On Being is Krista Tippett’s radio show, and on the show’s blog there’s a post featuring the above image. It was made by Doug Neill, who’s a really talented sketchnoter. (You can do a simple Google search to see many more examples of sketchnoting.)

I find sketchnoting fascinating, but I also have some serious reservations about how effective a strategy of note-taking it is — at least for many kinds of talks and lectures. If you read Neill’s sketch of Seth Godin’s interview on On Being, you’ll see that it amounts to a set of disconnected aphorisms. “Dignity is what we must maintain.” “Don’t fly too high but more importantly don’t fly too low.” Neill’s note is basically a tag cloud, though built out of sentences rather than individual words.

Maybe Godin talks in this simply declarative, aphoristic way — he seems to have modeled his intellectual approach on Jack Handey’s Deep Thoughts, and sometimes achieves that level of profundity — but any really substantive thinking forges connections and relationships among ideas. The most common way we have to represent these connections and relationships is the outline, but if that’s too linear for you — or too linear to represent the character of a particular talk or lecture — then there are various strategies of mind-mapping that give visual vibrancy to the structure of complex ideas. See for instance the wonderfully flexible and resourceful application called Tinderbox.

Since the sketchnoter has free rein to use symbols and images that indicate relations, why be confined to mere sentences? Sometimes Neill uses more than words, but I want sketchnotes to give me arrows and loops and fun images of all sorts.

I have mixed feelings about the educational ideas promoted by Ken Robinson, but he’s always fun to listen to, especially when his talk is accompanied by sketchnotes this elaborate and imaginative: