Sketchnoting Workshop - Portland, Oregon - Doug Neill - Wayfinding Academy

Sketchnotes For The Win!

Hello Wayfinding Academy Lab participants! I thought I’d use this page to give a recap of what we dig into each session in case you’d like to revisit those topics and explore them further. I hope you find this useful!

Session 1: January 16th, 2018

I’ve included the sketchnoted images from the slides below, but here’s a PDF of the full set of slides in case that’s helpful too.



I shared a number of examples of my own sketchnotes, all of which you can find at The Graphic Recorder.

Here’s a video I made that summarizes my thoughts on sketchnotes having to look any particular way:

Blog post: Your Notes Don’t Have To Look Good


I then shared a bunch of examples of how others sketchnote, all pulled from Sketchnote Army.


Ultimately, though, YOU get to decide what your sketchnotes look like, and the purpose of this workshop is to help you figure out what that is.


Here are a few images from our class discussion on what scares you and what excites you about sketchnoting:



The two things we’ll keep coming back to throughout this Lab – the building of individual sketchnoting skills, and then the combining of those skills in a sketchnoting process. The goal for this Lab is for you to find your own sketchnoting process – one that fits your style and aligns well with your purpose for sketchnoting.



First skill: icons! Here are a few videos that I’ve made to help recap how we approached the topic of drawing.

Blog post: You Can’t Draw? I Don’t Believe You.

Blog post: Top 10 Visual Metaphors For Sketchnoters

Blog post: Fill A Page With Icons


This activity is designed to help you start building your own visual vocabulary. Start by brainstorming a list of 10 words related to the topics you’ll most likely be sketchnoting, then develop an icon for each of those words! Google image search can be really helpful here, especially if you add “icon” or “cartoon” after the word.


Skill #2: handwritten fonts! Here are a series of posts that I wrote that share my general approach to developing handwritten fonts:


As a final activity, I encouraged everyone to use the Wayfinding Academy Core Curriculum chalkboard as a model for creating your own single-page sketchnote that captures skills you want to develop or projects you’d like to take on (both of which might benefit from using sketchnotes!). Another approach was to create a sketchnoted resume in this format. Basically this is a good way of capturing any type of list in a visual engaging way.

The format that we’re loosely using here is something I’ve called the Brick Road Approach to sketchnoting, which I summarize in this video:

Blog post: The Brick Road Approach To Sketchnoting.

I hope you enjoyed the first session!

Session 2: January 23rd, 2018

Here’s what went down is our second session! And here’s a PDF of the slides from that session.

We started with a discussion of 1) how you were able to use your growing sketchnoting skills in the past week, and 2) things that you saw that reminded you of sketchnoting. Thanks for sharing those stories – I’ll be asking the same questions at the start of session 3!


I then outlined the flow of our four-session workshop. After the preparations of session 1 and the playful approach we took in session two, we’ll next move to more practical sketchnoting, and then finish it off with a session centered on purposeful sketchnoting.


To kick of this playful session, we play a game using Story Cubes! Here are a few videos of Austin and I playing games with that resource:

Blog post: Playing Visual Thinking Games with Story Cubes

Blog post: Sketchnote Story Cubes Mashup

During the workshop we played the second game – the one with two Story Cubes. Hope you enjoyed it!


Then we took a look at two different examples of folks using visual thinking tools in interesting ways. It’s the combo of simplicity and depth that I think make these two examples worthwhile: here’s where you can find the work of Mari Andrew and Jessica Hagy.

After looking at those two examples, everyone got the opportunity to try on one style or the other. Here are a few of the ones we came up with together as a group (in Hagy’s style):

It was great seeing all of the ideas that each of you came up with too!


Then we explored simple ways to draw faces! Simple changes in the eyebrows and mouth can make a big difference:


I then briefly mentioned that you can approach drawing stick figures in the same way as you approach faces – breaking down the body into individual components. Here’s a video that I made on that process:

Blog post: How To Draw Stick Figures That Express Verbs

Here’s the most useful image from that video:


We then started exploring containers and handwritten typography, with inspiration from the Netflix series Abstract, specifically episode 6 with Paula Scher.

As a follow-up to watching the intro to that episode, each of you went on a scavenger hunt around the building to look for signs (or book covers or posters, etc) to practice drawing containers for titles written in a certain way.

If you get the chance this week – go for a walk in your neighborhood and check out the signs you see!

Session 3: January 30th, 2018

Here’s what went down is our third session! First up – a PDF of the slides from that session.

