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Visual Notetaking: A Beginner's Guide to Sketchnotes

Lesson 5 of 15

Draw Icons from Basic Shapes

Giselle Chow

Visual Notetaking: A Beginner's Guide to Sketchnotes

Giselle Chow

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Lesson Info

5. Draw Icons from Basic Shapes

Lesson Info

Draw Icons from Basic Shapes

You're going to do some drawing and this is some icon development if you have a room at the table feel frito teo um draw on the paper at your table you can also draw in your notebooks up up to you so now that we've covered lettering a bit about color we're gonna do some icon drawing and some icon development okay, so um we'll talk a bit about icons versus drawings what what's the difference? Well, talk about basic shapes a dot and the line how those are really the building blocks for your icons and then we will do fifteen maybe more we'll see icons that you can create with a rectangle. Okay, so um icons vs drawings sometimes uh when I teach this to folks I feel people getting from tense because I think they think what we're doing is drawing like realistic drawing like there's going to be a model here and you know, they're going to sit for hours and we're gonna realistically render this person perfectly and then I'm gonna go around and talk about what's wrong with everyone stride like t...

hat's not what we're doing okay that's great I've done that it's actually a really great skill but that's not what this is about, okay, so um icons for our purposes today are two dimensional representations they're usually flat okay? They're not heavily shadowed or rendered although sometimes having the time to throw this thing around a shape is really, really effective okay is not necessary uh they're graphic and it's their symbol for an idea or for a thing okay, so they're symbolic okay drawings on the other hand, are one of the major forms of visual art. Okay, there are many different kinds of drawings that could be realistic than could be abstract you khun it and it's also a personal expression, right? So it's a personal expression of the artist hey, icons are fast pictographs meant to communicate an idea quickly so you're doing something that's very much time based so doing it quickly is important drawings they can take ours it can take days they can take weeks right? So we don't have that kind of time for what we're doing with this methodology. Okay? So one thing to think about so and just illustrate that really quickly um this's example that, um I'm borrowing from brandy agra back um who is who is, um a graphic recorder who uses this example um and it is this example here where, you know, if I were drawing a rabbit I think this is a sample she uses right? And I was creating a drawing of a rabbit I'd want to get the ears and then maybe the rabbit has this little nose like this and these eyes right? And you know these little whiskers and then I'm coming around to draw the body and then there's a little fluffy tail and then I'm doing this. Meanwhile, the speaker has moved on and is talking about all these other things, but I'm really into this and maybe I want to do a little shadowing over here, right? That's taking ways who lights the drawing right so well but if I do this you know that that's a rabbit, okay, so that's very real quick distinction difference between and icon in a drawing room to do it quick seen change alright let's draw so basic shapes so building blocks really are thiss square or a rectangle triangle, which could be that we're inverting the other way a circle then there's the line, our friend, the little dots. So really these if you start to look around and I would actually practice when you're out today walking around, look at stuff and think about okay, what are the basic shapes that this item is composed of is a good way to start developing your sense of how to develop icons, but one step by drawing um some basic ones. So, uh, one thing that's hopeful toe teo is an arrow, so here is the servo pin rectangle like this rectangle has that top in bottom looks like that sometimes the point of the arrow gets a little wonky and they point in strange directions and you realize it's not where you want it to go so if you imagine a dotted line through the center that just by sex set space put a dot there on then connect them you have a really nice arrow okay sometimes it's helpful so write something inside the arrow if you do that I would just recommend that you write the word first right and then do the arrow around it. Well, come go this way right then you know you won't run out of space okay also something also that, um useful along these lines are basic signs so you know again we'll write the word first I'm just writing this way you can think of something better please do so I'm writing this around trying my rectangle around it and then if you make this little tiny triangle you do it by having a tiny line that extends out from the left and then connects down there at the bottom corner and then if you fill it in, you see how it suddenly looks like it's a card or something standing up somewhere in space, right? So it adds that sense of it being resting on this plane, okay, that could be really effective you could imagine you have multiple I'm just angry writing inside so moving away from that shape for a minute we're gonna come back to the rectangle in a bit but you know if you think of uh sometimes I'll often do speech bubbles you know for someone will say a quote it's really compelling you really want to make sure people understand the quote really fast way to do that is to put it within a speech bubble so you know, um something like you know, this guy making a meaningful quote this is the answer to everything right? Somebody said this and you thought yeah that is answer everything so writing that first you notice that I'm already employing that that tip around writing in a shape that's gonna mimic what goes around it so I'm not saying this is answer everything going out that way and then you know a nice circle around it speech bubble and then you know, just like in comic books points the person who says it sometimes if you layer them on top of each other that could be nice to do also maybe there's lots of people talking you want to show different opinions something like that you can also make them another convention make them serve rounded corners pointy arrows toward the person speaking wait what do you have the answer to everything? What is it right if you have speech bubbles it's also helpful tohave quick ways to draw people you know, so one way to draw a person there are a few different ways but I'll show you one is to dio uh did them over on that chart over there but to draw this what we call a star person so this is something that the that the grover I work often trains people to do there's a little head and then the star person has no neck unfortunately not really sure why but their arm just comes right out of their neck like this and then comes back down there's a long leg here down up down up here back out and then goes back into there neck like that it's called star person because these look like the points of the star the reason it can be useful to draw people this way is that if you start teo get practiced at it you can start to draw people very quickly like that and it's to pen strokes you have to lift up your pen and put it back down several times came so here your people you can also start to manipulate their arms a little bit so for instance I had one that was pointing at something so if I have someone pointing at this weight and make their arm go up and then I make a tiny little hook on their arm a round shape underneath again you notice lions triangles circles right so it looks like they're pointing like they're doing the hustle. No just go all right um and then bring them back down and then if I want to make them look like the other they're just re like that over there pointing their arms go like that another triangle like this this could be the tricky part you have to show the the negative space in here camilla tricky just takes practice in time. So one thing to think about it's when you draw icons it's sometimes misleading because you see me do them or you see other people do them and they do them seemingly on the fly and they're very quick and very easy looking, but that doesn't mean they're easy to actually learn or practice. So for every icon that