What Makes a Good Sketchnote?

Do you ever look with envy at those insanely beautiful sketchnotes online? Do you wish you could make as good sketchnote as them?

If you’re like me, then you weren’t the best artist at school then you may well feel frustrated at not being able to create as beautiful sketchnotes as other people’s. But as Mike Rhode often says, Sketchnotes are about Ideas not art. With that in mind, here are 7 criteria that make for a good sketchnote.

1. Focusing on the key points

If there’s one thing that helps sketchnotes, it’s to stop attempting to get everything down, and focusing on the key points instead.

It’s build into the nature of sketchnoting as it’s impossible to write every word and draw a picture for everypart. Instead you have to analyze and make decisions over what parts are the most important.

2. Clear structure

Having good structure makes a sketchnote much easier to follow and understand. There are various structures that Mike Rhode suggests in the Sketchnote Handbook and Sketchnote Workbook inlcuding

  • Linear (Book like)
  • Radial (mindmap)
  • Vertical (top to bottom)
  • Path (a journey)
  • Modular (broken up sections)
  • Skyscraper (column like)
  • Popcorn (ideas here, there, everywhere)

I started by simply flowing from top to bottom of a page, but adding a couple of other structures really took my sketchnoting to the next level. This better layout and organization made the Ideas in my sketch notes easier to follow.

4. Using Color, shape and lines to help focus attention

These three elements are great for directing your, and any other reader’s, attention. You can use one at a time or all three in combination.

There can, however, be issues when they are used erratically or with little thought. If you are using multiple colors and use a color twice then it suggests that there’s a connection between those items.

5. Legible

It’s okay to use text in sketchnotes, but illegible text can make that text pointless. In the heat of a moment, it can be difficult to write clearly, but successfully delivering information is the key factor in good sketchnotes.

Focus on getting the key information, or getting enough information so you can fill in the rest later.

6. Personality

Really good sketchnotes show your personality. They have the quirks of your style and preferences. Rather than just using a generic icon to represent an idea, they use something different which still clearly represents the idea.

7. Art Afterward

You don’t have to have good art in your sketchnote, but you can add it later. A great trick is to simply leave space for more complex ideas later. Or do the rough outline and then come back and add more details later.

Art should follow though as a great painting isn’t a good sketchnote. It is great, but not as a sketchnote. A great sketchnote preserves information in a meaningful way for you on paper, and in your head.

Have I missed anything?

Is there anything else that makes a great sketchnote? Maybe you disagree with me. Leave a comment with your idea below?

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