The Art of Sketchnotes


Art of Sketchnotes - Michael Ludwig Stylight

AKA: How to Share and Evolve Ideas With Just Pen & Paper

Taking notes of your daily tasks and planning projects is extremely helpful in order not to forget your to-dos. Nevertheless, it’s quite frequent that if you do not look at your long list of to-do notes you won’t be able to keep everything in mind and you might easily overlook something. One strategy that can help you with getting an overview of all your projects and tasks is the art of sketchnotes, which consists on taking notes by visualizing them within sketches.

Studies show that visualized information goes directly into the long-term memory, whereas text-based information sticks in the short-time memory first. What does this mean? It’s easier to remember visuals than texts. For example, if you need to call someone it is quite likely that you’ll draw a telephone icon next to the note. You will realize that you will remember to make this call more easily than if you hadn’t drawn the icon.

Sketchnotes not only make it easier to remember your tasks, they also help with documenting processes and progress. Drawing sketchnotes encourages your creativity by finding new ways to picture words. But is there also a way to profit from sketchnotes as a business tool? Michael Ludwig, Head of Mobile Apps at Stylight, is using this technique not only in his private activities, but also in his daily work. These are some insights he shared with us.


How did you start taking sketchnotes?
A couple of years ago I had several to-do lists tools to plan and keep track of my daily tasks, both online (e.g. Wunderlist) and offline (usually a clutter of post-its). In addition to that, I had notebooks where I used to write down my notes of meetings, conferences and general things that I wanted to remember. I was managing my day quite okay but it’s not really appealing to browse in those notes and lists.

I stumbled upon the book “The Sketchnote Handbook” by Mike Rode back in 2012 and I was thrilled about it. The key message of this book is that literally everyone can draw and I couldn’t wait to learn and use the simple techniques to sketchnote my to-do’s, meeting minutes and presentation notes. As a kid I used to draw comics and it was quite fun to doodle again, but actually you don’t need any special skills to do it.


I started with the visualization of my personal notes and ended up publishing my sketchnotes of conference talks on Twitter and now being booked by event organizers to be the official “Sketchnoter”. It’s definitely worth a try for everyone to spice up and enjoy taking notes and to communicate in a visual way.

How can you and how can others like your colleagues profit from your sketchnotes?
At Stylight I’m using sketches to visualize and communicate the topics we’re working on within the mobile apps team, like the roadmap for the next quarter and the user’s stories on our agile board. In addition, we’re doodling flows and prototype ideas for the apps together to have a common understanding on how we want to evolve our product.


I’m also doing completely or partly sketched presentations to simply save time (we all know how many hours designing a presentation with Powerpoint and Photoshop can take) and involve the audience more easily. By avoiding pixel perfection it’s easier to develop ideas further since it’s not feeling final already but rather like something that you can still influence.


How can sketchnotes be used as a business tool?   
It’s extremely helpful to visualize the topics you’re discussing during a meeting or brainstorming. As soon as there is paper, post-its, a flipchart or a whiteboard in the room you can use it to make your point and help others to contribute to the discussion in order to move forward together.

Sketchnotes are super valuable to sum up and share your learnings of a conference or workshop that you have attended. Instead of asking for the original slides, making your own presentation based on your notes or showing a recording you can simply highlight your key takeaways with your sketchnotes. This works of course also for in-house meetings and gatherings, as we recently did during a big meeting we had to brainstorm about the future of our company. Thanks to a graphic recorder we had the results already visualized by the end of the meeting.

In the past two years I also sketchnoted the talks of the, Stylight’s developer conference with amazing speakers, so that the attendees could use them as their sharable visual summary of the conference.


What are the key essentials of the technique?
By using basic shapes like circles, rectangles and triangles in combination with lines, arrows and of course words you can already sketchnote almost everything. Just give it a try!

Sketchnoting at conferences is a bit more advanced and requires mainly practice to become good at it. Since you want to take sketchnotes of a talk or presentation in real time you need to simultaneously listen to the speaker, extract their key facts and bring them on paper with your ideas for visualizing them. You also need to take into account the duration of the talk since you don’t want to ran out of space in your notebook or sheet of paper.

The goal is to finish your sketchnote as soon as the speaker finishes his talk. By doing so you can use the break to already prepare for the next talk by checking out the abstract and the photo of the speaker if you want to portrait him, which I highly recommend. At the end you can have the essence of, for example, ten talks in your notebook. And since your notes are looking cool you’re more likely to review them again and can even share them with others. How cool is that?

Last tip? The best way to start is to follow the tutorials in Mike Rohde’s books The Sketchnote Handbook and The Sketchnote Workbook. It’s fun!


|By Julia Reger – Trainee Brand Marketing|



Leave A Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.