Concept Sketch - Separation - Visual Vocabulary - Culture Gap

Prototyping to Increase Your Visual Vocabulary

Real-time sketchnoting still scares me, but I’ve been doing more of it lately.  And I’ve developed a post-live-sketchnoting activity that takes whatever disappointment I feel after a sketchnoting session and turns it into something positive and productive.  Here’s what I do:

Step 1: Pick A Concept or Idea

Pick a concept or an object that you wish you would have sketched or sketched better.  Then put the name of that concept or object at the top of a large page after the title ‘PROTOTYPING’.  Thinking of this activity as prototyping might loosen you up a bit.  It does for me, at least.

Step 2: Sketch Like Crazy

Sketch out that concept or object you selected in as many different ways as you can.  At first, just search your own mind and see what you can come up with.  Then, if you need more inspiration, do a quick google image search or check out The Noun Project.  Fill the page if you can.  Here’s an example of my sketches for the concept separation (specifically, the culture gap that often exists between teachers and their students):

The Graphic Recorder - Doug Neill Sketchnotes - Concept Sketch - Separation


Step 3: Pick the Best

Once you have filled the page, pick the ones that you like the best.  I find it useful to narrow it down to two: one that is quick to draw if you are pressed for time, another that is more detailed if time isn’t as much of a constraint.  Looking back on my sketches for separation, I like the two at the bottom the best – the 2-D side view if short on time, the gap-in-the-earth if I’ve got more time.

Step 4: Practice

Practice the one(s) that you want to remember.  Sketch it out a few times right away, and then sketch it again as a warm up prior to your next sketchnoting session.  That will help you solidify it in your mind and in your muscle memory so that you can more-readily pull it out the next time you need to use the concept.

Concept Sketch - Separation - Visual Vocabulary - Culture Gap


Step 5: Repeat

If you follow this process for just one concept or object after each sketchnoting session, you will see your visual vocabulary expand and diversify over time, making you more versatile as a sketchnoter.  Here are a few other prototyping pages from my sketchbook, for the concepts connection, seek, and two-faced:

The Graphic Recorder - Doug Neill Sketchnotes - Concept Sketch - Connection

The Graphic Recorder - Doug Neill Sketchnotes - Concept Sketch - To Seek

The Graphic Recorder - Doug Neill Sketchnotes - Concept Sketch - Two-faced

Give this process a try, and let me know what you think.  And if you’ve got your own techniques for building your visual vocabulary, let us know about it in the comments!

Comments 2

    1. Post

      Hi David,

      I’m glad you’re finding these posts useful! I’ve actually moved away from doing multiple takes on my sketchnotes – I’ve found it more valuable (and less time consuming) to be content with how they turn out on the first go. This post describes a good follow-up activity to build your skills, but it doesn’t require you to go back and redo your sketchnotes, unless you want a really polished version. Let me know if you give sketchnoting a try!

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