Top tips for sketchnoting

Top tips for sketchnoting

So you’ve seen some sketchnoting online, bought a book on it or just thought to yourself, ‘How cool. I wish I could do that’.

I’m here to say ‘Of course you can do that!’ and here’s how…

With sketchnoting you listen, think and draw in real time. It may seem overwhelming but if you think about it most of us listen, think and write at the same time when we’re on the phone for example, or tuning in to a webinar, so sketchnoting is simply mixing up some of those words with images along the way.

Step 1: Choose your source material – will you listen in to a TED talk? Take sketchnotes at your next meeting? Create a visual map of the phone conversation you’re about to have with your colleague?

Step 2. Decide on a layout. This will help to add structure and flow to your final piece. Here are a couple to choose from:


Step 3. Decide on your colour palette. What colour will your lettering be? And your icons? What about highlighting?Sketchnoting is cool

Step 4: As someone once said to me, ‘Emer: Just decide and do’. The fourth step is the most crucial and the one where are most likely to slip up. Prep is great. I’m all for spending time on prep. That time is wasted however if we don’t just get on and do what we intended to. Make a committment to yourself and your learning.

Step 5: Reflect. What worked? What didn’t? What have you learned? and finally….

Step HeckYoureAmazing: Congratulate yourself for a job well done. Regardless of the output, you did it, and that puts you in the top 2% of people who take action from their learning.


P.S. Itching to practice your drawing in a supportive environment? Excited about carving out time for YOU to ignite creativity. Join me for the next open course and book now for Secrets of Simple Graphics April 24th 2020. Places are going fast!

Sketchnote: 5 Ways to Be More Creative at Work

Sketchnote: 5 Ways to Be More Creative at Work

Do ever feel that you’re going through the motions at work? That at times it feels like you spend most of your day fire fighting with little to show at the end of it?

One way to gently dislodge yourself from this mode of working to consider the ways you can inject creativity into the workplace. Small changes can make a big difference.

Here are some of my favourites:

5 ways to be more creative at work


1. Take ownership of your creativity.
I often go into workplaces where people make comments like, ‘I’d love to be more creative but it’s just really corporate and stuffy here. The culture in this place isn’t set up for it.’
Your experience of creativity starts with you! Be brave, get involved and challenge the status quo. The power is in your hands.

2. Seek joy in the ordinary.
You don’t need to go on a 5 day design thinking workshop to be creative. In my experience joy and creativity are closely aligned. What small things in your working day bring a sense of joy?

3. Adopt a flexible approach.
Rigidity is the enemy of creativity. Always needing to do things in a certain way is a sign that you may be suffocating your creative spark.

4. Feed your creativity every day.
Creativity isn’t art or drawing or fancy wallpaper. It may be, but it also may be cooking and sock wearing and fresh air and a new game of cards. What does creativity mean to you? Seek it out on a daily basis.

5. Celebrate individuality.
Celebrating difference and how that feeds collective thinking honours the creativity in us all.

I hope you enjoyed today’s newsletter. I’m always exploring new ideas so if there’s anything you’d like to see featured do let me know.

All the best for the rest of the week,

P.S. I am now on Instagram. (I know. So modern.) Do pop over and say hello:

How to use visual thinking at work

Today I thought I’d share with you some of the many ways my clients are using visual thinking at work.

I’ve had people say all sorts of things to me about visual thinking and its applications. From ‘I can see how L&D might use this but not anyone else in the business’ to ‘Isn’t this just for deaf people?’ I’ve heard it all.

One of the brilliant things about visual thinking is that it can be used in so many different settings. Today we’re looking at some of the not-so-common applications in business settings:

– Discussing team cooperation problems in our teams with our managers
– Highlighting skills and future objectives in a career development discussion
– Developing posters and storyboards for product launches and stakeholder identification
– Creating visuals on our team board from our key points in a retrospective (so easy to forget action points when they’re just things we need to be mindful of and we’re just emailing them around)
– Series of visuals as suggestions to a mental health group
– Note taking, spicing up minutes, planning stories

Visual Thinking at Work


Here’s what self confessed former sceptic Sandeep has to say: ‘I have been a Business Analyst for 20 years and in that period, I have attended many training courses including those having formal process diagrams and what not, which most times confuse rather than convince people. And then you come across this – Visual Thinking for Business – which is simple and easy to understand. It is the best thing I have come across in my work in 20 years.’ Sandeep Jayan, Senior Business Analyst, Baillie Gifford.

Visual Thinking is not about impressing your colleagues with fun drawings. It’s so much deeper than that. At its heart it’s about problem solving, generating ideas and sparking creativity.

Ready to learn more? Book in for a Visual Thinking for Business call with me and we’ll explore whether this is a good fit for you and your colleagues. Book a call here >>

Have a top week meanwhile,

Case Study: Emily Bryson, ELT Materials Developer and Lecturer

This week we’re speaking with Emily Bryson, Self-Employed ELT Materials Developer and Lecturer at City of Glasgow College, who has attended Secrets of Simple Graphics.

What motivated you to attend the training in the first place? What problems were you experiencing that you hoped the training would address?
Emer came to the college to deliver a short training session last year.  I was instantly hooked and wanted to learn more.  I teach English to non-native speakers, so I knew that the ability to illustrate language points and vocabulary quickly and visually would be really helpful.

I also deliver teacher training sessions and write educational materials.  I knew that using graphics would help these stand out from the crowd and be memorable and captivating. 

How are you using what you’ve learned?
I now use what I’ve learned in many ways.  In class, I illustrate vocabulary by quickly drawing a simple graphic on the whiteboard and I support my students to take sketch notes.

One of my main reasons for doing the course was to jazz up my presentations.   I’ve now updated my teacher training slides, taking out the stock photos and replacing them with much more interesting and relevant hand drawn graphics. 
At the last ESOL conference at the college, I drew some icons to create a space for people to leave their feedback in an interactive way. This went down really well.

It’s also been helpful in my writing work.  I can now confidently illustrate any artwork briefs with a quick sketch and when I sent my latest book off to the publisher, I included a couple of sketches to demonstrate an activity.  

What kind of results are you getting? What kind of feedback are you getting?

My publisher really appreciated the sketches I made for my latest book, 50 ways to Teach Life Skills.  It helped them to visualise exactly what should be included.  In the end we actually we decided to include my illustrations because they are authentic and simple for teachers to copy.

The slides I created using simple graphics went down really well at a recent conference.  I think the participants noticed that they were by no means perfect, but that they got the point across.  I got the feeling that this reassured them and that they’d try to recreate similar images by themselves in their classrooms.

What would you say has been the overall impact of using visual thinking/simple graphics in your work?
I think it has given me the confidence to communicate in a different way, and it’s inspired others to do the same.

What would you say to someone who is considering going on the training?
Book it! Asap! It will change your life.

Anything else you’d like to add?
Emer is a very enthusiastic and supportive trainer.  Her training session was one of the best I’ve ever been on.  She gave us all lots of time to practise and the post-training online support was invaluable and very motivating.

Emily Bryson is an ELT materials writer, teacher trainer and ESOL Lecturer. She has written digital and print materials for a number of publishers including Macmillan Education, The British Council and Language Fuel.  She has been teaching ESOL at City of Glasgow College since 2007.  Her first book, the A-Z of ESOL, is out now and her second book 50 Ways to Teach Life Skills: Tips for ESL/EFL Teachers is coming soon from Wayzgoose Press. All artwork in this blog post has been created by Emily.

Feel inspired by Emily’s experience? Book now for Secrets of Simple Graphics, September 27th.

Dave’s story – the final instalment!

Dave’s story – the final instalment!

It’s time for the fifth and final instalment of Dave Fardoe’s story on how he used simple graphics to deal with his feelings and chart his story following a sudden change in life circumstances.

Missed the previous instalments? You can read them here:
Article 1 Out of The Blue
Article 2 What the hell just happened?
Article 3 Learning to Walk Again
Article 5 Good Days Bad Days

Following on from the last time…

…Accept these bad days, they happen – but move on…

I’m now just under six months on and feeling pretty good – I marked five months by climbing on a plane and spending a week in the Caribbean. I went swimming, a bit, but I’m not yet ready to pick up my scuba gear and explore wrecks and reefs, which was my passion before, yet I will be, and I’m looking forward to that.  Taking on an eight hour flight I admit, I was nervous, yet I got advice and it was fine. I never drank much, although a couple of rum punches may have passed my lips during that week away – take it slow and it will all work out fine.  Life is about living and not hiding away in fear, so the fifth cartoon needed to capture that. And more, without the support of so many professionals, the brilliant NHS, my family and so many friends, it would have been so much harder. The cartoons and the drawing of course have been so important to me, putting perspective to the thing and charting the journey. Has it been therapeutic, I’d say so, and how – they have helped me express how things feel, and to show the people around me in ways they can relate to, when for me to find the right words would have been so hard.  The title of the last cartoon – simply  “Future Days”

To everyone involved, thank you.

And a big thank you to you Dave for sharing your story and fantastic drawings with us. May your Future Days be bright!

Does Dave’s story resonate with you? Are you inspired by the use of simple graphics as a form of therapy? Please send feedback and comments to Dave at

And if you have a story you’d like to share about how you use simple graphics I’d love to hear it. Please get in touch.