After checking in on how you were able to use sketchnotes throughout the week, we explored a variety of sketchnoting processes that you might find useful for certain situations. Here are the one-page descriptions of each of those processes:

Blog post: Improving Cornell Notes With Sketchnoting Techniques

Blog post: A Mind Mapping Approach To Your Sketchnotes

Blog post: The Brick Road Approach To Sketchnoting

After sharing each of those potential approaches to sketchnoting, we then had three long sketchnoting sessions for you to test one or more of them out:

  • First sketchnoting session: bring your own information source (book, podcast, your own brain, etc.) and use the sketchnoting process that you think will best fit with your style and goals
  • Second sketchnoting session: we all listened to episode 209 from the podcast Magic Lessons with Elizabeth Gilbert and then shared out some of the ideas that stood out to us
  • Third sketchnoting session: back to your own information source (could be the same one as before or a different one)

In between the first and second sketchnoting sessions I shared this video of “The Verbal To Visual Mindset” which explains how I suggest approaching the development of your sketchnoting skills (note: this video lives within the intro course, so you’ll hear some references to that):

Here’s a photo of the books that Sam brought in (thanks Sam! also for the shortbread!) in case any of them piqued your interest:

I hope that you were able to learn something by experimenting with those different processes!

Session 4: February 6th, 2018

Our last session was a bit different than the previous ones. Instead of using prepared slides, I decided to use the whiteboard at the front of the classroom for all of the prompts. I’ll share those whiteboard images, and then break down what we did at each step:

  • Prompt & Response: Throughout this session we followed the cycle of me first sharing a prompt on the board and then you responding to it in your own sketchbook. Sometimes we’d do a group share out or partner share out before jumping back into the next prompt.
  • What Has and Hasn’t Been Working: The first prompt: thinking back on the sketchnoting work that you’ve done throughout the lab (and potentially outside of it as well), was HAS been working and what HASN’T been working about your approach to sketchnoting. This was an opportunity to capture the current state of how you’ve been able to incorporate sketchnoting into your work / school / life.
  • Revisit Your Why: Next, revisit the “why” behind your desire to learn to sketchnote, thinking back to the symbol that you added to your name card tent on the first session of the lab. Has your “why” changed at all since then based on your experiences with sketchnoting so far? If so, in what way? Take a bit of time to reflect on and, if necessary, refine your why.
  • Your Strengths: Identify your strengths. These aren’t your sketchnoting strengths, but your overall strengths (see my examples in the large whiteboard image below).
  • Your Pitfalls: Then identify your pitfalls – the things that you’ve come to know might trip you up at some point in the process of making or learning something new. If possible, chat with someone who knows you well – they might be able to point out both strengths and pitfalls that you might be too close to to see.

  • Identify the Thing: Next, identify the primary thing that you’re learning about or making – the thing that you’ll be applying your sketchnoting skills to. I like to think of sketchnoting as a tool that can support just about any endeavor, so what’s the endeavor that you want sketchnoting to support?
  • Empathy Map: This step includes a tool that we haven’t seen before – an empathy map. Typically that tool is used to help you understand someone else’s perspective, but in this case you’ll be creating one that captures your experience (what you’re thinking, seeing, saying, feeling, doing, and hearing) when you’re engaged in that thing you identified in the previous step. This is just an opportunity for you to put yourself in that situation and remind yourself of the full experience of that situation.
  • Strengths & Pitfalls Diagram: This next step was a little bit of an experiment – it’s a diagram style that Austin and I developed to help you identify the ways in which your strengths and pitfalls come into the picture throughout the process of learning about or making your thing (the thing you identified two steps above). The best way to understand this diagram is probably to look at the example I shared on the whiteboard in the image below – that’s what the process of starting, finishing, reflecting on, and then publishing a sketchnote feels like. You’ll see a singular strength or pitfall at each stage, along with some commentary (that could come from your empathy map!). This is very much an overly simplified representation since you’re likely to have a combination of strengths and pitfalls at play during each step, but try to identify to the most impactful one at each step.
  • Creative Process Flowchart: The goal of this final step was to bring everything together that we’ve been exploring throughout this session and throughout the workshop series as a whole. Make a flowchart that captures your creative process when learning about or making your thing, and take into account your why, your strengths and pitfalls, and your experiences with sketchnoting so far. In my example below you’ll see that creating and sharing a sketchnote is the primary goal, but in your case it’s like that sketchnotes will just play a supporting role in the creation of something else. So, what is it that you’re creating, where and how do sketchnotes come in, and what other actions/people/breaks/inspirations need to be added to the process to best make use of your strengths and account for your pitfalls.

While sharing those steps I also gave some examples of how I approached those activities so that you could see a concrete example:

I hope that you enjoyed our time together and that this recap page is a useful reminder of the topics we explored and the skills you built throughout the workshop series!

Thanks so much for taking part in it – I had fun and learned a lot from all of the questions and experiences you shared. Feel free to reach out at any point in the future if you want to chat more about sketchnoting: