my first sketchnotes

Guys, this is a super nerdy thing to admit, but years ago when I started going to professional conferences for the first time, I discovered something AH-mazing: SKETCHNOTES. Now, at the time I didn’t know they were called sketchnotes, but I remember seeing something that looked like this awesomeness at a conference I attended -


And it freaking. blew. my. mind. (These are by Craighton Burton via Core 77.)

I don’ t know what exactly it was about this style, but I think the combination of text and small images, of communicating information in an interesting way, the challenge of having some sort of sixth sense to anticipate from a speaker how much space you might need for a given section or thought – it just seemed like the most amazing and challenging thing. And I became increasingly intrigued with this notion of sketchnotes, never believing I could actually create something like that.

Now I don’t want to sound like a broken record, but I’m convinced that this 30-day hand-lettering project I’m currently undergoing on Instagram has been a total game changer when it comes to what I think I can and can’t do with my artistic skills. (Wait… did I mention I’m doing 30 days of hand-lettering on Instagram? Follow me @ckelso or the tag #ckelso30 to check it out.) I admit I’ve tried my hand at fancy lettering and little section breaks in my notes before, but NEVER have I tried something as ambitious as to include illustrations in my notes as I take them. Truth be told, I’m actually pretty terrible at drawing from my imagination. I’m much more comfortable from sight.

But as Jason and I were sitting at the Florida Theatre yesterday morning for ConvergeFL, I realized that the only thing I had to take notes with was my sketchbook. So maybe it was that, or the fact I had already had a Starbucks DoubleShot before 9am (Yeah… I came to party) or maybe it was just that I’m finally gaining enough confidence to try these things I’ve always wanted to do, but I thought I’d give it a go. And surprisingly, I’m pretty proud of what came out of it.

FL1_blog FL3_blog FL2_blog

I admit, they’re not quite as colorful and awesome as my sketchnote idols, but it’s a start. (I actually had to stop after three speakers because it was so mentally taxing to listen and think and draw and not let my overwhelming self-doubt take over the whole time. I give a lot of credit to artists that do that for entire conferences.)

But yeah, that’s what I wanted to share with you guys. I crossed off a BIG & NERDY item on my bucket list yesterday.

Hope you’re all having a good week, and I’ll be here next week to share some lessons from my 30-day adventure in hand-lettering PLUS I have a super exciting project on the horizon and you guys are going to be the first to know.

Thanks for reading & happy Friday!


  • Ryan Karleskint

    Wow, I was at this conference, and these are going to be very helpful! Thank you very much for sharing with the world, I love the visual cues. Instead of just reading well structured normal bullet listed notes, all of these sketches and funny/cool phrases they and you used take me back to the presentation instead, which for me is super helpful! Again thank you, keep up the great work!