The goal is to draw something in a way that Google’s artificial intelligence system recognizes it.

But because of the fact that this machine learning resulted from previous folks who only had 20 seconds to draw the thing you’re trying to draw, it sets the bar pretty low, which is helpful for visual note-taking because it keeps you from getting too artistic with your drawings.

You have to draw them simply and quickly.

The way in which this tool helps you to practice that will pay lots of dividends the next time you go to capture a lecture or a talk or a podcast and you want to keep up with the information that’s coming at you.

Paint brush mid-draw.

Once you’re done drawing (or attempting to draw!) six different things, it then gives you a recap and shows you which ones Google’s program was able to identify correctly.

The recap.

As you can see, I failed to draw a map and a paint brush in a recognizable way, but that’s not a problem because I can simply follow-up that game session with another practice session to get those particular icons down!

Practice those that Google didn’t recognize.

This seems like a practice tool that you can get a lot of mileage out of.

My sense is that the total number of objects in the library is large enough to keep it interesting but also small enough that eventually you’ll start to see the same objects or animals come up again so that you can reinforce what you previously learned.

So, if you would like some practice developing your simple drawing skills as you build your visual vocabulary, then give this tool a try!

A Great Resource For Students

I also think this could be a really helpful resource for teachers who are sharing sketchnoting with their students, as a way to lower some of their fears about drawing.

That’s actually why Google’s Quick, Draw! came up recently, in some webinars that I’ve been hosting for teachers who want to share this skill with their students.

Those webinars are connected to a resource kit that I built called Sketchnoting in the Classroom:

Add sketchnoting to your toolkit as an instructor, and help your students develop their own visual thinking skills!

If you’re a teacher, I do encourage you to check that out.

Dig Deeper Yourself

If you are just getting into sketchnoting, then you might enjoy 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 will share with you how to add your new drawing skills to the notes that you take so that you can better remember and put into practice the ideas that you learn.

Good luck using Quick, Draw! to build up your drawing skills, and then incorporating those new skills into your note-taking process!