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Entries in Sketchnotes (82)


Writing a Book on Sketchnoting!

EXCITEMENT would be an understatement in describing how I feel about getting a deal to write a how-to book on sketchnoting for Peachpit Press.

Thanks to a recommendation from my friend Von Glitschka, I was introduced to Nikki McDonald at Peachpit Press. I pitched my idea to her about a book designed to show people — regular people — how to include sketchnotes in their regular note-taking process.

Nikki and Peachpit loved the idea and made an offer. On Saturday, I signed the contract to write, illustrate and design the book.

Book Details

Here are some details about my forthcoming book:

  • Final Title: The Sketchnote Handbook: The Illustrated Guide to Visual Notetaking
  • I will write, illustrate and design the 240 page book, with lots of help from the team at Peachpit and a variety of friends.
  • The book will be visual — crafted in my sketchnote style. Sketchnotes should be teaching sketchnoting, after all.
  • To make it work as a sketchnote, I'm creating hand-drawn sketchnote fonts to achieve the look while maintaining complete control over the written text.
  • A variety of top sketchnoters will be featured in the book. I'll share the principles of sketchnote technique using my work and theirs, along with our tips and tricks from years of live sketchnoting work.
  • There will be a section dedicated to hearing, listening and capturing ideas, along with many practical tips and how-to techniques you can use right away.

I've already started writing, creating fonts and contacting sketchnoters for the book, so this is rolling down the tracks, full steam ahead!

Discovering and capturing what I and other sketchnoters do, in a process which can be shared and taught to others should be an interesting and challenging task. I'm both excited and a little scared — a good sign.

Keep tuned here as I work through the book. I'll try to share updates here and there as they make sense, though I know book-writing is a tough business. If I'm quiet on the blog for a while, now you'll know why.


I'd like to thank my friend Von Glitschka for the connection, my acquisitions editor Nikki McDonald for her guidance, my agent David Fugate for his wisdom and my lovely wife for her encouragement.


Sketchnote Guide to Speaking at SXSW

SXSW INTERACTIVE is one of my favorite events of the year, so when Shawn O'Keefe from the SXSW organizing team contacted me about creating a guide for speakers with sketchnote illustrations, I was all in.

Organizing the Details

Shawn provided a list of 9 messages he wanted speakers to remember as they prepared for their panels, which included:

  • Be at Your Green Room an Hour Before Your Session
  • Stay on Topic During Your Session
  • Watch the Time During Your Session
  • Show Your Passion for Your Topic - Have Fun!
  • Get a Good Night's Sleep the Night Before Your Session
  • Treat Fellow Speakers and Audience with Respect
  • Speak into the Microphone and Look at the Audience When You Talk
  • Remind Your Audience to Rate Your Panel or Presentation
  • Start Thinking About SXSW PanelPicker 2013 (Entry Process Starts June 25)

I began mulling these ideas over in my head and then moved to sketching out the concepts that appeared, using pencil and paper.

Sketch Concepts

SXSW 'Stay on Topic' Sketch

Each concept was sketched out for Shawn's review, with notes in the sketches and included in the Basecamp project we used to communicate. One of my favorite concepts was of an x-wing fighter from Star Wars (Death Star trench scene) related to the "Stay On Topic" recommendation.

All 9 concepts were sketched out, reviewed and approved by Shawn and the team, so I began inking up the ideas.

Inking and Final Design

As I started inking the images, I also began thinking of the best way I could organize the 9 elements into a cohesive, logical unit, easy for a SXSW speaker to scan and understand.

SXSW 'Stay on Topic' Ink

Each image was inked in my Moleskine sketchbook, scanned and edited in Photoshop. There, I remove dirt, fix contrast and generally optimize the images for their eventual vectorization.

Finalized images were processed with Vector Magic, so I can easily work with the final vector elements in Adobe Illustrator. This approach lets me easily size images up and down without quality loss and creates excellent art for print production.

Designing the Flow

I realized that re-ordering the images in a flow that would make more sense to a speaker was the right way to go — starting with a good night's sleep and ending with the Panel Picker to encourage speaking at next year's event.

I worked the separate illustrations by adjusting sizes and adding bits of typography, until a cohesive illustration emerged after a few iterations. Shawn and the team at SXSW loved the final piece:

Sketchnote Guide to Speaking at SXSW (B&W)

After final updates, the art was sent off to the printer. Here's the final image, mocked up on Neenah Environment Desert Storm, the card stock it will print on:

Sketchnote Guide to Speaking at SXSW (Kraft)
Sketchnote Guide to Speaking at SXSW

The speaker card will be inserted into every speaker packet, with the goal of better preparing all SXSW speakers for their panels.


