DrawingIllustrationNeurologyUncategorizedVisual Art


I started grad school last month, and one of the instructors for my first class is a trained graphic recorder. The World Cafe explains graphic recording (also known as graphic facilitation or sketchnoting) as “capturing people’s ideas and expressions—in words, images and color—as they are being spoken in the moment.” Think of those cool RSA Animate videos, only done in real time (and here are some beautiful examples from Perrin Ireland). The goals of graphic recording are to capture the essence of the ideas and concepts being shared and visually represent those essences in a way that allows people to see patterns and connections. It gives the people present at a meeting, talk, etc an opportunity to engage with the content in a different way.

Our instructor demonstrated this skill during one of our class discussions, and we were encouraged to try it ourselves when taking notes during lectures. I scoffed at this–I am not a visual artist and my drawing skills are extremely limited. No way this that would be comfortable or useful for me.

So how did my notes end up looking like this?

These notes may not mean much to someone who wasn’t in the class, but I can look back at them and quickly remember the pieces of information that made a strong impression on me, more so than if I were to glance back at a page full of written notes.  Obviously there are some limits to this notetaking style (beyond just my poor drawing ability), but I ended up working a few drawing into my notes for all of my classes last month, even the ones that don’t seem to lend themselves well to it, like Accounting.


I am pleased to welcome the talented Katy Chalmers back to the Lab. She has been practicing sketchnoting since January at different talks and events (many science-related), and is going to start a regular series where she posts her sketches here for you all to enjoy and learn from.  I hope you’re looking forward to it as much as I am!


Featured image from http://smallntender.blogspot.com

Anne S

Anne Sauer is an atheist with an appetite for science, good food, and making connections between the two. She is currently pursuing her MBA in Sustainable Management at Presidio Graduate School in San Francisco. Her favorite foods are salted caramel ice cream and chicken tikka masala. You can find her on twitter @aynsavoy.

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  1. I can come back to something I’ve written, years later, and remember nothing about it, but I have six years of field sketchbooks in which I can turn to just about any page and remember where I was, what I saw, and what the weather was like that day. There seems to be something about recording something visually that makes the process of recalling things easier, or more vivid.

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