Visual Vocabulary Month - Verbal To Visual - Doug Neill

An Introduction To Visual Vocabulary Month (May 2014)

Welcome to the first month of The Verbal To Visual Blog!

In fact, it’s the first month of the entire Verbal To Visual project, so let’s go ahead and call it launch month as well!

And let me say this – I’m happy that you’re here. I hope you find your time here well-spent.

But we’ve got more important things to talk about than getting this project off the ground. This is a site about sketching out ideas, after all, so let’s get to sketching.

This month our focus is going to be on building a solid foundation for future sketchnoting endeavors. We’re going to build up a reusable visual vocabulary. Let’s talk about why that’s a good place to start.

Why We’re Starting With Visual Vocabulary

If you’re scared to draw, then getting over that fear is one of the first things you’ll want to tackle on your journey toward mastering visual note taking, especially if you think you can’t draw and you’ll never be able to.

Here’s the thing – if you can write letters, you can draw.

When you write by hand you use some combination of straight lines and curved lines to make a mark that you recognize. Drawing is no different, especially when you’re drawing in the super simple style most appropriate for visual note taking. We’re not talking fancy realistic drawings here. We go for the icon, the simple sketch, the easiest way to put marks on a page to get across our idea.

But maybe you already know how to draw. Maybe you even love to draw. If that’s the case, you’re going to run into a different problem – spending too much time sketching something while the cool ideas you’re listening to are speeding right along.

For the avid drawers of the world, it might be tough to step back to a simpler style, but I’d argue that re-teaching yourself to draw an object simply and quickly is a good place to start if your goal is to take all of those great ideas streaming through you head and get them onto the page.

One Visual, Many Uses

The nice thing about building up your visual vocabulary is that with each element that you add, you’re actually adding not just one idea but many ideas to your visual bank.

To demonstrate what I mean, let’s look at an example: a book. If you learn how to draw a simple book (hint: there’s one in the navigation menu at the top of this page!), you could sketch that out to represent reading, studying, learning, information, publishing, author, writing, story… and you can probably think of many more.

Visuals are much more flexible than words, especially when you have the ability (as you do in sketchnoting) to add words around that visual to give it some context.

The Month Of May

Each week of May you’ll have two opportunities to add some new entries into your own visual vocabulary. One will come via this here blog, another via the podcast.

(By the way, have you listened to the podcast yet!? Still in its early stages, but I’m pretty darn excited about that entire arm of this project. I’ve been a radio and podcasting fanatic for years, so it’s fun to dip my toe in the water on the production side. Hope you all find it fun and useful as well.)

In each of those places (the blog and the podcast) I’ll provide a bit of context, a few ideas, and then something for you to do. You’ll find that action, not just contemplation, is at the core of everything we do at Verbal To Visual.

And this month your actions will be directed toward building and storing a whole set of icons and quick sketches that you’ll be able to pull out with ease during any visual note taking session. That’s the goal for this month – to increase the number of visual elements that you can draw without having to think about it.

Go Do This

This post here is primarily an introduction to the month of May, but I don’t want to leave you hanging without giving you something to go do and learn from.

So here it is.

Take a few minutes to think about the objects or ideas that you’re already pretty good at sketching because they have come up so many times before in previous sketchnoting sessions.

Have you been sketching out those things the same way each time they come up, or has it been different each time?

How many objects or ideas can you draw from memory, right now?

If you’re new to this whole idea of sketching out ideas, worry not, you need no prior experience – for now just start thinking about the ideas and concepts you’d like to sketch out, then bring that to the table in the next post.

In either case, looking at the current state of your visual vocabulary will give you a sense of where you’re starting this month. Then come the end of May, you’ll be able to look back and see how much you’ve grown.

So go do a status check on your visual vocabulary, and meet me back here in a few days.