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Entries in Moleskine (34)


Michelle George's Global Leadership Summit Sketchnotes

A few weeks ago I received an email from Michelle George, who had questions about the pens and Moleskine notebooks I use to capture sketchnotes. I shared my thoughts and about a week later Michelle emailed to share her sketchnotes:

Global Leadership Summit 2008 : 00-01

It was very cool to see Michelle use sketchnotes at her event. I was curious to hear her feedback after trying out the sketchnote approach at the Global Leadership Summit she attended, so sent Michelle a few interview questions:

Michelle, I’m curious to hear how the sketchnote approach worked for you. Was it easy to do? Were there specific challenges you found while capturing your sketchnotes?

I found it difficult to start with because sketchnoting is a totally different style of note-taking to what I use most of the time. I occasionally work as a scribe in government recruiting processes, and that involves taking LOTS of very detailed notes during the interviews.

To get the speed and accuracy I need for that I type on my little laptop (Fujitsu Lifebook 1620P), and end up with three or four pages full of single-spaced notes after a 30 minute session.

The sketchnote approach forced me to slow down and process the information on the fly and what I ended up with was a much more distilled representation of the information.

The sketchnotes that I filled my little Moleskine with are about what was impacting me as the speaker delivered his or her message, as opposed to being a slab of recorded information that was disconnected from how I felt about it.

Once I got going it was pretty easy. I have doodled in journals for years, and have played around with graphic design a bit, and letting those things flow as I processed really was a meditative process. I loved it!

Challenges? Hmmm... yeah that my sketching ability sucks when I’m under pressure! Normally my drawings take several hours…to whip out a sketch in less than a minute takes some serious skill! Practice!

How do you feel about your sketchnotes after the fact? Are they easy to read? Did they capture the detail you had hoped for?

Usually I take notes at a conference, the notebook gets tucked away and I rarely go back over them unless I’m looking for material for an article, but with sketchnotes, they are like little pieces of art… I have to confess that I love looking at them.

I am really pleased with the way they turned out as a first attempt. I don’t think they are particularly aesthetically pleasing, or anywhere near as wonderful as yours, but I have enjoyed the process itself as well as going back over the notes.

I have found it remarkably easy to remember the context and even some of the mannerisms of the speaker, which is a real surprise to me given the notes are not a verbatim account of what happened at the conference. I would have liked to draw a little more to reinforce the words, but I think that will come with time as I practice.

Michelle, what do you do professionally?

I work for myself as a technical writer. I work with government ICT sections and small businesses to produce user documentation, process and procedural documentation, and help desk material.

I also do some scribing and editing work, and the occasional graphic design job. I am passionate about clear communication, and I am fascinated with the connection between the written word and good design.

My business website Robertson Studios is being given a facelift at the moment, though you can see my personal blog and my online drawing board, to see more of my work online.

Thanks so much for taking the time to share your sketchnotes and thoughts on using them!

Mike, thanks for the opportunity to share this stuff! I love the way the Net connects people all over the world!

You're welcome Michelle! Thanks for taking the time to talk and share your work. I hope it encourages others to try out the sketchnote technique at their next meeting or event.

(Ed. - Michelle lives in Canberra, Australia with her husband and two sons.)


2009 Sketchtoon Coffee Calendar is Available!

cp-sketchtoon-calendar-2009.jpgThe 2009 Sketchtoon Coffee Calendar is now up for sale! You can buy it for $19.99 plus shipping at CafePress, with US and international shipping available.

Back in 2006 I started drawing sketchtoon style coffee illustrations in my Moleskine sketchbook in ink, scanning each illustration into the Mac for colorization in Photoshop.

In 2007, over 100 of the 2008 Sketchtoon Coffee Calendars were sold, so it seems there's a demand out there for coffee calendars.

Each month's illustration features a different coffee drink, with several unique drinks from various areas of the world, like the Flat White from down under and the Greek Frappe. Check out the cover and 12 illustrations at Flickr. I'm very pleased with how the calendar turned out.

Sketchtoon Photos
I've posted several photos of the original ink sketchtoons to Flickr:

Espresso Sketchtoon (Close-up)Latte & Espresso SketchtoonsCappuccino SketchtoonMacchiato Sketchtoon

It's a great gift idea for coffee lovers who would enjoy a unique coffee calendar.

Buy It Today: 2009 Sketchtoon Coffee Calendar: $19.99 + shipping.

Related Links
Check out Ricardo Levins Morales' very cool 2009 Coffee Calendar too!


Moleskine Planner Hack: 2 Years Later

Amazing to think that almost 2 years ago, I created my first Hacked Planner from a pocket sized, 192-page, ruled Moleskine notebook. Better yet, I'm still using a hacked Moleskine planner (my 4th) to manage my personal life.

