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Gini Dietrich

Learning through Visual Note-Taking

By: Gini Dietrich | March 16, 2011 | 
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I spoke last night at the Lake County Social Networking event that’s put on every month by Tim McDonald. If you live in the Chicago area and don’t already know about these events, check them out. Tim does a phenomenal job of making it fun and relaxed, but also informative and valuable.

Not my point. My point is that we talked a little bit about what we were hearing coming out of SXSW (not a lot, other than Holler and Google Circles) and it reminded me of something I saw that I think is pretty incredible.

First, enter Len Kendall. Len is a friend IRL and on Facebook and, as he was getting ready to go to Austin, he posted a photo of several moleskins and felt tip pens and I thought, “Huh. He still takes notes.”

What I didn’t know is this: He does more than take notes. He is super, super talented. So talented, in fact, he draws his notes.

Is that not the coolest thing you’ve ever seen?

THEN. I happened to see a link from Ogilvy pass my tweet stream. They, too, were taking visual notes (in fact, they were distributing copies of the notes at attendee’s hotel rooms so they were there when they got up the next morning – waaaaay better than USA Today!).

THEN. You know the red car syndrome? You never see a red car until you buy one and then, suddenly, EVERYONE has a red car? Well, that’s what is happening to me right now with visual note-taking.

Lauren Fernandez posted a link to recipes that are illustrated. Not in a Cooks Illustrated kind of way, but in a very visual, fun kind of way.

I’m reminded of the conversation we had during the live recording of Inside PR at PodCamp in Toronto last month. An audience member asked if we thought podcasting was going to explode, as we once thought it would, or if it’s going to remain where it is.

My thinking on that is that, as human beings, we’re very visual. We either learn visually or by reading (which, I suppose, in a way is visual) so it’s difficult for us to not only find the time, but pay attention, to a podcast. Now these drawings prove that thinking.

Isn’t it way more fun to learn about the sessions this way than to receive someone’s notes?

For more of Len’s (doodles, as he calls them, though what I do is doodle; what he does is so much more) and for more of Ogilvy’s illustrations, check out Posterous and Mashable, respectively.

About Gini Dietrich


Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, a Chicago-based integrated marketing communications firm. She is the lead blogger here at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro. She is the co-author of Marketing in the Round and co-host of Inside PR. Her second book, Spin Sucks, is available now.

60 comments
ImageThink
ImageThink

Thank you for posting our team's graphic recording from SXSW! It was great to be sponsored by OgilvyNotes! If you are interested in learning more about graphic recording feel free to contact us or read from our website! www.imagethink.net

karensnir
karensnir

I like this a lot. It's easier to remember the things you took notes on when you have a visual aid. It makes the note-taking process fun and worth sharing with others. Notes like this could maybe even be given to anyone who attends SXSW. I'll definitely be looking for notes that use drawings.

Frank_Strong
Frank_Strong

That is pretty cool. Do you know short hand for hand notes? -- what's the short hand for visual notes? Will stick figures suffice? 'cause that's about all I can draw!

Lisa Gerber
Lisa Gerber

these sketches and the one @lesmckeown posted boggle my mind. When I was younger I wanted to be artistic more than anything. In high school our art teacher sat us down in front of paper and played a piece of music and asked us to paint it. I couldn't do it.

I am much too linear in thinking and I wonder if that is what a lot of people here (those of us that are blown away by it) have in common. I have lists with bullet points and lists next to lists. I wouldn't even know how to start a sketch like these, but I LOVE them!!

AndiFisher
AndiFisher

I have always been a huge fan of this type of note-taking and journaling, I even have one that I have carried around in my notebook for years. But as someone who can barely draw a stick figure I sadly cannot create my own! They are very powerful and quite effective in communicating.

EricaAllison
EricaAllison

LOVE these examples! I so wish I could 'doodle' like these folks. I am very much a note-taker and even when I try a new system via my laptop (i.e., evernote) I find I'm doing double duty and quite possibly writing one note in my moleskin and one on Evernote and bam, something falls through the cracks. So, I am working on merging the two, but definitely know that for something to sink in (like @Griddy said below), I have to write it down. I'm visual that way because I can usually 'see' something that I've written by hand way more than I can 'see' something on my laptop that I've typed.

