• We think that an accurate drawing is the easiest to understand. It’s not always the case with sketchnotes. Being a bit more creative and thoughtful by drawing abstract sketchnote icons can bring some real benefits that make your sketchnotes more interesting for readers and more useful for yourself.

    Here are 3 reasons why you should get more creative with your next sketchnote icons.

    Easier to understand

    You often need to draw small icons and too many details make them harder to make out. Plus the most details you add, the more of your opinion you add in. That’s a real issue if you want to talk about a category like a bookshop rather than the bookshop down the road which you go to.

    Which is easier to understand and which has more character?

    Want to learn how to draw anything in just 5 days? Sign up for this free course and you’ll learn fundamental sketchnote drawing skills which you can use to draw anything.

    Adding character

    This is even more important with abstract ideas that don’t have direct correlations in the real world.

    While you can think of a “thing” that represents the concept (like a lightbulb representing an idea), sometimes it’s better to get more abstract.

    Take sustainable energy, which does a better job of expressing the idea? Which has more character?

    Remembering more by thinking deeper

    By combining multiple ideas, you also have to think more deeply about a concept. This works your brain harder which can cause deeper connections than going for the quick and easy idea.

    Try more abstract sketchnote icons next time

    So next time you come to draw an idea in your sketchnote, maybe you should go a bit more abstract sketchnote icons.

    It might make it easier to understand, add more character and help you remember more.

  • The Life We’re Looking For Sketchnote Book Summary

    What is our fundamental need? According to Andy Crouch, it’s to be recognized by God and each other. This need is so important that studies have shown when we are neglected of it, we don’t develop properly. In the Book, The Life We’re Looking For: Reclaiming Relationship in a Technological World, Andy Crouch starts by laying out this need before addressing how we’re failing to fulfil it and how we might address it in the future.

    As someone who loved The Tech Wise Family by Andy and who has become increasingly technologically wary, I was excited to read Andy’s book. It was both more than I expected, and very different than what I had expected.

    Important note: Andy is writing from a Christian perspective and this is one I hold. His worldview influences his writing heavily.

    The Life We’re Looking For Sketchnote

    A sketchnote summary of the book The Life We're Looking For by Andy Crouch.

    The main point

    Andy’s main point is that we’re increasingly trading real relationships, with each other and God, for the “magic” of technology. This isn’t completely new but recent changes in the world from the industrial, financial and telecommunication revolutions have made this view dominant in society.

    Andy contends that to be truly satisfied, we need to promote a society where we are fully human and in true relationships with God and each other. This means we need to engage our

    • Hearts
    • souls
    • minds
    • strengths

    and recognize each other as being of immense worth, no matter of our differences.

    The search for true relationships and a lesson from Gaius’s Table

    To give an example of true relationship, Andy highlights the community in the background of Paul’s letter to the Romans.

    This group of slaves and free people, men and women, Jews and gentiles met in the house of Giaus, a wealthy roman head of household. Here, although they were treated very differently by society, they were all equal.

    One of the shocking details Andy picks up on is that the person who writes Paul’s letter, Tertius, has a slave name for “3rd”.

    By society he was viewed of so little importance that he was merely denoted by the order of his birth. And yet Paul invited him to add his name to the letter, showing him of as equal importance as Giaus.

    This kind of relationships, where we see and value even the people neglected by society, is what Andy argues for.

    Devices vs instruments

    A core point Andy distinguishes is between devices and instruments. Andy defines them as

    A device is something with makes an activity so easy, that humans are no longer really required. An example is how a roomba can tidy up the house with no human effort.

    This seams like it’s an unqualified good; we no longer have to do a boring, time consuming or difficult task. However, there are usually unforeseen consequences of devices.

    We usually adapt for our devices.

    Using the Roomba examples, we might design our homes so they are more suitable for our robot friends to clean. Or the unlimited access we now have with the internet can lead to us watching endless entertainment rather than engaging deeply with what we watch.

    Instruments, on the other hand, still augment our skills or abilities but require skill (and usually focus) to use. The main example Andy gives is a bike which allows a person to travel further than by foot, but still engages the senses and requires strength. Going for a bike ride might leave you tired, but often it comes with a sense of achievement. Compare that to the experience of a long-haul flight; you can travel further than ever possible in a short time, but you sit passively the whole time.

    Does it give more than it takes?

    A key question to our evaluation of the tools around us is if they give more than they take.

    An instrument will allow us to do new things without imposing new requirements or constraints upon the user. A great instrument also empowers us to more fully use our hearts, souls, minds and strength and deepen relationships.

    In contrast, a device will impose more limits than benefits and reduce us as

    Impact vs influence

    Personal note: Using “impact” as a verb is one of my pet peeves and has been for a while. So I was delighted to see Andy has similar issues with it.

    He points out how recent this usage of the word is, and how there are many other options including influence. I’d go further and say that every other near synonym is more expressive than impact. Andy does, however, point out why impact has become a popular verb: it reflect quick, significant change.

