Buy my Books!

The Sketchnote Workbook is a fully-illustrated book and video, showing how to use sketchnotes in new ways, along with advanced tips and techniques.
Learn about and buy the book →
Download a FREE chapter →
Watch a FREE video sample →

The Sketchnote Handbook is a fully-illustrated book and video, designed to teach regular people how to create sketchnotes.
Learn about and buy the book →
Download a FREE chapter →

Mike Rohde (Color - Square)

ROHDESIGN is the website of designer Mike Rohde, who writes on design, sketching, drawing, sketchnotes, technology, travel, cycling, books & coffee.
Read more about Mike →

SIGN UP! Get the Rohdesign Newsletter.

« The Milwaukee Leatherworker | Main | Writing a Book on Sketchnoting! »

The Sketchnote Handbook: Update 1

WHILE IN AUSTIN FOR SXSW, someone asked me if I would be writing about the Sketchnote book process as it went along. I hadn't thought of this before, but after hearing Austin Kleon talk about "research in the open" and being reminded of his fabulous Tumblr, I've decided to give it a go.

Having a record of the writing process, or at least an overview of it could be interesting for readers and for me. It may even guide others considering a book of their own. Below are thoughts on my mind as I start the journey.

SXSW 2012

Austin and SXSW were a great experience, as usual, and I was honored to meet all kinds of writers and thinkers, like Steve Krug, Sunni Brown, Tom Nagle and Jeffrey Zeldman, who gave me excellent advice about writing a book.

Whomever I shared the idea of the book with seemed very exited about the concept of an illustrated book about sketchnotes. This was very encouraging.

I had a fun experience at a party meeting a fan of my REWORK illustrations, who requested an impromptu sketchnoting session. I accepted the challenge and shared a few basic techniques — 15 minutes later he returned with sketchnotes!

At the start of my week in Austin, I was actually a bit worried about the 6 months I have to write, illustrate and design this book. However, by the end of the week, I was excited about the time ahead after taking with many people, authors and friends who encouraged me.

A New Title

After signing the contract, Peachpit editor Nikki and I talked a bit about refining the title of the book before requesting an ISBN. THe old title didn't seem optimal for describing the book itself, so we kicked around several ideas.

One of the terms we talked about was "Sketchnote Journal" which I found problematic. While it does describe the personal, one-to-one nature of how I'm writing the text and drawing the illustrations, I don't want the "journal" term to suggest a personal memoir, as this is intended to be a functional handbook.

Another problematic term was "for visual notetakers" which I feel limits the audience and could cause some to tune the book out. My goal with the book is to see regular people adopt one or many sketchnoting techniques I'll share to improve their comprehension and have fun taking notes again.

After some discussion, we've settled on this title:

The Sketchnote Handbook: The Illustrated Guide to Visual Notetaking

Both handbook and guide are excellent terms to describe my intention for the book's goals. I've also admired Jon Hicks' wonderful Icon Handbook, which inspired me to follow a similar approach to teaching sketchnotes.

Planning The Book Visually

I've started mapping the Sketchnote Handbook's table of contents to a visual map of the book as way of figuring out how many pages each chapter will take and how much to write and illustrate. It's working great!


I've also created a template for spreads, where I can sketch ideas and add notes for each 2 page grouping, as I'm writing. Having these visual maps has been very helpful in giving me a broader view of what's to be done and how much needs to be written and drawn at the page, chapter and book levels.

I'll be interested to see how these maps evolve over the life of the project and if there are other ways I can make use of visual thinking tools to aide my work.

Research is Underway

I've hired two assistants, one to gather information on the sketchnoters I have in mind as candidates for the book, and the other to find research related to sketching, drawing or doodling benefitting note-taking and thinking.

I felt this was a good way to optimize my time — freeing me to think, write and plan the content of the book, while researchers find relevant information.

Deadlines and Writing

Of course there are deadlines to meet — next week I'll submit my book map to Peachpit and in 2 weeks the first chapter draft needs to be completed. The cover design is also due about a month from now.

I'm quite fired up to write the first draft of chapter one, which expresses how and why I discovered and coined the term sketchnotes and offers a welcome to non-artists, encouraging them to give these sketchnoting a try.

Writing Tools

I've decided to try writing this first chapter with my iPad and bluetooth keyboard in iA Writer. I used this combination of tools to create the book proposal and table of contents and it worked supremely well.

I plan to use this setup to write drafts of the entire book text, though I know all of the text will eventually move to Microsoft Word — a publishing standard.

Might as well enjoy my favorite writing tools while I can. :-)

San Francisco

In about 3 weeks I and the family will be heading to San Francisco for a week. I'm planning to share sketchnoting over lunch with a the staff at Duarte and a visit to my publisher, Peachpit. I'm also planning an evening talk on sketching as a design thinking tool at This will be fun!

We'll be enjoying our son's spring break to have family fun during second week of April — Fisherman's Wharf, Alcatraz, Chinatown, cable cars and more. My wife and I love the city and can't wait to share it with our kids.

Thank You

I want to wrap this update with a thank you to everyone I met and talked with at SXSW about the book, to the Peachpit/New Riders crew who were so encouraging and to everyone who has emailed, commented or tweeted encouraging words to me. I appreciate your support.

I'm excited to create this book for you, and for everyone else out there who would love to have more fun taking notes.

Get the latest updates delivered to your email inbox, I'd love to have you sign up for the Rohdesign Newsletter.

Reader Comments (6)

I'm so excited by this book. Good luck with all of it. Will you be doing any videos to compliment the book? Online components will be great to see the sketch notes in action.

March 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDanh

Thanks Danh! Video is part of the book indeed - I'm going to share more about that in the next update.

March 24, 2012 | Registered CommenterMike Rohde

Mike. Can't wait for this book. I love your sketch notes. Always feel like I've been to the event after reading your latest spread on Flickr. Thanks for taking the time to share about your process with writing/drawing the book. That will be worth the read in and of itself.


March 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTim (@timage)

Mike. I've been following your blog for awhile and find it inspiring to say the least. I discovered iA Writer from your Colophon section a few months back and never looked back. I'm looking to find ways to decommission MS Word too.
I'm looking forward to your future posts on this project. Best of luck !

March 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMax (@maxzografos)

Hey Mike, congrats.

I would love to see it in ePub or Kindle format. eBooks are the best way to read English content while living out of the country.


March 27, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterdave terry

Tim, Max & Dave - thanks! I appreciate your encouragement and hope my updates will be interesting to look at as I write and after the book is done.

Max, great to hear you enjoy iA Writer. I really find it useful, especially on the iPad but also on the Mac.

Dave, I'm not sure, but I think an ebook is part of the package, though with the book being so graphical it will be interesting to see what we can do to represent that in a kindle or epub book.

March 27, 2012 | Registered CommenterMike Rohde

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
All HTML will be escaped. Hyperlinks will be created for URLs automatically.