A few months ago, I was flattered when someone tweeted the following picture, a visual representation of an article I published on Inc.
I had seen more and more of these 'visual notes' popping up (best-selling author Adam Grant has a great one on his Twitter page), but this was the first one I'd seen on my work.
Turns out the designer of the note is Rebeca Zuniga, a Digital Communications Specialist. I quickly followed Rebeca on Twitter and thanked her for sharing her unique interpretation of my article. Since following her a couple of months ago, my admiration for her work has grown, and I've found many of her notes extremely compelling. A self-described 'visual practitioner', Rebeca has currently finished about 60 notes in digital form (and many more on paper).
Because I saw extreme branding potential using this medium (plus the fact that I think the notes are really cool), I reached out to Rebeca to learn more. She was kind enough to answer a few of my questions regarding the rise of visual note taking:
1. How would you describe visual note taking? Why do you like it?
Visual note-taking is a technique of taking notes using doodles or drawings to replace words, concepts or ideas in order to create a new way to understand the content in a new language: visual language.
I'm passionate about education, design, creativity and new ways of learning. I consider myself more visual; this has been my method for self-learning.
2. How did you discover visual note taking?
My practice in visual note taking started in 1999 when I was a student in the School of Communications at university in Guatemala. I discovered that highlighting texts or writing notes in text tended to be inefficient for me when studying. After reading Mindmapping: Your Personal Guide to Exploring Creativity and Problem-Solving by Joyce Wycoff, I had an epiphany. I found that through drawing, the use of color, and using this mindmapping methodology I was able to learn better-and not only for tests. Every time I looked at my mind maps I could refresh my memory with the content I had drawn.
I was a computer instructor at that time, so I kept practicing and taught my students the method, too. In my tests, children had to make mind maps of knowledge instead of answering questions. This practice was quite fun and less stressful for them; they knew that they would be assessed on what they learned and not by what the book said.
After someone gifted me an iPad in 2011, I found that I could draw visual notes using apps like Sketchbook Pro and Brushes. Since then I've been improving my sketches and sharing them on the web.
3. How have others responded to your notes?
The first visual note that really told me that it was a great idea to go digital was in 2012, while I was taking the Crash Course on Creativity MOOC with Tina Seelig from Stanford University. Tina asked us to watch her TEDx talk and draw a diagram, so I did the visual note. She liked it so much that she posted it as the cover photo for the Facebook Page.
After that, I've tried to draw and share every gem of knowledge I've found. I got special attention from the teachers community when I visualized articles for Edutopia.org. I've collaborated with the Prezi Blog and Teacher Toolkit teams, and also drew visual notes for TEDx talks, such as the one I organized at Universidad Francisco Marroquin in Guatemala City, as well as TEDx Beacon Street 2014 where I was part of the creative catalyst team.
4. How long does it take you to make a visual note?
It depends on the detail I put in it. The average time is among 3 - 5 hours per note. I need to read or watch the content a few times before starting to draw.
5. I noticed your notes are often retweeted and favorited. Does that happen organically? Do you do anything special that helps people find them?
Most times I draw a visual note about an article because I've found it a very good piece of content and in some way I want to reattribute that hard work to the author and publisher. I've found that most of the writers have twitter accounts, and along with the image I add their handle as a way to say "Thanks for your great work".
All of my visual notes are under a Creative Commons License, so people feel free to share, print, copy or re-make them.
Eye-catching, interest-arousing, and a tool for teaching that helps people remember your brand. What else could you ask for?