    In our current society, the goal of “moving fast and break things” is lauded. Caution is a negative and so any negative side effects are seen as costs of innovation.

    But impact is short lived, and so another impact is required. And then another and another. All the while the shockwaves of these impacts can be causing colossal damage. Just look at the data around self-esteem and use of Instagram all the while the owners try to make it more addictive.

    The alternative is influence, which looks at long-term change and compounding effects. It’s not about making massive changes now, but about deliberate movement towards a goal.

    Influence isn’t as popular as it can often be missed in the moment. Contrast that with impact and it’s easy to see results. But in the long run, impact leads to burnout and influence leads to growth.

    Charmed vs blessed

    A final key difference is between charmed and blessed.

    Andy highlights how many of the examples we might tag on social media as #blessed are really examples of living a charmed existance.

    A charmed existence is one free of worry, pain and work.

    It’s the all inclusive holiday in the sun where we don’t lift a finger and all our needs are catered for. Sounds wonderful doesn’t it, but there are negatives.

    Charm is costly. It’s not just money, it can be costly in terms of personhood. To keep a charmed lifestyle for some, others have to live in servitude. Yes, tourism can help raise economic standards in some places (while making them dependent) but it isn’t always equal and costs still need to stay low to keep that servitude possible.

    Furthermore, the relationship between the charmed person and the server isn’t one of equals. It’s one of subjugation via economics.

    The contrast is a blessed existance, one which is rich in love but is costly too.

    Andy draws examples of Biblical figures such as Abraham, Jacob and Jospeh who are blessed but after suffering or through suffering. He even draws on his own story of his friend dying of cancer and how although it was immensely painful, it was also a blessing to be able to be so close with him.


    Andy isn’t against technology; he even owns a Roomba (something I surely would have thought to be a device he’d be cautious of). So this book isn’t a doom and gloom or quick easy practical tip book.

    At first I felt slightly disappointed by this fact. After all, I want help and guidance to help avoid the negatives of technology and devices. But I realised that this actually helps prove the point of the book.

    The real challenge isn’t just reducing our technology dependency, but replacing it with pursuing true relationships. That’s not something with easy prescriptions for every situation, instead it’s something we all need to workout on our own, for our contexts.

    Plus there are plenty of blogs and books on how to reduce our technological dependence.

    Grab your own copy of The Life We’re Looking For: Reclaiming Relationship in a Technological World

    If this review has whet your appetite, then you should pick up your own copy of Andy’s book to go into greater depth. And if you’d like some practical tips as a parent, I’d recommend his book The Tech Wise Family

  • The Mom Test Book Summary and Sketchnote

    What’s the best way to validate a product or service idea? According to author Rob Fitzpatrick it’s the exact opposite of what most of us do. Here’s a quick summary of his book The Mom Test (including a sketchnote) to show you what we do wrong and the right way to act instead.

    Table of Contents

      The Mom Test Sketchnote summary

      What is the mom test?

      The mom test is the worst thing you can do to validate an idea, and yet it is what most of us do.

      It’s when you ask someone you know if they like our idea. It’s called the mom test because it’s like when a mom evaluates their kid’s drawings. They like it because of their relationship with the child and so don’t give it fair evaluation or feedback.

      When you rely on the mom test, you fail to properly validate your ideas but get positive feedback. This leads to bad decisions.

      What to do instead of the mom test?

      Instead of asking if someone like your idea, you should either

      1. seek to understand their problems, situation and current solutions
      2. ask them to buy your product or service.

      The first helps you get evidence on what the person actually does and needs not what they think they might like. The second proves if they think the idea has value to it and that they would be willing to pay.

      How to properly validate an idea

      Rather than start with your idea, start by finding out what they are currently doing to solve their problems. You should ask questions to make sure this is a real problem and one that is causing them issues.

      While they are answering, look for specific past occasions they have tried to solve their problem instead of generic ideas or opinions about what they’d like. If they can give an example of how they have tried to solve that problem, it proves it is a significant problem. If they haven’t tried to solve it, they don’t care enough.

      An anti-marketing approach to sharing your idea

      In marketing, you want to share your idea in the best possible light in an attempt to convince someone to buy. When validating an idea, you want to present it as plainly as possible.

      State exactly the idea, how it is different, how it works and what it does. Don’t talk about the pain points or how it can help overcome problems with other solutions, be as to the point as possible.

      If someone still has a positive reaction to your idea, then you know it’s a good idea. If they have problems or questions about it, don’t be upset.

      The value of bad news

      Bad news is better than good news.

      If you find out there is a similar competitor or another solution which solves the problem better than you could, you have saved yourself from wasting your time.

      If someone finds a fault in your product or service, you can now address it. Problems aren’t the end of the discussion.

      How to respond to feature requests

      Everyone and their dog knows what’s missing from your product or service.

      But they’re mostly wrong. Especially when they talk about features.

      Your goals is to find out the underlying problem they are trying to address and then work out the best way to address it. This is tightly connected to one of the mom test golden rules.

      You cannot tell the customer what their problem is or isn’t, and in return they can’t tell you how to solve it.

