Drawn on iPad
Wow! This book. All technical writers, in particular, should read it.
Common Craft is known for its widely imitated paper-cutout style instructional videos, but in a way this has become a distraction, the “Common Craft style,” I mean. Before reading this book, I didn’t realize that the cutouts weren’t the point. They are compelling, don’t get me wrong. That’s the secret to why sketchnotes get attention, of course- the handcrafted look. But the cutouts are just actors that impart ideas that are simply constructed, and contain context and emotional appeal. They make us feel smarter and build our confidence. A lot of things that attempt to explain our complicated world fail completely by these measures.
Part 1 of The Art of Explanation is concerned with the Plan: what makes an effective explanation, and who is it for? How do you build the confidence of others?
As it happens, just to create this one dubious page of info-cats required a plan that went like this: read, highlight, review, random pages of notes and cat drafts, then sifting these for just a few to include, since running out of room seems to be my main skill as a sketchnoter.
It’s comically challenging, this thing of sketchnoting. I’m keeping after it, though. As LeFever points out, and he is quite right, the act of making yourself produce an explanation increases your own comprehension of a subject – in this case, the importance of why- context and connection. Have those sometimes been missing from my own content as a technical communicator? You bet.
First things first, my attempts to sketchnote but a few of the many fine ideas in Brandy Agerbeck’s The Graphic Facilitator’s Guide, which shares the wisdom of her profession (distilling and illustrating information in a live meeting environment).
Brandy’s book is ambitious in scope; I lack her skills in info-synthesis and organization to do it justice in a page. Brandy argues that in the 21st century, we’ve embraced the postmodern perspective that all voices have value, without yet having determined how to distill and organize multiple perspectives into a coherent meaning. Graphic facilitators do just this: they step into a conversation without an outline or a script, where spontaneous perspectives are shared, and apply their thinking, listening, and drawing skills to the task of identifying patterns, symbols, and lasting meaning from many inputs.
I found this sketchnote a challenge. Perfectionism, completism, still-developing synthesis and drawing skills, the sheer skills it takes to sketchnote, all challenges to take on when approaching this discipline.
The following sketch ended up being cut out of the original sketchnote (so much for quick like a bunny). I wasn’t sure it was a key idea, or maybe I didn’t like the stick guys? Let it be noted that actual graphic facilitators, who work in front of a live audience, could never get away with this type of nit pickery!
Sacha Chua has a great post on how to build your sketchnote visual vocabulary. It’s helpful to be fluent in symbols you’re likely to draw and re-use, especially when sketchnoting live. With this in mind, I’ve borrowed ideas from some other artists and sketchnoters (including Austin Kleon, Don Moyer, Sachiko Umoto, Ed Emberley, Fiona Watt, and Joy Sikorski) mixed in with my own ideas to practice drawing random things, some useful, some just for fun.
After experiencing an empty chair moment while trying to sketchnote a training last week, I realized I needed to hit the books and revisit some basic visual information structures.
The Napkin Sketch Workbook chapter “Choosing a Structure” provides great sketchnote examples for several information models, so to teach myself, I applied a concept from work (Kindle) to the info models myself. Here are my results*
*info represented is example only- not real data
Next up: tackling more structures, and a visual icon library…