Sketchnoters' Stories - 8th Grader Allison Huang revolutionizes her school notes with sketchnotes
We are excited to share this story about Allison Huang, an eighth grader passionate about sketchnoting. This is her story about discovering and integrating sketchnoting as a powerful tool for the way she thinks in school and in her life.
I am most impressed by the way Allison continues to experiment and challenge her own sketchnoting practice, improving at every step. What a testament to her and the work she's doing. Go Allison!
- Mike Rohde
I first came across sketchnoting when my mom bought The Sketchnote Handbook for me three years ago when I was in sixth grade. Previously, I had been dissatisfied with typical bulleted notes because it was very hard for me to place emphasis on the things that were the most important.
I wanted notes that I could skim quickly and still be able to pull out the main ideas. This was extremely hard with bulleted notes due to how uniform everything was. Since then, I have been sketchnoting, working to develop my style as well as overcoming certain challenges I’ve discovered in the way I work and express myself.
Starting in sixth grade, I began incorporating visuals into my notes and eventually ditching the list form, taking presentations in my science class as an opportunity to sketchnote:
I found sketchnoting very fun because of the freedom I had and the way that I could add my own interpretations into the notes in whatever form I desired. I also love art, so it was a fun way to incorporate that side of myself into my sketchnotes by adding simple drawings and finding a set of icons I liked to use.
During seventh grade, I tried a different structure of sketchnoting, using it to study for history tests. Rather than using it as a form of note-taking, I used it as a way to gather all the different things I had learned in that unit and put them all into one place. The process of creating the sketchnote did help me retain the information I was displaying, but I found that I wanted something more cohesive to look back on:
This year, I’ve experimented with quite a few different structures of sketchnoting. Previously, I had always sketchnoted on graph paper, but based on what I had on hand at the time, I sketchnoted on lined paper a couple times this year:
I noticed that it changed my style in that it was a lot more rigid. I followed the lines very strictly, and that was apparent in the final product.
Afterwards, I saw a friend’s sketchnotes on the same topic. It was a lot more cohesive and felt more like a whole, which I admired and wanted to emulate. She had worked on a piece of blank paper, so I decided to give that a try.
Experimenting with Blank Paper
I ended up with a pretty busy sketchnote that I actually really liked. (As you can see, I went over part of it in pen in an effort to preserve it but never finished.) This sketchnote was a bit hard to navigate for someone who isn’t me, but it served its purpose well, and I found it fun to review the story told through it:
I recently did a digital sketchnote as another experiment to further find my preferences in sketchnoting. I found that for me, the process could be dragged out in length because of the way nothing is permanent in the digital medium, but the end result was easier to look back on and very similar to an infographic:
As mentioned previously, I’ve developed a set of icons that I use to represent certain concepts or events and am constantly developing more. I especially love icons because they are such a simple, visual reminder that gives some background to the topic being written about.
For example, I use an icon for people that consists of a circular head and a slightly rounded body, and whenever I see it, I know that there is an important figure associated with the topic (in a historical context). A couple other icons I use are two crossed swords to represent war or conflict, chains to represent slavery, and curled paper to represent famous old documents or official documents/bills (ex. the Declaration of Independence).
Sketchnoting has also helped me find a style of art that I enjoy. It gave me a glance into stylizing text, something I found I really like to do. Since then, I’ve delved into the world of lettering, writing out song lyrics, quotes, and words that I like:
That concludes my sketchnoting journey thus far, and I’m really excited and grateful to be able to share it here. Sketchnoting has been really fun and useful for me, and I look forward to continuing to create and experiment with it.
Thanks so much to Allison and her teacher and guide Lisa Stone for helping facilitate this fantastic story to share with other sketchnoters.