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31 of 33 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Sketch-noting is about capturing ideas, not about art., January 3, 2013
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This review is from: The Sketchnote Handbook Video Edition: the illustrated guide to visual note taking (Paperback)
First of all, this is a beautiful book, having a matte(?) finish, full of illustrations, using the very medium to 'deconstruct' itself. I even love the accent color (orange) used throughout the book. Loved the guest sketch noters. Don't get the Kindle edition. Appreciate the book in its native format as the author intended.

The videos were okay. I felt they added little value, as the author merely clarified the concepts in his book. Given the passion the author has for sketch-noting, I kinda expected him to burst upon the screen like those guys from the infomercials. He had a business-like demeanor in front of the camera. If there was just one chapter worth watching, I would suggest watching the segment where Mike does a sketch note in real time, listening to Mr. Mueller. Oh- the online videos were not captioned. I would suggest that Peachpit require that future video submissions have subtitling and/or captioning.

I primarily bought this book to give me ideas and techniques that i can share with my students. Then, they can make meaningful connections in studying their subject matter, i.e., Math, Reading, Science, in a visual way. It's also nice to undertake some sketch-noting during those professional development workshops. This book delivers for me, full of little tips I can immediately put to use.

I feel that this book was somewhat superficial. It is indeed a quick read. I would have liked more coverage on Dual-Coding Theory, for instance. Little coverage was given to speaker patterns. What about having a 'listening triage', weeding out white noise and capturing relevant ideas? What if someone in the audience has an insightful idea? A heated debate? I'm not asking for a full blown treatise; just better coverage on listening and capturing ideas quickly and effectively.

Another example; I rely on sign language for communications. In a meeting, I just can't look down and start doodling (or jotting) away. I have to watch, and retain as much as I can before there's a lull in the meeting, then I furiously scribble down my notes. At least, sketching images may be an acceptable substitute in writing notes during lulls as they're quicker to make and i can get back to the presentation at hand. In this book, Mike describes a 'brain cache' area, but doesn't really explore it. I would have liked to acquire better memorization techniques so I can hold ideas until I put them to paper.

Mike Rohde is correct that sketch noting is an invaluable addition to a person's toolset in acquiring, retaining, and making meaningful connections between ideas. Not only Dual Coding Theory helps us understand why we retain and make meaningful connections between ideas in a visual manner, it is also kinesiology, the very act of sketching, that helps tie it all together. Thus, sketch notes have the most value to the person who did the notes; it truly helps him/her retain and understand what was presented at that workshop, meeting, etc. Even sketch noting while digesting a heavy treatise helps an individual better grasp and utilize the ideas being learned.

However, I find an odd disconnect in treating sketch notes for wide distribution via social media. Sketch notes have little utility in communicating ideas to other people who were not present at the meeting, workshop, etc. I've looked at a couple of sketch notes in the wild and really couldn't understand them. I may grasp bits and pieces, but i get the feeling that I had to be there to understand these sketch notes fully. That said, sketch notes have some utility for communicating ideas with people who actually attended the meeting, workshop, etc., but didn't do any sketch-noting.

I may be missing the point, but why would sketch noters share their sketch notes on social media, when they are ill-equipped vehicles in communicating ideas? Is it because they may have some intrinsic artistic merit? Just treat sketch notes as a tool that a person can utilize in capturing and synthesizing ideas in a visual form, and not for any intrinsic artistic value they may have. Overall, a good book.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jan 10, 2013 3:23:15 PM PST
Todd, thanks so much for taking the time to write such a thorough review of my book. I'm glad you liked the look and feel of the book and I appreciate your comments.

I thought it would be helpful to answer some of your review's questions and comments:

Regarding the video: we aimed to find a good balance of sharing what was in the book through showing me in action, doing those things. Many others have found the videos particularly helpful in that sense. The video where I spend about 9 minutes sketchnoting the speaker is something that simply couldn't be captured in the book the same way.