I think about it, I'm always thinking about you you know, what's in my icon bank what air? The concepts that I need to be working on. What am I hearing in meetings? What are people talking about? How am I gonna figure out how to make that into a nikon? It actually takes some time to develop that icon and to practice it so it feels like it's second nature in my body. So when that word comes up, I'm not thinking every time I'm going to do this but it comes off is being, um on the fly or quick or easy because I've actually spent time at home drawing it, you know price fifty times, right? So think about that there's lots of work that has to go on in the background. Okay, so let us dio a few more, um, icons that you might have seen you do over there on that page one is also a cloud. Clouds are also really compelling to see on a chart. People respond to them anything nature based people tend to respond to. So cloud khun b this very kind of you to a flat bottom cloud, which is what I tend to dio and then thes through puffy, rounded shapes on top, sometimes it's raining because things are unfortunate and sad. Sometimes people are talking about threats, economic threats, etcetera and try a little lightning strike underneath for something threatening. Okay, one thing I want to show you if you're having, if you're struggling right now and you're thinking my star, people look like like star babies or something it's, probably because you're not making the tour so long enough. So one thing to think about is these should be about, um, you know, two, three, four, five like about six to eight heads tall, right little star babies are a little a little bit smaller, what is that, like three to four heads? Sometimes from folks, they're starting out, they find it easier to really you know and sometimes people are like they're really down on the stick figure and I don't I don't really see why like I think it's six figure could be really compelling and really engaging so if you're having trouble with this with the wonky arms don't worry about it really you khun d'oh head and it's the sort of rectangular rounded body you know and then if you do lines for legs like this you can actually create lots of um you can do gestures that feel authentic and kind of this person serve jonty right you can create lots of different poses with say supposes you know sort of justice stick figure right so don't um necessarily let's say it was this person doing there sitting on something like that right so play around with that and figure out what feels it feels good to you for people but having people on on on on your sketch notes having some nature based iconography is always really effective so what I want to do now is show you um about fifteen different icons that you could draw with just this bad boy here just the rectangle okay I'm gonna just switch colors so we did this right the arrow the signs well stand up signs I'm gonna actually draw icons that I I hear a lot that I am that I'm called upon to draw fairly often so hopefully you find them useful as well um sometimes again the rectangle people will talk about names of books that were for two names and books in and meetings so I wasn't being the other day and someone talked about this book called flow maybe you've heard about it so if that's the case what I would d'oh is I would probably go off to the side create little resource list of you know book area and instead of saying there's this great book called flo written by this person I would just draw book and write the name of the title inside of it right? So here's our book was just a rectangle that's a little bit at an angle books have spines so they have thickness like that connect the line again if you want you can have some pages down here hopefully this book has more than one page I'm sure it does. Okay, so there's your book right also similar to that any time someone says you know work document paper work something like that that same rectangle with some lines on it look like a document also if you draw a serious of lines that kind nestled right up against the document so really imagines like a letter l but it's kind of hugging the side the left side of the page it certainly looks like a stack of documents okay, so sometimes I'm I work with folks they talk about, you know, procedures to many forms where do I find this? How do we take? I was uh how do you take all these records make them digital we've been using this triplicate forms forever you start her layer them on top and they start to look like that also, uh mobile technology mobile phones is something that often comes up so you had a draw mobile phone icon very similar to this rectangle that's the corners are bit more rounded and then has this smaller rectangle inside that takes up almost the whole phone now right on then, depending on your preference has home button on then you can also add some sickness again that l you know on the side to couple reflective lines and there's your phone, the tablets the same just different in scale and it's oriented this way little wonky, same thing and a laptop. This is not going to be to scale exactly. But you know, I think what makes him a laptop different or unique is that it's got that clam shell shaped right. So you need to somehow express that that it it opens that way. So you got the top part and then you got the bottom it's a little bit shorter usually right the way it appears to you when you're working on it scott thickness at the bottom it has that screen on the inside again and then I think about what makes this different from something else that could look like that right and that's part of what we'll talk about icons and for me it's the trackpad that's what makes it different than something else? So we'll track pad and then because again this these air icons these air not beautifully rendered drawings of laptops right so just indication of some horizontal and vertical lines for the keyboard is just fine and there's your laptop once you start to build these icons and get them into your icon bank, you can start to combine them to create different concepts so sometimes people talk about, you know network solutions so I might draw a couple of these items and draw a dotted line behind them to show them how they're connected to each other a building again just different size and shape it again really simply a rectangle that's open at the bottom it has depth goes back in space right another line that goes down there it's outside so giving it a sense of space is useful and again no need to draw every single window and even close them. I often just do lines like this and I think people understand what what that is I usually just do too, you know maybe add a little landscaping, some trees a little sore sneaky road okay, it could be different sizes here's one that's low you're ever wanting to do a school for something like that. School people usually understand schools is lower buildings, not skyscrapers, right? And if you put a flag in front of it, it reads I mean, you have to you know, where are you? You might not be in the us, but to put a flag in front of it people usually read that as a school. Okay? Uh, sometimes people talk about reflections. So what do your reflections on the work we've done for where we've come well actually draw something like that a mirror, those reflective right she want you can add this little piece that looks like it's hanging on the wall here's a person standing pensively looking at the reflection, you can actually draw them looking at themselves, right? So you see how once you get how to draw person when to draw the mirror, you can start to put them together to build different concepts let's do a couple more rectangles, and then we will, um, do some icon development where you're going to do some work, another one that I tend to use a lot which I think is very engaging is it's essentially a gift or a present? So it's a box that has sort of dimensionality I used it on the james victoria one I think has a bo bo you know, have fun with it. Make your bow look, however you like. I like mine to be kind of big and sharp and perky. You can do whatever you like, um, but this really it can be, you know, literally a gift. It also works for the notion of a product, you know, a swell, so single icons can have lots of different meanings, depending on the context. So there isn't really need to create a single different icons for every single concept that you have.

