The Brick Road Approach To Sketchnoting - Verbal To Visual - Doug Neill - visual note-taking, graphic recording, doodling

The Brick Road Approach To Sketchnoting

After you ditch the standard text-only, top-to-bottom, left-to-right approach to note-taking, what will you replace it with?

In the world of visual note-taking, you’ve got lots of options. Sometimes too many. So today I’d like to share with you a specific process that I have come to enjoy, especially for live sketchnoting.

I call it the brick road approach. Let’s break it down.

The Constraints

I’m using the analogy of the construction of a brick road because of the methodical way in which one brick after another is laid down, each new one adjacent to one already in place.

We’ll be placing our metaphorical bricks onto the page in a similar way.

In our case, each imagined rectangular space on the page will contain just a single idea, one that has caught your attention during the talk you’re listening to or the book you’re reading.

Unlike a brick road, the rectangular space you give each idea gets to be as tall and as wide as it needs to be in order to express the idea clearly.

In order to make good use of the space on the page, each new imagined rectangle should be placed adjacent to one that’s already there.

The Brick Road Approach To Sketchnoting - Verbal To Visual - Doug Neill - visual note-taking, graphic recording, doodling

How To Fill Each Rectangle

Those constraints are just a starting point. The next question is this: how will you fill each rectangle?

The short answer – any way you’d like.

You have complete freedom within each rectangle to use whatever combination of words and images you think best expresses the idea you’d like to capture.

With that said, I tend to rely on a few specific formats: an image on the left with helpful text on the right (that’s what you see me using here); a text-only box when I want to emphasize the wording of an idea; an image-only box when the visual is more powerful than the words; and diagrams when I want to relate a few ideas at once.

When Are You Done?

How to complete this sketchnoting process depends on how comprehensive you’d like your notes to be.

If your goal is just to pull out a few interesting ideas, then you can limit yourself to a single page and simply stop when you’ve filled it.

But if your goal is to provide a more complete summary of the ideas you’re taking in, then simply pull out a new sheet once you’ve filled the previous one.

A Few Examples

Here are some examples of me using this process while sketchnoting a few of the interviews from Creative Live’s 30 Days of Genius series:

Your Turn

Now it’s your turn! Give this brick broad approach to sketchnoting a try for yourself to see if it works well in your context.

And then be sure to let me know how it goes 😉




Want To Dig Deeper?

If you’re new to the idea of sketchnoting and excited to develop more visual thinking tools, I think you’d enjoy our foundational course An Introduction To Visual Note-Taking.

If you’d like to make sketchnoted videos like the one you saw here, we’ve got a course for that too! Check out How To Make Sketchnote Videos.

And if you’re an educator interested in bringing visual note-taking into your classroom, check out Sketchnoting In The Classroom.