The Physics of Santa, Sketchnoted

The Physics of Santa, Sketchnoted

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The Physics of Santa article has made it’s way into my inbox ever since I had an email account. With the holidays just around the corner, I thought it’d be fun to sketchnote the analysis that makes me laugh every time I read it. It still made me laugh when I doodled it.

The Physics of Santa and His Reindeer

Sketchnotes: The Physics of Santa and His Reindeer

Sketchnotes Collection, Patrick Ashamalla

Sketchnotes and Visual Note-Taking

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I have been sketchnoting for over a decade. It’s something that I’d do for my own personal benefit and at first I didn’t think of it as something that others would find interesting.

It wasn’t until a couple years ago that I even heard the term “sketchnote” and realized—with enormous enthusiasm—that it was even a thing.

Client Project UI Sketches

Client Project UI Sketches

Over the years, I began using sketchnotes in my career as well as variations of it to convey my ideas to clients and colleagues. I was surprised to see how disarming the approach could be, and found collaboration and conversation to be more productive as a result.

For me, there’s no better reason to sketchnote other than it’s just plain fun to do. In my experience, though, I’ve stumbled on plenty of other upsides for trading out traditional note-taking for this more visual approach.

Visual Thinking, Active Listening, Better Retention

Sketchnoting a presentation isn’t a linear process. Your notes—which will consist of a mix of lettering, words and images—will fill the page with a spatial quality. This makes it easier to create relationships between the ideas you capture.

Sketchnotes, Screw Business as Usual

My Sketchnotes from TEDx Talk, “Screw Business as Usual,” by Brian Solis

Sketchnoting requires you to practice active listening in order to process information so that you can visualize it. This exercise can help you remember the ideas that went along with your notes for longer periods of time and with greater clarity than you would with a text outline.

Find Patterns in Your Notes

Most presentations or conversations land on a one or two themes throughout the session. The spatial quality of your sketchnotes will help you to see those themes from the talk. The patterns that reveal themselves can also provide you with a clearer understanding of the material that could otherwise go unnoticed.

Capturing the Story Instead of Writing the Dictation

Sketchnoting isn’t about dictation. It’s about capturing the ideas being conveyed. In order to sketch a visual of what’s being said, you’ll have to hold back so that you can internalize the message first. I’ve found that, in some cases, my own takeaways have made their way into my sketchnotes.

Sketchnotes, SXSW 2013 by Patrick Ashamalla

My SXSW 2013 Sketchnotes: “The Future of Google Search in a Mobile World” with Amit Singhal and Guy Kawasaki; “A Conversation with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow”

You’ll Want to Go Back and Look at Them

I never used to go back to look at my outlined notes. Instead, they’d sit on a shelf or in a drawer somewhere collecting dust. If I had to go back and refer to them, they wouldn’t make much sense to me. I would look down at a bunch of random sentences with barely any interest or context.

Sketchnotes, SXSW 2013 by Patrick Ashamalla

My SXSW 2013 Sketchnotes: “Open Web Platform: Hopes & Fears” by Tim Berners-Lee; “Chuck Lorre in Conversation with Neil Gaiman”

Sketchnotes, on the other hand, remain interesting and become more interesting to me over time. I’ll go back to them without any specific reason. When I look through them I can play the presentation back in my head the same way I play back events that surround an old photograph. I’ll even interpret my notes differently if my experience has grown around its topic since my last look.

Anyone who sketchnotes will tell you that you don’t have to be able to draw to start sketchnoting. I think the only requirement you need is to be comfortable with imperfection and mistakes. As I mentioned in a Mashable article a couple years ago, if I wasn’t comfortable with either, I’d never put down a single line.

Here’s a quick list of some excellent resources and sites worth checking out if you’re interested in the subject or want to give sketchnoting a shot:



Extra: The book Moonwalking with Einstein, by Joshua Foer, is a great read if you’re interested in learning more about how we store memories. He also covers some of the tricks “mental atheletes” use to improve their memory for competition.


User Experience, Hard Boiled

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User Experience is more important than ever, however the discipline has become more nebulous.

People enter the field from different backgrounds and that variety, while valuable for this growing field, can confuse the uninitiated. Is it about creating wireframes? Prototypes? I thought that was what UI Designers and Developers did. Sitemaps? Weren’t sitemaps made by Information Architects? Don’t Content Strategists handle that now?
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