Below is an image of the 4 hacked planners I have used these past 2 years:

Moleskine Planner Hack: 2 Years Later

I've been wanting to gather my thoughts about the Moleskine Planner Hack for some time. This seems the perfect opportunity to capture my observations:

Mike Rohde's Custom Moleskine PlannerStill Surprisingly Popular— The hacked Moleskine book photo, with it's myriad hover notes is the most popular image of my Flickr collection, currently at 53,484 views, with and 344 people calling it a favorite. The post on my blog is regularly the highest hit page of my site, which after nearly 2 years amazes me. It would seem logical that creating a custom planner to suit your own needs is striking a chord with people on the net.

Customized to My Needs — I've loved having a planner I can tailor to my needs, even if they change. Pre-printed planners and calendars are OK, but If I need more note pages, I can't add them. If I prefer a different schedule view that fits how I work — out of luck. With a custom, hand-drawn planner, I'm the boss. It takes a little work to create, but the complete control and flexibility it offers is worth the initial effort.

I Write & Sketch More — Having free pages in the back of the book encourages me to write my thoughts, capture ideas and important info, and sketch things I see or are on my mind. Always having paper and pen makes this possible and pleasurable.

Makes a Great Carrying Case — Carrying a Moleskine allows me to keep business cards, coffee cards and other tidbits in the back pocket, so they're handy when I need them. The pocket works great for carrying a backup $20 bill along.

Works Well with Index Cards & Sticky Notes — The pocket sized book works very well with both index cards and sticky notes. I now put my task lists on sticky notes and place them in a tasks area, so they can be easily updated. I can also place sticky notes on the cover of the planner. I can also carry index cards along as needed.

Overall, the experience of moving to a paper-based, custom planner has been very positive. Of course there are some things missing, like a full list of contacts and alarms. However, my iPod touch handles the alarms, and provides access to my contacts (not to mention email and web access with WiFi).

Give the Planner Hack a Try!
If you're on the fence about creating your own Moleskine Planner Hack, why not pick up a Moleskine and give it a try? Visit my dedicated site for more details on the hack, and links to other hacks available.


SXSW Sketchnotes: Additional Observations

It's a bit over a week since posting my SXSW Sketchnotes and I've been fascinated watching the meme and images make the rounds. It started small, with mentions on Twitter and then blogs with links, images or both in postings (currently at 66).

Mike Rohde and Sketchnotes from SXSW 2008

On Thursday, I notice a huge increase in Flickr emails with favorites and comments on the sketchnotes, so I checked my RSS feed searches for 'sketchnotes' and found that both Boing Boing and Digital Web Magazine featured them.

The Digital Web Magazine article was an intentional collaboration between Matthew Pennell, Tiff Fehr and me, but the Boing Boing mention was organic, via a post by Laughing Squid earlier in the week.

My observations about this whole experience?

People like to share things that make them look good — If you do something unique and interesting, people love mentioning your work to their friends, especially if it makes them look good. Being the first one to find something cool can earn credibility with a network of friends.

Word of mouth is powerful — I couldn't have planned the path or the speed with which the sketchnotes would have taken any better their own path via word of mouth. This reminds me how powerful word of mouth is. I know in theory how quickly good or bad messages can spread — this experience reinforced it for me.

Share your work with your network to "seed" it — I had several friends who I first shared the sketchnotes with: Twitter friends who attended SXSW and the speakers at the events I covered with my note-taking. I also mentioned them to longer-term friends like Jim at Coudal, Armand at Moleskinerie, as well as newer friends like Matthew & Tiff at Digital Web Magazine, who contacted me prior to SXSW. The old adage that you should build your network before you need it is really true. Having the trust and friendship beforehand makes all the difference.

Creative Commons Licenses Encourages Image Posting — I firmly believe that hosting the sketchtoons on Flickr with a Creative Commons license allowing re-postng with attribution made it super easy for bloggers to include images on their sites. This further encouraged visitors to check out the set, my site and even dig into my archives or email me directly.

Things you do outside your main work can improve your reputation — I'm a professional designer and art director, specializing in logo, web and icon design, yet am gaining notice via sketchnotes. This is a good thing, since my sketchnotes show how I listen, process information, think, analyze information and capture it visually. While completely separate from my professional work, it is at the same time at the very heart of that work, showing how I solve problems for clients.

I'm now considering a few products created from the SXSW Sketchnotes, including an e-book with high res images and added notes, and an on-demand or limited edition printed version of the sketchnotes, for sale to those who would like a copy. If you have interest in either of these items, please leave a message in the comments.

Finally, thanks to everyone who has mentioned and linked to the images, or left comments here or on Flickr. Your kind words have been greatly appreciated! :-)

Stats on Flickr — Wow!
Sketchnote Stats

Photo: John December


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