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ROHDESIGN is the website of designer Mike Rohde, who writes on design, sketching, drawing, sketchnotes, technology, travel, cycling, books & coffee.
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Entries from March 1, 2008 - March 31, 2008


Rohdesign Podcast 07 - Marcus Nelson

rohdesign-podcast_144.jpgI've posted Rohdesign Podcast 07, with special guest and friend, Marcus Nelson from SuperStarch and UserVoice. It's posted as an MP3 and as a web-based flash player:

In the 7th episode of the Rohdesign Podcast, my guest is Marcus Nelson of,, and many other sites. We talk about UserVoice, SXSW Interactive, life & work, passion and how to bloom where you're planted. Check out Marcus' J. Crew Modeling Photos! :-)

SXSW 2008 Podcasts RSS Feed


New Wave 1980s Mix

A little fun for a Friday! Check out the New Wave 1980s Mix I threw together on for your listening pleasure! :-) lets you create mix tapes from music already on the web. You enter what you want to hear, drag it into a list, customize the design, name and order of songs, then publish your mix for free! Check it out.

Bands include: New Order, The Fixx, The Cure, UB40, English Beat, Heaven 17, R.E.M., Tears for Fears, INXS, The Smiths, Haircut 100, Missing Persons, Flock of Seagulls and more... :-)

Check out my Mixwit Mix Tape Collection

Related Links:
Marcus Nelson's wife was inspired by my mix tape and pulled out a New Order Substance cassette in this Flickr shot.


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


Rohdesign Podcast 06 - Michael Ashby

rohdesign-podcast_144.jpgI've posted the latest edition of the Rohdesign Podcast, featuring my friend and web guy, Michael Ashby. It's posted as an MP3 and as a web-based flash player:

In the sixth episode of the Rohdesign Podcast, I talk with Michael Ashby of Coherent Methods, about my impressions and thoughts on the SXSW Interactive experience, answering his questions about the event and why he should consider attending SXSW Interactive in 2009. This is a longer episode, clocking in at 45 minutes (though I think it's well worth the listen).


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