Our Three Favorite Books for Beginning Graphic Recorders

Jan 28, 2020

If you love to sketch, love ideas and love people, Graphic Recording or Live Sketching might be the perfect job for you. Or, if you’re already happily employed but still interested in the world of visual communication, you might want to consider Sketch Notes (or “sketchnotes”) as a way to increase your personal satisfaction in your next meeting or live content environment.

Either way, a big question arises: “How do I start?”

Like many who have gone before us, the notion of becoming a Graphic Recorder, Live Artist or Sketchnoter is pretty overwhelming. Of all the skills to master, this one is especially intimidating.

Think about it: you are trying to listen to content, synthesize what you hear, draw it out, and design a pleasing layout all at the same time. It’s a lot.

The good news is that there are several resources out there that will ease you into the world of Graphic Recording and Sketchnotes. At The Sketch Effect, we are huge fans of these three books and love to recommend them to aspiring visual communicators. Without further ado:

1. “The Sketchnote Handbook” by Mike Rohde

We love this book. It is the perfect first step for people interested in graphic recording and sketchnotes. Here’s why we love it:

  • The design is amazing. This is a beautiful book that beckons you to read it. The aesthetic appeal alone makes you want to keep turning the page.
  • This book is extremely accessible. It lays out a practical step-by-step guide to learning the basics of sketchnotes, beginning with the “why” and then digging into the “how”.
  • The illustrations are awesome.
  • This book features lots of great sketchnotes by prominent artists and illustrators. If you want to see a variety of styles, this book features some good ones.

Overall score: A+

Difficulty Level: Beginner

2. “The Doodle Revolution" by Sunni Brown

Another exceptional resource, this book digs a bit more into the philosophy behind Graphic Recording, Graphic Facilitation, etc. Specifically, it seeks to redeem the word “doodle” and show readers how intentional doodling is actually a powerful thinking tool…not a form of self-imposed distraction. Here’s why we love this book:

  • If you want to know more about the philosophy of the visual communication industry, this book covers it. In terms of the big “why” behind all that we do, The Doodle Revolution makes it clear and exciting.
  • This book also goes through a lot of practical exercises, formats and approaches for using doodling (aka live sketching) in a client setting.
  • Finally, The Doodle Revolution introduces the notion of “group doodling” and explores several ways a group can collectively sketch together to solve problems and discover solutions.

Overall score: A

Difficulty Level: Intermediate

3. “The Graphic Facilitator's Guide" by Brandy Agerbeck

This book is a deep dive into the world of professional graphic facilitation (although the principles can be extended to graphic recording and sketchnotes as well). It’s extremely practical and tactical, coming straight from Brandy’s firsthand experience throughout her extensive career in visual communication. Here’s what we love about The Graphic Facilitator’s Guide:

  • We love the no-nonsense attitude that this book is written with. It doesn’t beat around the bush but gets straight to the point.
  • It also offers practical advice on the physicality of Graphic Facilitation…namely how tiring and physically exhausting it can be and how to ensure you are as healthy as possible in order to do your best work.
  • We also love Brandy’s simple and fun illustrations. The retort metaphor on page 119 is especially legit.

Overall score: A-

Difficulty Level: Advanced

Bonus Book! – “Slightly Jetlagged” by Mike Lowery

Ok, technically this isn’t a book about Graphic Recording. In fact, It’s actually a travel journal by illustrator Mike Lowery that is all done in a sketchnote style. If you want less of a how-to and more of a show-and-tell type of book, you need to check this out. Mike is a personal friend of The Sketch Effect and we couldn’t love this gem of a book more. Here’s what we especially love:

  • Mike’s illustration style is simple and whimsical.
  • Mike’s work also has a subtle layer of humor throughout, making you smile and laugh as you read.
  • As travel fans ourselves, we love learning about all the countries and cities Mike visited and created these beautiful sketches.

Overall score: A+

Difficulty Level: Beginner

We hope these four books will help you as you embark on your own graphic recording or sketchnote adventure. There are a lot more resources than these, so if you’re curious, explore around and find what works for you. At The Sketch Effect, we’re planning on sharing more how-to’s and practical visual communication advice through this blog, so make sure to keep an eye out for more tips for aspiring visual practitioners.

Happy sketching!

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