I also love mind-mapping and have used that to 'map out' a blog post or two. Thanks for sharing...very cool stuff.

kategroom
kategroom

Hi Gini,

I've seen this type of note taking before, and always thought it was for the 'artistic' people. I haven't passed much beyond stick men! However, I think in pictures and already use colour and arrows, bubbles etc in notes, so am going see if I can make note taking more fun with drawings.

Griddy
Griddy

These notes are simply incredible - especially the one that @lesmckeown shared below! Wow!

I'm still one of those that takes notes and has to write things down with a pencil (yup - not pen) so it can sink in. Actually - most of the blog posts I write - I'll scribble on to a paper first aka my little black blogging book! And I doodle a lot too! But alas...my doodles/sorry looking stick figures and unidentified objects look like crap so I won't even bother compare them to these.

Okay - off to see more of Len's doodles to see if they're traceable lol ;).

Cheers Gin

Janna Polzin
Janna Polzin

Those are beautiful notes!

I take notes in this manner as well, but they are sketchier and not a pretty to look at! I've just always done it this way. Maybe because I see an idea laid out visually before the words and details come. I think I should pull out some of my kids' colored pencils and try to make my notes look as artful as these. :-)

Howie Goldfarb
Howie Goldfarb

I have Mashable blocked on my computer so sadly can't access the link. 8) But Len Kendall rocks. In fact for a long time I was sad he wouldn't follow me back on the Twitter when he is friendly with a lot of my personal posse. I think it took like a year and I remember it was a very sunny day when that following email showed up. Coincidence? Very, very smart. He isn't as talented an artist as @joeystrawn but he does wonders with visualization.

Put it simply. A picture says a 1000 words. And 1000 words say 1000 words. Which would you prefer?

TimBramer
TimBramer

I've used mind mapping for years. Got me through college with minimal extra study time. Color and images make a huge difference in learning. I've used mindjet mindmanager for years in interactive planning and client meetings. It paints a really nice picture of things for people. Way better then an outline. I still keep a notebook handy for non digital notes.

janbeery
janbeery

Holy right brain dominate! What I love about visual thinkers/learners is our ability to be such visionaries.

Katie was explaining to someone in our office how they are learning to speak "Jan." I LOVE filling a page! This is great!

ladylaff
ladylaff

As I read your post I was just finishing up a colourful little drawing of my own that mapped out a plan for a new business meeting. For all the mindmappers, I can highly recommend Mindjet's Mind Manager software (not a client, I'm just a fan).

Pictures are definitely the new black!

John Falchetto
John Falchetto

I wish I could both analyse what I heard and then draw beautiful mind maps of the lectures.

Regarding paper and pen I still use them. I have to map out on paper, I tried many mind mapping software but I feel they really kill my flow.

Thanks for these amazing work of arts Gini, you do know some very cool people.

y0mbo
y0mbo

Mike Rohde (@rohdesign) coined the term "sketchnotes" for this.

I take all of my notes like this. You can see mine (not of SXSW, though) at http://sketchnoteartist.com/

DavidRM
DavidRM

Funny. I do this. Never thought anything of it

ryanknapp
ryanknapp

Awesome resource! This is why for me, I can't get used to evernote for daily activities. While I may not be the best artist in town, my mind works visually, illustrated by my always full 5 ft whiteboard in my office at the NSCAA.

Once I pick up a pen or marker and write I am more likely to be able to recall it later.

I love the vision board idea as well!

Lori
Lori

Gini, I love this method of note taking! It's kind of like note taking and studying all rolled into one because the visuals would make it easier to remember the material.

And what @lesmckeown said - using this method to make a vision board of your goals - pretty cool idea!

Thanks for sharing this!

Lori

4thGear
4thGear

Gini,

I love the note pages. My pictures aren't nearly that nice when I draw them.

