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.

« Build Magazine: Sketchnote Illustrations | Main | The Sketchnote Handbook: Video Outtakes »

The Sketchnote Handbook: Update 3: San Francisco

Under the Golden Gate

I'M BACK from San Francisco, and I'm working hard to get caught up with life and my book writing, after a brilliant, valuable week spent in The City by the Bay.

I was able to give 3 talks last week: at Wednesday evening, at Peachpit Press in Berkeley on Thursday afternoon and at Duarte Design in Mountain View on Friday for lunch. Each talk was a fun and rewarding experience.

For Salesforce, I prepared a new talk focused on sketching as a visual thinking power tool, based on my A List Apart article of the same name. The Eventbrite RSVP page sold out — we estimated about 80 in the room, which was full enough to have some people standing and some sitting on the floor.


Refreshments were provided for all attendees, along with Salesforce-stamped, Moleskine Cahier booklets and pencils to make sketching easy during the sketch exercises at the end of my talk. The room was happy and ready to sketch by the time I was introduced.

Presenting with an iPad 2, I shared the idea of using sketching as a way to quickly explore ideas, then share them with others as an object which can be more easily discussed than an idea existing only in your head.

Next, I showed samples of my own work with commentary, shared two exercises I'd prepared for the attendees to sketch in their new notebooks. First, we drew items from the memory of our kitchens (like coffee pots and spatulas), then I had everyone pair up to sketch UI/UX concepts for the station screen and music playback screen for the Pandora iPhone app.

Many of the attendees were designers, so for them, sketching interfaces was a fun exercise. To show sketches to the group, I simply lifted the iPad 2 with camera above the table and whatever was below appeared on-screen. Win!

My favorite moment? Watching a room of 80 people as they sketched and discussed ideas for Pandora screens, then inviting several of those teams to presenting their ideas through the iPad camera to the group.

Presentation: Sketching Visual Thinking Power Tool (2.4 MB PDF)

Thank you Salesforce's Jill, Yuri and Marcus for the opportunity to speak to Salesforce and other interested people in the San Francisco area. I had a wonderful time and was pleased to share my passion.

Peachpit Press

On Thursday I caught a bus and a train out to Berkeley, to visit with the team at Peachpit who are helping me write and create The Sketchnote Handbook.

North Berkeley Station

I had a fun adventure figuring out the route on Muni busses to the Bart entrance on 5th and Market downtown, then riding the train under the bay to North Berkeley. I was glad to have a Bart app and Google maps on my iPhone.

Amy from Peachpit picked me up at the station and brought me to Peachpit offices, housed in a converted industrial building. Once I had the iPad 2 ready, I gave a brief talk about sketchnotes to Peachpit staff, explaining the details of my book and taking questions from about a dozen staffers.

It was fun to share book details with the larger team, and hear their comments and questions they had about the book. I think everyone at Peachpit is excited about the Sketchnote Handbook, which makes me fired up to write it.

I was treated to lunch at a tasty and secret Mexican restaurant around the corner by Lupe and Amy, while we discussed the video portion of the project. Back at the Peachpit office, Amy shot video of me for an upcoming promo video.

Thanks Nancy, Amy, Lupe, Scott and Nikki for helping setup my visit to Peachpit. It was great to see almost everyone — missed you Glenn & Nikki!

Duarte Design

My final presentation for the week was on Friday, at Duarte Design in Mountain View. I reserved a Zipcar for the drive from our hotel down to Duarte offices. It was a great experience using a Zipcar for the first time, though we hadn't known or planned for San Francisco Giants' opening day — we were 30 minutes late.


Fortunately, we arrived in time for me to say hello and give Nancy Duarte a quick hug before she had to leave for the day.

In the presentation room, I hooked up my iPad and shared a variety of advanced sketchnoting techniques with the staff, while my wife and kids watched from the back of the room.

Part of the presentation included live sketchnoting of two videos: The Distiller and The Milwaukee Leatherworker. I did my own sketchnoting on the iPad with a stylus, which worked well, but had limited detail versus paper and pen.

Duarte's staff did a great job on the sketchnotes, making use of the advanced techniques I'd shared just minutes before. It was especially great to see non-artists creating wonderful sketchnotes and sharing them with the group.

After Q&A time, several Duarte staffers and I geeked out over my iPad styli collection and shared favorite sketch apps for the iPad. Everyone loved my Stylus Socks and I learned about Procreate for the iPad.

Presentation: Advanced Sketchnote Techniques (5.9 MB PDF)

Thank you Nancy, Katie and Emily for the opportunity and help in making our brown bag lunch session such a fun time for the staff and for me.

Book Writing & Illustrating

The first draft of chapter one was completed before I left for San Francisco, so the next challenge is to sketch out in detail how the text from the chapter will look when illustrated in sketchnote style.

The trip was well timed, because as I spoke about sketchnotes and sketchnoting, ideas began to form around how I could illustrate the chapter's ideas. This weekend I'll use templates to sketch out illustration concepts, so I can keep the book creation process rolling.

Font Update

One of the evenings last week was spent with the incredible Delve Withrington of Delve Fonts. We had a great time hanging out, talking shop and then Delve showed me progress on my handwritten sketchnote body font.

Let me just say the font is looking amazing. Delve was even able to add multiple characters to the font, allowing apps like InDesign to rotate alternate versions of letters into the typed text to make it look more natural.

I can't wait to see how the entire body font looks when he is done working his magic with vectors.

Travel Observations

Here are a few observations after last week's trip to San Francisco:

  • My iPad is my new laptop. The hard drive on my MacBook went belly up the first day in SF (it's OK now, after disk repairs). I had to rely on the iPad 2 as my main computer and it worked great for email, surfing, RSS reader, presentations, as a document camera and keeping the kids busy on the flights there and back again. Unless I need to design, my MacBook is staying home from now on. Read more from Andy Ihnatko and Shawn Blanc on iPads as a laptop replacements.
  • iPhones rock for travel. Having an iPhone along made all the difference for on-my-feet mapping, directions and finding things, and was my main camera, email and social media device for the week. Having a backup battery along was super handy too. Read Boston to Orlando with an iPhone by Dave Caolo for more on iPhones for travel.
  • Walking, Busses & Zipcars are Great! Like our trips these days, we decided to walk and rely on public transportation for our visit to San Francisco. Having a CityPass worked great for the week, giving us unlimited access to Muni busses and streetcars, as well as cable cars ($6 per ride). When we needed to drive, Zipcar worked perfectly.
  • Embracing Tourist Mode. When I wasn't meeting with people or giving talks, our family embraced our inner tourist. Staying on Fisherman's Wharf, exploring tourist attractions like Alcatraz and Chinatown, shopping for souvenirs and eating sourdough bread. We loved it all.

I'm fired up and can't wait to see the book start to take some real shape next week. Until the next update…

Alcatraz Tower  Powell-Market Line
Embarcadero  Chinatown Alleyway

Photos: San Francisco 2012: Flickr Photo Set

Salesforce photo: Marcus Nelson

Reader Comments (5)

Damn you are one busy, busy boy! :D

April 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLilpeanut

Yep, busy busy! But I love it that way. :-)

April 22, 2012 | Registered CommenterMike Rohde

Your notes are real good for people like me that want to sketch but the background is not good. I will wait for your book in order to learn more how simples sketches can change our daily life. Take my best vibes to your new book.

April 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMiguel

Thanks Miguel - I hope the new book really helps you take better notes - that's the goal!

April 23, 2012 | Registered CommenterMike Rohde

Thanks for the post Mike, and for a great presentation! Btw, your photos are stunning!

April 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterEmily

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.