Sketchnoting at Different Scales

When learning something new or attempting to solve a challenging problem, the materials you work with can have an impact on both your process and the results of your efforts.

One of the variables that you get to play with is size.

Will you work with small sticky notes, or in a medium-sized sketchbook, or on a large whiteboard?

Each approach has its advantages and disadvantages, especially when you add sketches and diagrams into the mix, which is what sketchnoting is all about.

Here I’d like to share what sketchoting at different scales might look like, from the materials you can use to the types of use cases best suited to each size.

In the video above and visual summary below I outline some options:

The use cases and suggested materials for sketchnoting at different scales.

Small-Scale Sketchnoting

To work small-scale you might use materials like pocket notebooks, index cards, or sticky notes. The benefit here is that those materials are modular (they’re easy to rearrange and reorganize as needed), they’re mobile (easy to throw in a backpack), and they’re quick to create (filling a single index card is much less daunting that filling a large piece of poster paper).

For those reasons, small-scale sketchnoting is well suited to those times when you want to get lots of ideas down quickly and then easily move them around.

An example of some sketchnotes I took by starting with index cards.

I’ve shared that style of note-taking in a few videos: Two-Stage Sketchnoting with Index Cards and From Index Cards to One-Page Sketchnote.

Medium-Scale Sketchnoting

At the medium scale, you might use a notebook or sketchbook. This is often the most convenient size to work with because it can be used at the desk or on the go, and with the pages bound there’s no concern that you might misplace loose sheets right before you need them. So you’ve got a good balance of size (ability to capture many ideas on a single page) as well and mobility (you can still throw it in a backpack).

For those reasons, medium-scale sketchnoting is well suited to those times when you want to collect a set of related ideas over time.

Here’s an example of a medium-scale travel journal I kept during a trip to Austin.

As an example, check out this sketchnoted travel journal or daily drawing journal.

Large-Scale Sketchnoting

When working large scale, you get the benefit of having your whole body involved while standing in front of a whiteboard, chalkboard, or poster paper. Because of the large size, it makes it easier to see the big picture and view whatever it is you’re working on from new angles as you move about the room. That scale also facilitates collaboration with others.

For those reasons, large-scale sketchnoting is great for when you need to bridge the gap between the details and the big picture.

I enjoy working on a big wall whenever I start a new project.

I explore what that type of sketchnoting might look like in this video: Got a big project? Give it a wall.


Which scale of sketchnoting feels most appropriate for you current project?

Keep in mind that you can combine multiple scales! You can start with sticky notes and then post them on a whiteboard as you slowly build up to a big picture.

And if you ever feel like you’re in a rut with your work, changing your materials and moving from one scale to another can be a great way to breathe some fresh air into your project.

Continue Your Sketchnoting Journey

To dive deeper into the development and use of your sketchnoting skills, come join us inside of Verbal to Visual.

There you’ll find complete-at-your-own-pace online courses, weekly live workshops, and a global community of visual thinkers working to master the skill of sketchnoting.

You can learn more here.