The population consists of visual, auditory and kinesthetic learners. So their preferred style is either seeing, hearing or doing. It doesn't mean that we can't lear other ways, just that we lean toward one way that we learn fastest. The visual learners will absolutely gravitate toward this kind of solution while the auditory learners will prefer the podcasts.

That's my contribution from way too many years in a career associated with adult learning.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@karensnir I've started taking notes this way. I'm not great at it (yet), but hopefully I'll get better with practice!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@Lisa Gerber Who the heck tells you to draw music?! I'd be stuck, too! I think our next meeting we should try this. I'll bring my 80s Glam Sharpies!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@AndiFisher I'm with you...though some of the sketches I'm seeing from comments I think I could do. It's less drawing and more shapes.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@EricaAllison I'm like you - I write everything down. But I've really found, with Evernote, I'm much more productive because nothing falls through the cracks. I woke up yesterday morning battling a migraine so I worked from home unexpectedly. In the past, not having my to-do list at home (because it's sitting on my desk) would have made a day full of Twitter and FB. But I was SUPER productive because I could pull up my task list on Evernote and get to work. This morning I was in a meeting so I opened Evernote on my iPad, took notes, created tasks, assigned tasks, and emailed everything to my team when we were finished. No transferring lists or losing anything. I know that's more about Evernote than this blog post, but I think you'll get used to using the tool and be less reliant on your post-it notes.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@TimBramer I get the mindmapping - I've downloaded a few apps on my iPad for it. But I'm just not good at it. Any tips?

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@John Falchetto I am going to try and analyze and draw (or at least color in bubbles of thought) and see what happens. Who knows if I can do, but why not try?!

Griddy
Griddy

@y0mbo Oh wow! These are amazing! What an incredible talent you have :)! I've come across your Corporate Blogging Tips one before - just had no clue it was you :).

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@y0mbo These are so freaking cool! I wish I'd had your sketches when I wrote the post. I totally would have included one!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@Lori AND it's so easy to share your notes with others because they totally make sense!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@4thGear Do you know how many people are visual vs auditory? And what about someone like me who learns by reading? Is that considered visual?

EricaAllison
EricaAllison

@ginidietrich Ouch, migraine! My husband gets those and they stink big time. Glad you're back in the saddle today!

You're right, it will take practice and I've even gotten my assistant on it now. Just need to put into action! Thanks for the encouragement on that end. And yes, without my notes and to-do list, I'd be camped out on FB and Twitter all day long.

Griddy
Griddy

@ginidietrich I like being able to erase when I mess up lol. Not sure though - still have these little habits - plus if it's a mechanical pencil it has to be the thicker 0.7 lead. Strange - I know!

Griddy
Griddy

@Lisa Gerber @HowieG Di you block Mashable or did they block you ;)? lol Kidding of course - have they ever replied to a comment by the way?

Griddy
Griddy

@ginidietrich @HowieG No clue what you mean. I generally have posts that are no longer than 400 words tops! muwahahaha

Howie Goldfarb
Howie Goldfarb

@Griddy @Lisa Gerber http://marketing-sensei.blogspot.com/2010/07/critical-journalism-vs-fanboy.html

That is a link to my old boring blog. I didn't know of Spin Sucks or the Nitty Griddy then so please don't be upset you are not on my blog list as you are on my current one.

I have a Sales/Finance background so I hate Spin (now you know why I love you all). Mashable has zero critical thinking. @ginidietrich and I have had some funny banter in the past and actually bonded over mashable LOL Whenever someone links on twitter an article that I click to by accident I always read then get upset then write a comment changing their name to Bashable. THOUGH every so often when I read a proper reporting job I acknowledge this. It seems they publish Press Releases a lot when I read their stuff.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] Gini Dietrich, the founder and chief executive officer of Arment Dietrich, Inc., shares a great article on the power of graphic note-taking.  Learning through Visual Note-Taking | Spin Sucks [...]

  2. [...] more comments on your blog, which sent me to this post at Gini Dietrich’s ultra cool blog, Spin Sucks, and there it was! The illustration that led me to the Mashable post with all the amazing Ogilvy [...]

  3. [...] Learning Through Visual Note Taking by Gini Dietrich [...]