The Secret Language of Comics

Visual Note Taking

Notes on the Mechanisms for Stereospecific Alkene Additions by me (Young Lin)

This assignment introduced me to a productive way to take notes. I found that being able to connect images to concepts helped me in better understanding the content of Module 2A of my CHEM 203Z Advanced Reactivity course. For example, I sketched two Super Saiyans from Dragon Ball doing the Fusion Dance to represent two p-orbitals in-phase. Like the energy increasing between the two Super Saiyans, the electron density increases between the two p-orbitals. I also found that visual note-taking forces me to actively engage with the course material. I spent a good amount of time brainstorming what I wanted to draw for each of the concepts. Through this kind of engagement, I believe I really familiarized myself with the content that I needed to learn. I will likely start incorporating visual note-taking in my other courses.

Visual Notes Sketch

Introduction to Biology: Notes on Genes and Inheritance by Destiny Mascoll

This Sunday sketch assignment was a little difficult for me because I could not seem to make my notes make sense in visual form. I had to draw multiple drafts of my notes and change how I structured them so my notes would flow well. Even when I did this my notes still had gaps in the information needed to fully explain the topic. I have never thought about drawing out my notes since I thought it would take a lot of time and make it more difficult to understand the concepts. Even though visual notes are not my preferred form of note taking, doing these notes still allowed me to think deeply about the topics and information I was presented with.

While I was making my notes it was very difficult to translate big concepts into smaller pictures because they had so many little parts that all contributed to the overall understanding. To tackle these big concepts I broke them up into smaller pieces that I could explain with my image and then at the end group the images together under a specific concept. I think this thought process of breaking up large complex topics into smaller more manageable parts is necessary to fully understand difficult topics in a range of subjects.

Sketch 3: Sociology Visualized

I was very excited to do this week’s sketch since visual note-taking is something I already do on a regular basis. Whenever I have enough time to rewrite notes, I try to rewrite them in a simple but effective way. I really enjoyed creating these notes for my Intro to General Sociology class. Now, I feel more inspired to rework more of my notes from now on. This was also my first time taking handwritten notes digitally on GoodNotes. It was surprisingly easier than I originally thought it would be and I feel encouraged to continue using the medium. I especially enjoyed having the ability to mix my handwriting and drawing with typed titles in cool fonts.

For these notes in specific, the visual concepts I incorporated onto the page has helped me make a mental image for the research process and different types of sociological research. Some of the research methods are new concepts but with the image now attached with them, I have a connected image I can refer back to. One thing that is important to remember from this lecture are the steps of the research process. With the flowchart I used, I remember the exact order of the steps. At the start of this sketch, my lecture notes were pretty boring and unlikely to be reviewed, but now these visually appealing notes are worth rereading.


Pro Caelio Mapped Out

When I first read the prompt for this week’s Sunday sketch, I immediately knew that I wanted to use notes from my Roman literature class. The reason being we read Cicero’s Pro Caelio, which in a self-contained perspective is pretty simple defense speech. However, in class, our professor showed us that there were several outside motivating factors. I found the speech to be so layered after class that my fully written notes were a little confusing. To help myself, I decided to show these outside factors was by making thought bubbles. One example of this in my sketch is Cicero’s eyes watching Clodius and Pompea. Basically what happened was that Cicero had evidence that Clodius was having an affair with Pompea. Clodius was then elected a high ranking official and he exiled Cicero for trying to ruin his name. Therefore, Cicero has motivation to defend Caelius because it means ruining the name of Clodius’s sister, Clodia.

Surprisingly, visual note taking was a very enlightening experience. When I looked at my written notes, I interpreted the information as only facts in a court case that happened thousands of years ago. I am glad that I decided to make a sketch with these notes because my brain is stimulated in such a way that I can see the bigger picture without a super intense focus. For example, for my notes relating to Clodius and Pompea, I had written a couple of sentences. However, in my sketch, it is very concise, I can interpret the information very easily. For all my notes for that class session, I can just look at the sketch and get all the information at once.