Thanks Shawn, Hugh, Caroline and the entire SXSW planning team for choosing me to communicate this message in a fun, unique way.


Play Hard Do Good T-Shirt Design

DESIGNING T-SHIRTS is a challenge I enjoy, so when I was commissioned to design and illustrate the 2012 Beacon Lounge t-shirt, I was ready for some fun.

The Beacon Lounge is a quiet, relaxing and recharging space, nestled amid the chaos and activity of SXSW. It's the place you can take a break, meet people, eat tasty food, hear good tunes and help create lasting social good in the world.

Concept Sketches

Eve Simon, my friend and Beaconfire creative director, hired me to design this year's t-shirt. She provided the Play Hard Do Good theme and shirt specs. With this info, I began sketching ideas for a type treatment in pencil, shown below:

Play Hard Do Good: First Sketches

The initial sketch concepts for the t-shirt illustration were more along the lines of a simple type treatment, reflected in the pencil sketches above.

In the second sketch below, you can see I've expanded the simple type treatment from the first sketches to a complete and more detailed illustration using the Play Hard Do Good type treatment with supporting elements:

Play Hard Do Good: Final Sketch

I aimed to capture a lounge-like late 50s / early 60s feel with the typography on this piece, having fun with the modern couch and other retro touches.

Inking, Scanning and Vectorizing

Once I had an approved concept sketch, I inked various design elements in my large Moleskine sketchbook and scanned them in. Once the elements were open in Photoshop, I was able to edit flaws, tweak details and prepare each piece for vectorization using VectorMagic — a key piece of my illustration toolkit.

Below you can see and in-progress version of the black and white illustration being built in Adobe Illustrator. Notice the additional horizontal rules in the center of the piece — those were simplified in the final version:

Play Hard Do Good: In-Progress B&W

Time for Color

Once the black and white illustration was approved, I explored color. I knew I had a brown t-shirt as a base color, so I selected bright aqua and vibrant orange to compliment each other and the base white ink.

This combination created a color palette suggesting both a lounge feel and the Texas hill country around Austin:

Play Hard Do Good: T-Shirt Detail

Here is the final illustration shown in context on a brown t-shirt:

Play Hard Do Good: T-Shirt Overview

T-Shirts Supporting Sweet Relief

The team at GoodThreads and Beaconfire sponsored the t-shirt design and printing — I can't wait to see these shirts on Beacon Lounge guests!

These custom illustrated t-shirts will be available to Beacon Lounge guests with a donation to the Sweet Relief Musicians Fund. It's great to be part of the Beacon in this way, giving back and making a difference in the lives of people.

Come to the Beacon during SXSW, say hello and pick up your shirt.


Sketchnoting The Summit Series

THE SUMMIT SERIES is an unconventional conference, created by and for young entrepreneurs to connect, teach, learn and change the world for the better.

I've been commissioned to capture Summit Series Basemcamp in Lake Tahoe's Squaw Valley this weekend. I'm stoked to experience this fascinating event and capture it visually as a blend of both traditional and travel sketchnote styles.

What's the Summit Series?

The Summit Series began several years ago as an invite-only ski trip to connect with selected guests, financed on the founder's personal credit card. Now the Summit Series hosts thousands of luminaries at a time, meeting in unusual locations like cruise ships and ski resorts, featuring a wide variety of un-conferency activities like yoga and rock climbing as well as talks and workshops. The Series is managed by a team of young entrepreneurs who work together from different locations around the world.

The ultimate goal of the Series is to get interesting people together and share the experience of learning, giving and making a difference as a community.

The event I'm attending and sketchnoting Basecamp, a smaller gathering of about 650 guests at Sqauw Valley Resort in Lake Tahoe.

I can't wait to share my experience here when I return.


Merryck Sketchnotes for JESS3

EARLIER THIS YEAR, I was commissioned by JESS3 to capture live sketchnotes of Merryck's CEO, David Reimer. He shared Merryck's focus and vision over the phone and I captured these sketchnotes in my Moleskine:

Merryck Sketchnotes for JESS3: 01-02.png
Merryck Sketchnotes for JESS3: 03-04
Merryck Sketchnotes for JESS3: 05-06

The JESS3 team used my sketchnotes as a point of reference as they redesigned the Merryck website — which was just launched.

It was an interesting challenge to capture ideas from David over the phone. I found that like any live event, by focusing my mind on the content I was able to convert ideas into visual sketchnotes.

It was great to see sketchnotes prove their value again, as they were helpful to the JESS3 team in their beautiful redesign of the Merryck site.