Visual Note Taking

Visual Notes - not just for artists

Rachel Smith -Visual Notes from Dan Roam's From Napkin to Infinity
Sacha Chua - from Dan Roam's Visual Problem Solving
We THINK in pictures, we write with words - why not bring these together?

What are Visual Notes?

RSA Animate and RSA Insights have revolutionised how we listen to and watch TED talks. The combination of images to illustrate the speech helps us digest and interpret the concepts more deeply.
But most of us do not have the time nor the talent to produce something of their calibre every day.

Our notes should be true to us, capture what we want to remember or to share and be produced in a simple way that works for us at the time.

Simple brainstorms or mindmaps work really well to capture and present multiple points.
Graphic facilitators map the conversations live at conferences or meetings to engage and give visual feedback to both audience and speaker.
It's like Pictionary meets writing.
Watch Tricia Friedman's students bring visual notes to a different dimension in Class to Glass.

Dan Roam's Back of the Napkin and Mike Rohde's Sketchnote Handbook are a great place to begin on your journey to Visual Note taking.
My other favourite Visual Note takers (or Sketchnoters) are:
Giulia Forsythe, Kelvy Bird, Rachel Smith, Sacha Chua, Matthew Magain, Sita Magnuson and Kelvy Bird to name only a few inspirational individuals.

Giulia Forsythe

Kelvy Bird

Why take notes visually?

Giulia Forsythe: Why Doodling Matters and you can hear more from her in her video on Sketchnoting
John Medina tells us that the visual sense trumps all. Around two thirds of us are visual learners - when did we stop uses images to illustrate ideas and thoughts?
Images help us to remember, recall and share ideas more clearly and we can map out ideas to communicate them to others in a more engaging way.
Visual notes help us to organise our thoughts, focus our brain on the big ideas and filter out the superfluous. They are a great form of problem solving and can make our notes more meaningful and easier to revisit and solidify in our memories.

Why take Visual Notes?
Nicki Hambleton

How to take notes?

a animated visual to help you take better notes
Nicki Hambleton on Brushes for iPad

key to taking visual notes

What shall I use?

Many individuals like taking notes by hand, on paper or in Moleskines. 
I find the iPad allows easier access, storage and sharing capabilities and I can manipulate my notes and drawings more easily.
There are many apps you can use for note taking.
Here are some to start with: 

Apps with zoom facility leave you with more options and flexibility:

Nicki Hambleton: visual notes taken from Claire Gadsby's book on Assessment for Learning using Adobe Ideas

Adobe Ideas allows for a wider canvas, zooming capabilities and beautiful pen/brush writing. It is easy to use and gives clean results.

Other great Apps:
Notes Plus, Paper 53, Ink Flow, Daily Notes, Note shelf

Each one has its own specific functions and style - experiment until you find the right one for you!

How do I take Visual Notes?


Visual Notes inspiration on Pinterest
Visit my Pinterest board for loads of examples and inspiration

Great sketchnoters and visual note takers online:
Brandy Agerbeck
Sketchnote Army
Mike Rohde
Eva Lotta Lamb
Sacha Chua
Austin Kleon
Sunni Brown

You can find more inspiration on my Visual Thinking Playlist on youtube and more visual notes added over Learning2 on Flickr.

Please fill out the google form to give me some valuable feedback and don't forget to share your notes with me by email, through twitter with the hashtag #visualnotes or #visualnotetaking.

and one more gem.......Videoscribe


  1. Okay so I am going to try this with my DP 11 students. I figure they may be the best to try it out being that they already kind of do it with their workbooks and a pen. I am also going to try with the Coetail courses. I know I have said this before and being an artist I should be intimadated but for some reason I am. Then I read another blog about visual note taking by Priya Venugopal and I felt like it was a sign. Get drawing!! Thanks.

    1. Do it! It is so worth it. I am sure it will help their idea development and consolidate what they have seen read or are thinking. I really look forward to seeing them - please share!

  2. Great set of examples and apps to try - thanks for sharing!
    I love pinterest and I'm off there right now to follow your Visual Notes Inspiration pinboard!

    1. Thanks Chrissy - I'm always happy to share and help!

  3. wow very nice ressources you put together! Thanks!

  4. You are work on Note Taking is really wonderful