Sketchnoting User Focus 2011 and Mobile UXCamp DC 2011


Many of us in the DC area turned one-day events User Focus 2011 (a conference by UPA DC) and Mobile UXCamp DC 2011 (a barcamp put on by @glennette and crew) into a two-day conference.

I took advantage of the opportunity to try my hand at a two-day sketchnoting marathon. Check out what worked and didn’t for me, and then give it a try yourself!

What Worked

…for me, and what might help you out, if you want to give sketchnoting a shot.

Kit: Right now my kit is simple, no more than I can handle.

Next changes may be to have a shading pen on hand, and to eventually switch to unlined paper.

Titles: Before each talk started, I would write the presenter’s name several lines down my dotted paper. I could use the time when bios are read to get the majority of the title down, and embellish it as the talk continued.

Fancy lettering: I have many years of doodling to thank for the lettering styles I have built into my brain (or hand?). If you don’t have a history of letter-doodling, just start by varying the size of your normal handwriting. Something like what I used to write “Serious Games” might be an good first embellishment.

Page use: Each non-keynote presentation fit (relatively) neatly on one page. I think this is because I kept track of the time throughout each presentation, but there may have been some spidey-sense involved, too.

Speaker portraits: I found sketching a speaker portrait to be a fun challenge, and some folks even commented positively on one or two of them. Go for it—they can be as simple or complicated as you feel comfortable.

Imagining before drawing: When an illustration turned out to my satisfaction, it was often because I had imagined what I would put where—before I put my pen down.

Make no apologies: I’m a fan of Julia Child, and I tried to follow her advice in my sketching. There are some sketches that didn’t turn out quite how I liked, but I left them in, and posted them regardless. Bonus: I get to see sketchnoting growth, and Double Bonus: I don’t waste any time cutting and pasting in real life or Photoshop.

What I Hope to Improve

Completeness: As I expected, I would occasionally miss a point out of five, for instance. I need to improve both my “mental cache” (as mentioned in “The Basics of Visual-Notetaking“) and my writing-before-drawing technique.

Handwriting: Some of my writing isn’t legible to folks who aren’t used to it. (For instance, I smear “ing” together in this way that you might recognize if we were pen pals, but can be confusing otherwise.) I need to work on “drawing 52 shapes impecibly” (as Brandy Agerbeck says in this “Essential 8” video).

The Sketchnotes

Check out the final notes for User Focus 2011 and Mobile UXCamp DC on my Flickr account.

Next Time?

I’m not sure when I will next be sketchnoting a UX event, but I am looking forward to it. Sketchnoting is definitely addicting.

Only question is: When will you try it out?

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About Veronica Erb

Designs, researches, illustrates, and writes code. Plays ukulele. Dances Balboa. Grew up in a geodesic dome, and hasn't gotten over it.
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