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Lessons Learned from my SXSW Sketchnotes

SXSWi 2008 Sketchnotes: Great Design HurtsI've been pleasantly surprised by the positive reaction my SXSW Sketchnotes have received this week.

They've been featured on all sorts of sites, from Coudal Partners and Daring Fireball to Laughing Squid and The Guardian's Jemima Kiss' PDA Blog — and on Twitter!

I've decided to capture my observations here and share what I've learned:

A Fast Spreading Meme
I'm fascinated at how quickly the sketchnotes spread across the net. On the Tweet scan and RSS searches for my name, "SXSW Sketchnotes" were popping up all over and being re-tweeted like crazy. I seeded the first few links to SXSW speakers and a few friends, but at a certain point the mentions took on a life of their own.

Readers Like Personal Accounts
People seem fascinated with personal accounts of events. Sharing a unique, personal perspective is a powerful way to communicate. Sketchnotes are one way that attendees to the panels can re-live an experience. Even those who never attended the event can glean ideas from this kind of text+visual note style.

The Human Touch Attracts Readers
I'm finding that readers enjoy the human touch of my sketchnotes, which were hand-drawn in real time at the event. They're a little imperfect, yet very readable and understandable. Their impressionistic nature seems to be engaging readers in a different way than photos or computer-generated text from SXSW Interactive.

Sketchnotes Awaken Memories
For many SXSW attendees the sketchnotes seem to awaken positive memories, even several days later. This is one of the reasons I keep a travelogues when I go on trips. Notes and sketches of my activities help me recall clear memories — even years after the trip. Hopefully this will be true of my SXSW Sketchnotes in the future.

New Opportunities
I've been approached several times this week about doing "sketchnote" style illustrations for a couple of projects. It appears that something unique, like my sketchnotes, can lead to new opportunities to do more of them.

Creative Commons Frees Up Images
All of the sketchnote scans and photos have been uploaded to Flickr with a Creative Commons non-commercial, attribution license, which frees people to place my images on their sites with attribution, and no need to ask permission. I love this!

In a nutshell, the SXSW Sketchnotes have been a phenomenal success. Both SXSW attendees and outside observers seem to resonate with them, and they tell one angle of the human experience I had while in Austin. I most certainly plan to do more sketchnotes as I attend conferences, based on the reception of these and other sketchnotes I've published.

As I discover new effects from the sketchnotes, I'l be sure to add them here.

Stats on Flickr — Wow!
Sketchnote Stats

Reader Comments (4)

I stumbled upon your blog and sketchnotes in one of my web walkabouts. There's something very poetic about visualizing information and turning it into design. I also appreciate that you've shared your insight into the response to your work, and what the implications are for blog communications. You've made a new fan.
March 17, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterLinda Ziskind
Linda, thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment about my sketchnotes and observations. I'm honored to have you as a new fan and hope my blog continues to bring you interesting thoughts and work to consider. :-)
March 17, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMike Rohde
Mike-Wonderful job on the SXSW Sketchnotes. I really enjoyed them.Chad
March 19, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterchad doane
Thanks Chad!
March 20, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMike Rohde

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