      If someone tells you they have an issue, accept that feedback. They do have an issue.

      Other people might not have the same issue but their problem is real.

      But you don’t have to accept their solution.

      Get your own copy of the mom test

      If this summary and review of the mom test by Rob Fitzpatrick has whet your appetite, you can get your own copy of the book to explore the ideas more.

    1. 7 Habits of Highly Effective Sketchnoters

      Yes, I stole the 7 lessons from Stephen Covey’s classic book and applied them to sketchnoting. They don’t fit neatly in some cases, but it’s a bit of fun and a creative exercise.


      1. Be proactive

      Don’t try to think of how to sketch in the moment.

      Build a bank of ideas (a visual library) which you can draw upon (pun intended) when you need them.

      If you know a topic, learn the key concepts and practice them.

      2. Begin with the end in mind

      Before you start your sketchnote, listen for clues to the structure.

      If you know this talk has 3 main points, you can plan a layout with 3 sections.

      If you know it will be a 1hr talk, don’t take up 90% of your space in the first 10 minutes.

      3. Put first things first

      You don’t have to get every detail down in the moment.

      Capture the main point or a reminder and you can add details later.

      4. Think win/win

      Highly effective sketchnoters are community members.

      They know there are plenty of great ideas and job opportunities. We can all share and help each other without harming ourselves.

      5. Seek first to understand then to be understood

      Sketchnoting is more about understanding than art skills.

      Make sure you’ve understood the speaker before putting pen to paper.

      And focus on clear, easy to understand images.

      6. Synergies

      A synergy is the combination of two things to create something greater than the sum of its parts.

      This can happen when we combine both text and words as elements in sketchnotes.

      We gain clear words that evoke stronger feelings.

      7. Sharpen the saw

      The best sketchnoters are constantly developing, growing and learning.

      The goal isn’t to be perfect, but to be always learning.

      • Try different styles,
      • Set limits,
      • Use new tools

      But above all, have fun.

      Recap – 7 habits of highly effective sketchnoters

      1. Be proactive
      2. Begin with the end in mind
      3. Put first things first
      4. Think win/win
      5. Seek first to understand then to be understood
      6. Synergies
      7. Sharpen the saw

      Which did you find the most interesting? 

    2. There are a few moments in history when everyone can remember where they were.

      • The first moon landing
      • The Fall of the Berlin wall
      • The attack on the twin towers

      But your memory of these events may be less reliable than you think due to a cognitive bias.

      Introducing the misinformation effect

      The misinformation effect is when our memory is changed by what we hear and see after an event.

      E.g. a witness to a crime who remembers seeing something they couldn’t see.

      They remember it because they heard or saw something after the event

      Two groups watch a video of a car accident and were asked either:

      1. How fast were the cars going when they hit each other?
      2. How fast were the cars going when they smashed into each other?

      The 2nd group falsely remembered broken glass when asked a week [Loftus EF 1975].

      Misinformation isn’t always propaganda

      This isn’t always malicious.

      We might see video footage after an event from a different angle which then implants new information in our minds.

      Our memories then incorporate this information.

      But it can be abused by unsavoury actors.

      How propagandists use the Misinformation effect

      Propaganda can change our recollections of event we witnessed.

      The longer since the events and the more times a falsehood is told, the more likely we are to remember a false narrative.

      So how can we avoid the misinformation effect?

      A simple action to help limit the misinformation effect

      Recording your own recollection of an event as soon as possible provides a record of your immediate memories.

      You can use this to evaluate your later recollection and notice how it changes.

      But that’s not foolproof.

      When writing, you may add false data.

      Correction of false information can help to overwrite the implanted idea.

      This only works when the correct information is shared more often than the misinformation.

      This also does nothing for restoring your original memory.


      Our recollections of events can be easily shaped by later information.

      It’s worse the more time passes and the more false information is shared.

      Journaling can limit these effects.

    3. Anchoring is a well-known trick marketers use to convince people to buy. 
      But we can use it on ourselves to make better decisions. Here’s how. 

      What is anchoring?

      Anchoring is a cognitive bias where our perceptions change based on what we see something compared to — the anchor point.

      Marketers often anchor prices e.g.

      • $10 book or $99 course (expensive)
      • $1000 workshop or $99 online course (bargain!)

      So how can we use it?

      Create your own anchors to combat marketers

      Whenever you see an item with an anchor, write down alternative options to create new anchors. Why?

      Writing forces us to slow down and really consider the points. It puts a blocker on those impulsive thoughts and activates our slower thinking systems.

      Plus by adding a new anchor you can pull yourself in another direction.

      So now instead of the limited options the marketers wants to present you with, you have a whole new set.

      Make better decision by anchoring your options.

      So next time you see an offer compared with one other option, stop.

      Write down alternative options at different price points, ease of access, time required, etc. Then consider what you could do with the time, money, or hassle you’d save taking another option.

      Maybe the time that more expensive option would save you is of great benefit for you, but maybe you could use the money you’d say for another purchase that would benefit you even more.