Mike Rodhe talks sketchnoting
Noted sketchnoter Mike Rohde explains the benefits of his craft during a Thursday hands-on session. (Photo by Kenney Marlatt)


Designer Mike Rohde wants to change the way people think about drawing. Instead of creating unrealistic expectations for oneself (we can’t all be Michelangelo), he introduces a way to capture big ideas for daily communication: sketchnoting. To Rohde, sketchnotes are like a pick-up truck: they are practical. Fancy art is a corvette.

Like many people, Rohde used to take verbatim notes with his pencil, erasing information as he wrote. But he found that he would never look at those notes again because he didn’t want to waste time figuring out what was valuable. He decided to change the way he took notes during the SEED conference in Chicago in 2007. With a small Moleskine notebook and a pen, Rohde constrained himself to a smaller canvas — and thought critically about what he was putting down. He wrote things that he could actually apply to his life and listened more closely.

What resulted was a series of sketchnotes — a combination of words, short phrases and drawings. Believing his notes could help others review highlights from the conference, he uploaded them online. This led to opportunities to sketchnote at conferences around the country and speaking gigs to spread the art of sketchnoting.

As proof, here is a sketchnote of Rohde’s hands-on session by a first-time sketchnote-taker (PDF version):

Natalie Lung's sketchnotes
Natalie Lung’s first page of sketchnotes.