social, health, political imagery through the lens of George J Huba PhD © 2012-2017

Posts tagged sketchnoting

Sketchnotes are one of the most powerful tools for developing visual memory systems for everyone.

I have blogged about them many times. For me, the limiting feature has always been the (low) speed at which I can draw simple figures for inclusion in the sketchnotes, the (poor) quality of them.

I discovered a brilliant little book by Mauro Toselli (@xLontrax at Twitter and Instagram) which broke the barrier for me. The book is titled “100+1 Drawing Ideas for Sketchnoters and Doodlers” which was recently published (2016). The book is available at the world’s largest online bookstore in many countries. Toselli is the co-founder of the web site where is is a very active editor, sketchnoter, and promoter of sketchnotes.

The book contains quick instructions for drawing attractive “icons” or “cartoon figures” especially useful for inclusion in Sketchnotes. In 60 minutes you can break the barrier to having effective sketches in sketchnotes even if you have minimal artistic talent like me. The 100+1 examples can be generalized into 1000s of related figures; for instance his example of quickly sketching a lion can be pretty easily adapted into sketching my dog, a bear, or a cat.

Highly recommended. Inexpensive.

I consider sketchnotes to be a natural complement and alternative to mind models (aka mind maps), and this book will help you use small sketches quickly and attractively in sketchnotes. I have found nothing better although I have purchased more than a dozen introductory sketching books in the past year.

Just get this  book if you are serious about sketchnoting for any application. Sketchnotes work wonderfully for me — they are compelling, attention getting, and help organize information. As a child I made notes like this but was quickly trained out of doing so by the education system pushing me into the old staid outlines and none of these “scribbles” in the margins. I wish I had ignored all of the teachers and continued sketchnoting 57 years ago (when I was 8). Oh well, you can teach an old horse new tricks (or at least to return to the pasture), and I now know recognize sketchnoting as an extremely powerful technique for everyone to learn.

As a note, the definitive (and easily accessible, more general) books on the overall technique of Sketchnoting are by Mike Rohde. Search for “Rohde” on this site (the box at the left margin on every page of the blog) and you will find a number of posts where I have discussed Rohde’s seminal work especially as it applies to people with dementia.

Mr Toselli is very active on Twitter and Instagram as @xLontrax and at and

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED BOOK as are all sketchnotes and blog posts by Mr Toselli. Toselli has written a brilliant book and tweets extremely effective sketchnotes of special interest because he works on important social issues.

The back cover of the book expresses brilliantly one of the basic “rules” of sketchnoting. I’ve added a few of my annotations.

Click image to expand.



Mauro Toselli on Twitter …




The majority of the posts on this blog are about using visual thinking methods — of which I think that by far the best is #Buzan-style organic mind mapping — to understand, explain, evaluate, and communicate about healthcare. A lot of my own thinking has focused on using visual thinking techniques to potentially improve the quality of life of those with cognitive impairment and dementia.

Tony Buzan and Chris Griffiths and their colleagues and staff at ThinkBuzan have done a very comprehensive job at getting many of Buzan’s ideas embedded into a general purpose computer program (iMindMap) which provides a general visual thinking environment, of which mind mapping is a special part. There are many computer assisted mind mapping programs, but I have concluded that iMindMap is by far the best for creative visual thinking and communication, in no small part because it fully incorporates Buzan’s theory and theoretical implementation.

Like scientists and management consultants and educators and healthcare providers and patients and patient caregivers and students and many others, illustrators struggle with how to best use visual representations to support better thinking and communications.

Which brings up this beautifully conceived and executed little book that I have found to be mind expanding and liberating in how to develop and use a series of illustration techniques and “tricks” to look at things differently when trying to make creative breakthroughs.

Whitney Sherman is the author of the book “Playing with Sketches” which provides 50 exercises which collectively will change the way you think about creating images to understand and communicate ideas.While Ms. Sherman wrote the book for designers and artists, the techniques will be just as useful for visual thinkers in science, education, medicine, industry, and other fields. The beauty of Ms Sherman’s exercises is that in showing you fairly simple ways to make hugely informative and well designed images, the tools will themselves suggest many applications to visual thinkers of all types.

