A sketch-note journey for Doctors Without Borders
What the heck's a sketch-note?
Sketch-noting is pretty much doodling. It's a style of taking notes using cartoons, colors, visuals, words, arrows, speech bubbles... pretty much whatever you want, to jot down information visually.
I've been sketch-noting since the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology Annual Meeting back in 2015, when I broke out my dollar-store set of watercolors to imitate the beautiful nudibranch tweets of coral researcher Shayle Matsuda, on Twitter as @wrong_whale.
For me, sketch-noting has been my go-to trick at conferences to keep from zoning out. You know those long periods of a researcher's talk where you have no idea what's going on? The long list of acknolwedgements, or the details molecular methods? If I'm not keeping my mind busy, it takes off to a faraway land, and I don't even notice I've space out until the talk's over, ten minutes later, and I missed the whole punchline.
So, I paint notes the whole time. It works like a charm. When my brain isn't interested in the presentation, I take a minute to color in my last minute's cartoons and keep one ear open, ready to start listening again when the talk returns to something interesting.
Once I started posting my sketch-notes on social media, they picked up interest. Since then, I've gotten a few paid sketch-note gigs!
Here's the process behind my most recent work. It's a sketch of the Environmental Impact Toolkit for Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders), commissioned viaTwitter by the wonderful Carol Devine.
|Brainstorming notes from my first read-through of the documents on which the sketch was based.
|The concept sketch, based on three written documents.
|The final sketch, after many back-and-forth discussions with the client, before I color.
|The colorful final sketch. I draw and write with black pen and color with cheap watercolors.
|One of endless possible edited versions. You can get any number of effects by altering the contrast and color saturation using a simple tool like Instagram.
There you have it, folks. Try it at home, it's fun! If you'd like to see more examples of my sketch-noting, check out my Instagram. And if you're interested in commissioning a sketch, send me a note — sketched or otherwise.