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Sketch noting illustrations by visual artist and illustrator Mayra Ruiz-McPherson, MA, MFA

Sketch Noting Illustrations Inspired by Academic Orientation Sessions

Unlike text-only note-taking, sketch notes are a form of visual note-taking that brings information to life using a combination of loose doodles, casual sketches, illustrations, and hand-lettering accents.

The latter elements, coupled with good use of layout, offer content a graphical context that visually reinforces concepts, ideas, and commentary.

(Sidenote: In my case, however, I’m not sure my “sketch notes” actually qualify as sketch notes? After researching more about sketch noting for this post, I think my notes may perhaps fall more under the category of “illustrated notes” rather than sketch notes ?? Regardless, for the purposes of this post, I decided to stick with the sketch note term.)

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Real-time sketch noting

When taking sketch notes in real-time, doodles, hand letterings, and other inspired drawings don’t always come out perfectly. Still, the end result (including uneven marks, ink blotches, and other natural imperfections) is quite pleasing and makes the material fun to read and easier to memorize.

And that's the case with the sketch notes I've shared in this post, which I recently doodled while attending an academic orientation for my doctoral degree.

As members of the faculty spoke (over multiple Zoom sessions), I busily doodled away, often jotting down what I felt were important nuggets of information using squiggles, words, and images to:

  • organize my thoughts;
  • and visually journalize the orientation experience from start to finish.

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Visual sketch note spread illustrated by visual artist Mayra Ruiz-McPherson, MA, MFA

Sketch noting: materials and my process

To achieve this series of sketch notes, I used the following supplies:

  • a navy blue felt tip pen;
  • an aqua blue marker;
  • and a regular, No. 2 pencil to sometimes lightly sketch out a visual idea or lettering layout before committing to it with pen or marker.

After committing, I’d:

  • ink over my pencil marks;
  • and use an eraser to remove all traces of pencil thereafter.

Upon completion, I:

  • imported drawings into Photoshop for light clean up;
  • and for this blog post specifically, I desaturated all my illustrations to render them here in black and white.

flower stamped icon by MRM Illustration

I hope you’ve enjoyed my illustrated notes.

I don’t often get a chance to do much sketch noting and would like to doodle many more of my notes in the future.

Overall, this visual notes taking experience has been really enjoyable.

The ideas I was able to visually journal during the orientation have become easier for me to retain as a result, and the final aesthetic outcomes shared here have been super fun to consume and share with others.

If you have any sketch notes to share, I'd love to see them. Please do share any links to your sketch notes in the comments.

Thanks for reading!

Mayra Ruiz-McPherson

flower stamped icon by MRM Illustration

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