And, I have found that Ms. Sherman’s techniques can be used by the severely artistically challenged (of which I am one); the techniques are ones for Visual THINKERS, not necessarily artists and designers.

I have mentioned this book before in much less detail, but in the months I have used the methods, I have found that they WORK very well to facilitate creative visual thinking. For me they have promoted a breakthrough in how I see the visual thinking canvas.

Get the book, try some of the techniques (pick a random one here and there to start), discover that great artistic talent or aptitude is not required, and see how the techniques fit the information you study in search for better healthcare or disease prevention or decision making or facilitating creative group processes.

In partnership with Tony Buzan’s techniques for organic #mindmapping and Mike Rohde’s framework for #sketchnoting, the techniques codified by Whitney Sherman provide very powerful visual thinking tools.

Ms. Sherman’s website is She tweets at @Whitney_Sherman. The book is available from major online book sellers.




I will be posting some examples of using the sketching techniques of Ms. Sherman to developing assistance and communication techniques for those with cognitive impairment or early-mid stages of dementia.





Sometimes the following trick helps me both code notes (or task lists) and grabs my attention when the ignored task list is floating around on my desk or becomes part of the wad of notes, receipts, and other small pieces of paper that accumulate in my pockets. I review the wad of paper regularly (hopefully finding it before I put the pants or shirt in the laundry and being transformed to lint in the dryer).  This little trick is used by people who make sketchnotes for a living (see the wonderful books by Mike Rohde on sketchnoting). Sketchnoters — because of their business and professional audience — tend to use a more subtle and artistic version of what I do (after all their audience is wearing suits while my audience is me wearing shorts and an old T-shirt). Same principle though.


[Star Trek may have incorporated the following idea into some of its episodes.]



The thick-thin pens are called Fude de Mannen by their manufacturer Sailor and fairly inexpensive. A much more elegant and expensive option that does the same thing is any Sailor fountain pen with a Zoom nib. You can also do the same shift between thick and thin inexpensively with a Noodler’s flex pen or many calligraphy pens (the Japanese ones are best and brush pens work even better) or much more elegantly and expensively with either a Pilot Falcon pen or any Pilot pen equipped with an FA nib. I have no commercial relationship to any of these companies. The odds of finding any of these pens in a brick-and-mortar store in the USA are fairly low but they are available widely on the Internet with many coming directly from Japan (yup, they ship anywhere).


I use different writing implements to vary things, color code, and even slow myself down (like the decorative fonts do) in order to increase the time for memory encoding, to build in uniqueness that grabs attention, and to amuse myself (I am easy to amuse).

Many of these “tricks” are the same as those as used in mind mapping without the most important feature of structuring, restructuring, and formally associating many ideas.

The next logical step after these kind of notes is mind mapping which I strongly endorse. On the other hand, some people just want to takes notes and may not want to take the time to carefully think through them or organize their thoughts, and for those folks at least remember this.

&&& the purpoSe of noteS is to REmemBER in parT because the noteS are MEMOR(Y)able and you pay more attention to them ***

While I cannot prove this, it is my guess that these techniques will also be useful for those with memory and attention problems like normal aging, cognitive impairment, dementia, Alzheimer’s, and ADHD. But all of these conjectures require empirical research to substantiate and are just WAGs (Wild Ass Guesses) on my part at this time.

Developing effective sketchnotes and synthesizing knowledge into accessible mind maps can be complementary processes. Information captured in the sketchnoting process might be best expressed later as a series of mind maps. Some thoughts about combining Tony Buzan‘s work on mind mapping with Mike Rohde‘s break through creative work on sketch noting. Combining these methods can result in exceptional ways of communicating knowledge one well-conceived page at a time.

Click on image (twice) to expand.

Synergy MM SN