Artistic GDP

These notes are from my intro to macroeconomics class. As you can tell, we are learning about gross domestic product ( aka GDP ). While I was creating this, I realized that I overlooked a couple of pieces of notes in class. I didn’t fully comprehend the slides. I enjoyed drawing my notes out because I was able to break the main idea apart, work on the smaller sections, and bring it back to a whole. I allowed me to get a better sense of the topic and easier for me to look over. On the bottom part of the notes, we were showed how to do certain calculations, and I like being able to take notes on what each number means and how it is relevant to the situation. Labeling and color coding allows me to focus on different things rather having a big block of black text. I knew before this assignment that I was a visual learner and that I like to revise my notes, so my notes are more like this assignment. I can’t really do this with all my classes because some are more reading based or excel based and there are also time constraints. However, this semester I am planning to incorporate this type of note taking more into my upcoming notes.

Sketch 3: Visual Note Taking

Due: 2/14
Tag: sk3


For your sketch assignment this week, I want you to create a set of visual notes for one day in one class (other than this one) that you are currently enrolled in. You do not need to take your visual notes in real time; in fact, I recommend that you don’t. I recommend that you go to your classes and take notes in whatever manner you normally do, then after class go through your notes and recreate them as visual notes.

Giulia Forsyth

Domain of One’s Own by Flickr user Giulia Forsyth

I’m a big fan of the work of Giulia Forsyth. She works in a teaching and learning center, where she helps professors and instructors be more innovative in their teaching practices, and she also works as a visual note-taker and facilitator, which means that she is sometimes employed to go to presentations and meetings and to doodle notes for the meeting.

Check out the four minute video below, where she gives a quick summary of how she began to take her doodling seriously and where it has led her.

On her Visual Practice page, Forsyth has lots of videos and images explaining how she approaches the task of producing drawings that help her and others to not just grab the information that’s been presented in a class or discussion, but to grapple with the material and better understand it. You can also see numerous examples on her Flickr page, especially her Visual Practice album.

Kenneth Robinson

As another example of visual note-taking, you might check out the video below from RSA Animates illustrating a lecture by Kenneth Robinson about educational philosophy. I suspect you’ll find the video much more powerful and engaging because of the illustration that goes along with it than you would if you were simply listening to the audio. What does this mean for your own practice?


For your sketch assignment this week, I want you to create a set of visual notes for one day in one class that you are currently enrolled in (probably not this one). You do not need to take your visual notes in real time; in fact, I recommend that you don’t. I recommend that you go to your classes and take notes in whatever manner you normally do, then after class go through your notes and recreate them as visual notes.

You do not need to draw your notes in a digital environment, either, though you are certainly free to do so. If you prefer to doodle with pen, pencil, or marker on paper then do that and once you’re done with your drawing, just scan the pages as JPG files so you can upload them to your site. If you have an iPad or other tablet or would like to draw on your laptop or desktop, then you might try apps like GoodNotes, ProcreateInkflow, or Adobe’s Sketchbook or search for other free/cheap drawing applicationsI am completely tool agnostic on this assignment, so make your drawings in whatever manner make sense to you.

Your visual notes do not need to be polished or beautiful or anywhere near as intricate as Forsyth’s. Do try to take this assignment as an opportunity to really engage differently with your material – don’t just make a series of doodles that follow the outline of the lecture or discussion in your notes but try to translate the concepts and information into a new, visual set of notes. You might think about creating flowcharts or diagrams, which are also visual devices.

Once you’ve got your notes, load them onto your course site as a sketch post. Embed the images from your notes into the post and as you do, take a few moments to reflect on the process and then write a paragraph or two about what you learned during the process of creating your visual notes. Did it help you to understand the course content any differently or better to create notes visually rather than just as text? Did you discover anything new about yourself or the way you think in the process? Did you find it enjoyable or find some aspect of it particularly interesting? Someplace in your reflective text, create a link back to this blog post assignment.