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.

Entries in Creativity (22)


What's Your Impact?

Tiny fingers B&WWe all get about 80 years on this earth, maybe 100 if we're really lucky.

Time is slipping away even as you read these words and you can't have it back, ever.

With time escaping quickly, how are you making an impact?

Who are you affecting with your life?

Will others look back at what you've done and be inspired by it?

How will your story read when you're gone? Will it be a technical manual or a page turner thriller?

Choose to make an impact. Do worthwhile things that will last and echo into the future generations.

Write a great story with your life.

Have an impact.



Watch this short film from Zack Arias. Watch it all the way to the end:

Zack talks about photography here, but the principles apply to any creative endeavor. Let his words sink in and ponder them.


Clay Shirky & the Power of Disposable Attention

Thanks to Derek Dysart, I was able to hear Clay Shirky's "Gin, Television, and Social Surplus" talk from the Web 2.0 Expo, embedded for your viewing pleasure:

Clay's assertion is that like gin sold from pushcarts helping Londoners cope with the sudden shift from rural farming to urban industrialization, the TV sitcom helped post-WWII society cope with a new surplus of leisure and free time:

If I had to pick the critical technology for the 20th century, the bit of social lubricant without which the wheels would've come off the whole enterprise, I'd say it was the sitcom. Starting with the Second World War a whole series of things happened--rising GDP per capita, rising educational attainment, rising life expectancy and, critically, a rising number of people who were working five-day work weeks. For the first time, society forced onto an enormous number of its citizens the requirement to manage something they had never had to manage before — free time.

He argues that society is awakening from a focus on TV sitcoms, and is realizing that they are in a position to create the content they want. They are able to contribute to the discussion, in ways not possible before:

And it's only now, as we're waking up from that collective bender, that we're starting to see the cognitive surplus as an asset rather than as a crisis. We're seeing things being designed to take advantage of that surplus, to deploy it in ways more engaging than just having a TV in everybody's basement.

What Shirky calls a cognitive surplus, I like to call disposable attention. Some may choose to spend attention on one-way activities like TV, but this is changing with the new generation. Shirky shares this story about one young girl's reaction to TV:

I was having dinner with a group of friends about a month ago, and one of them was talking about sitting with his four-year-old daughter watching a DVD. And in the middle of the movie, apropos nothing, she jumps up off the couch and runs around behind the screen. That seems like a cute moment. Maybe she's going back there to see if Dora is really back there or whatever. But that wasn't what she was doing. She started rooting around in the cables. And her dad said, "What you doing?" And she stuck her head out from behind the screen and said, "Looking for the mouse."

I'm fascinated at how deeply this 4 year old has been impacted by interactivity in her life. She so wanted to have an impact on the TV show she was experiencing that she had to "find the mouse" in an effort to make an impact. Consuming was not enough for her — she wanted to interact.

There are many new opportunities available to us that were not available 10 years ago. We have the power to create. We have the power to write our own stories on blogs, tell them in podcasts and show them in videos. We can contribute to larger projects like Wikipedia or attend BarCamps.

The encouragement to me in all this is we're moving beyond the stage of simply sitting on a couch, accepting what's being presented. We're given the opportunity to create and share our own stories, finding there are others like us out there, interested in our stories and willing to share theirs with us.

Here are a few great parting quotes from Shirky's talk:

Here's something four-year-olds know: A screen that ships without a mouse ships broken. Here's something four-year-olds know: Media that's targeted at you but doesn't include you may not be worth sitting still for. Those are things that make me believe that this is a one-way change. Because four year olds, the people who are soaking most deeply in the current environment, who won't have to go through the trauma that I have to go through of trying to unlearn a childhood spent watching Gilligan's Island, they just assume that media includes consuming, producing and sharing.

We're looking for the mouse. We're going to look at every place that a reader or a listener or a viewer or a user has been locked out, has been served up passive or a fixed or a canned experience, and ask ourselves, "If we carve out a little bit of the cognitive surplus and deploy it here, could we make a good thing happen?" And I'm betting the answer is yes.

Related Links
Transcript of Clay's talk
Book: Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations
Mark Bernstein: Shirky and History


Sketchnotes at Photoshop World

I love it when my sketches inspire others to draw.

I intentionally choose to share my drawings, sketches and sketchnotes on the web as a way of encouraging others in their own drawings, sketches and sketchnotes.

Photoshop World Sketchnotes!
On Monday, I learned that Amanda Kern, professor at Valencia Community College in Orlando Florida was inspired by my SXSW Sketchnotes. But she went a step further and encouraged her students capture sketchnotes while attending Photoshop World last week. Wow, that is so cool!


From Amanda's post on her Photoshop World experience:

If you happened to be at the conference you may have noticed many of us sketching away in our sketchbooks during classes. Several of us had attendees and speakers comment on how we took such great notes during the conference.

With inspiration from Mike Rohde’s awesome sketchnotes, I proposed the idea of creating sketchnotes to students who were awarded Photoshop World Scholarships. They’re a great reflection of just how many great things were thrown our way during the conference. I’m quite impressed with how they turned out. Sketchnotes provided a creative way for us to document the experience.

I love this! It's wonderful to see students exploring the idea of sketchnotes, finding out how to make something unique and interesting for others to see, but also rich and detailed for their own memories of the event.

Amanda, thanks for trying sketchnotes, I'm honored to have inspired you guys!

Related Links
Amanda Kern's Blog
Photoshop World Sketchnotes Pool on Flickr


Attending VizThink Workshop Chicago: May 7, 2008

vizthink-logo.gifThe decision to attend key events related to my career and design practice has really been paying off. Coming off of SXSW Interactive 2008, I'm seeing the events of the past few years have provided great opportunities to learn, get to know others, develop my Sketchnote practice and to share my notes with so many people.

I've signed up to attend the VizThink Workshop, on Wednesday, May 7, 2008 in downtown Chicago. With a minimum of 15 and maximum 50 attendees, this event led by Dave Gray and Karl Gude will teach attendees how to exercise their visual thinking skills, and learn new techniques and approaches to visual thinking.

Topics covered include:

  • Introduction to visual language and visual literacy

  • Strategies of information design

  • Primary methods for organizing both qualitative and quantitative information

  • Professional tips and tricks

From the description of the VizThink Workshop:

Your presentations don't have to be dull and ridden with bullet points. After this workshop you will understand how to explore, organize and visually display information of all kinds, from complex data sets to visual instruction manuals.

Participants will learn how visual thinking can be used to explore complex information and present it more effectively. This workshop combines high-level design principles with practical applications — rules of thumb and "tricks of the trade" — that professional information designers use to quickly create clear representations from complex or potentially confusing information.

I'm very excited about meeting Dave Gray of XPLANE, who I've bumped into on the net for years, and his co-leader Karl Gude, a professor at Michigan State University's Journalism School and former Graphics Director at Newsweek magazine.

The opportunity to see both of these guys together was too cool and Chicago is too close, so I've decided to jump at the chance to attend this workshop and expand my knowledge of visual thinking.

The cost for the workshop? $400 and worth every cent. You can be sure I'll have a full report after attending and probably a truckload of sketchnotes to share. :-)

Sign Up Now
If you're interested in expanding your own visual thinking skills and being taught by the Jedi Masters of visual thinking, this is your chance: VizThink Chicago Workshop.