I should note that I am not a professional presenter - I am a practicing designer and illustrator, so my presentation style is intentionally not over the top. I aimed for welcoming, friendly and encouraging. :-)

Regarding video and subtitles - that's a great suggestion! Subtitles were not possible because of time and budget limitations. However, I like this idea will keep subtitles in mind for future editions.

You bring up an interesting thought as someone who uses sign language to communicate which I hadn't considered. I imagine that must make sketchnoting much more challenging. Something I will also consider.

As for the depth of the book and limited mentions of research: I set out to write a handbook that would get readers new to sketchnoting excited about immediately creating sketchnotes, rather than a book focused heavily on research. But honestly, there is very limited research to cite. I hope my book encourages more scientific research.

Finally, regarding social media sharing of sketchnotes: I don't suggest sharing for just artistic reasons, but that sharing your sketchnotes may offer your interpretation of an event with others who may also have attended.

Sketchnotes are certainly a personal capture of ideas and work very well for that. However, I believe sketchnotes can also provide value to both fellow attendees at events and even those who were not present.

Again thank you for the review and your points - I greatly appreciate them.


Posted on Jan 17, 2014 5:22:30 AM PST
In response to your request for a guide for better memorization techniques:

Any good memory course/book will tell you what you need to know ... and the rest is just practice. There is really one overarching idea for memorizing ... VISUALIZING. And this will work perfectly for you, I would suspect. As you get the information through your interpreter, create a stunning visual image of the idea. Then link that image to the next in sequence. When you get your break, you may even find that some of those images are the basis for the illustrations you will use for your notes. In any case, you'll remember the ideas in sequence. The rules for visualizing are:

- Make it BIG
- Make it COLORFUL
- Make it MOVING
- SMELL it
- FEEL it
- Make it RAUNCHY

I would normally add the aspect of sound to that list, and you might still be able to use that if you have or had some hearing at one time. If so, try adding nutty music or swooshing sounds, or whatever might enhance the image.

The basic idea is that we don't remember the normal and obvious ... our brains are tuned to ignore those. We remember things that are outside of the normal and usual. The farther outside of the realm of the obvious the better.

Linking the images is the next challenge and you might practice that on a simple list of things. Make a grocery list, for example, then use the visualizing technique to make the image of the first thing unforgettable, then find a way to LINK it to the next unforgettable image. A huge purple banana being used as a bat to swat a cantaloupe into a grocery cart made of cereal boxes spilling out bottles of milk which contain frozen peas rather than milk ... etc.

I found that it takes some real practice to get good and fast at this. It is not rocket surgery, but you need to be quick about it because the next idea is only a fraction of a second behind the first and if you spend too much time thinking about the image, you'll miss what is upcoming. Give yourself some time to work on it. Use your TV (or radio) and set yourself some goals. Perhaps spend a while working only with LARGE images. Then MANY items in the image. Then COLORED ones (purple with green stripes and yellow polka dots works well ;-) Try each way to exaggerate the images then combine them.

As I said, this is all standard mnemonic theory -- people have been doing it since the early Greeks popularized it, and before. (This is how the traveling poets were able to recite long epic poems like the Iliad, from memory.) I can tell you that it is possible to get quite good at this with practice. I took a course many MANY years ago and the guy sold his course by showing us how to memorize a shopping list then, an hour later, asking us what the items were. I was sold when I could recall them all. ;-) One of his schticks was to memorize the newspaper each day and have someone give him a page number and he would tell the stories on that page. Over the years he got so good he could memorize a newspaper in no more time than it took to simply read it. When $20 was real money, he memorized the serial number of each bill he spent. He had clerks, more than once, accidental give him change for a $10 bill, but being able to tell them the serial number of the top $20 in the cash drawer won the argument.

I hope this idea helps you, or at least points you to more information. Lots of luck!

P.S. If you search YouTube for a TED talk on memory by Joshua Foer you can get an idea of how this works. (Use the search terms: "ted talk memory palace" and it will pop right up.
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