Class Description

Graphic facilitation uses attention-grabbing images, colors, and words to represent ideas shared during meetings, conferences, and events. Learn how it is done in Visual Notetaking: A Beginner's Guide to Sketchnotes with Giselle Chow.

In this beginner-friendly class, you’ll learn how to actively listen and illustrate ideas in a whole new way. 

Giselle will teach you how to: 

  • Listen for relevant information
  • Represent ideas in text and graphics
  • Build an icon bank 
  • Use color and size for emphasis

Giselle is a consultant with The Grove and in this class, she’ll teach you how to make ideas leap off a page. Giselle will cover everything from preparation to execution and you’ll learn how to make a visual compendium of an event that can be shared with attendees and social audiences.

You’ll also learn about drawing connections in a way that makes information easier to retain and helps visual thinkers grasp new concepts and ideas.

If you want to add an exciting new skills to your design repertoire and learn how to make engaging, share-worthy visual notes, don’t miss Visual Notetaking: A Beginner's Guide to Sketchnotes with Giselle Chow. 



Wonderful overview of sketch noting with tons of opportunities to practice, learn, and refine skills! Appreciated the side benefits of recognizing sketchnoting involves active listening and the opportunity to practice that too. Thank you! 110% recommend this course.

Tran Phuong

Great fundamental skills for effective notetaking! I love Gisele and all her lessons! They are super easy to follow and understand. Would recommend it of course!

Lisa Houghton

I really enjoyed this class. I am a beginner sketchnoter and found it very helpful. Great pace and delivery by instructor. Every minute was worth it. Thank you!