Sketchnote Equipment – What pens and markers to use?

[This post is one of many inspired by Agile 2015.]

When my sketchnotes circulated on Twitter due to Agile 2015 people asked me what pens and markers I use. Many sketchnoters have carefully chosen equipment. I don’t. Not yet, anyway. You don’t need special equipment to get started. Use whatever you have. Normal paper and a biro will do. There’s enough time to research equiment once you know that you like visual notetaking 🙂 Your sketchnotes will become nicer with better equipment, but it’s not necessary.

At Agile I used pens that I grabbed in the office right before I left. Except for the light gray marker. Once I had pledged to sketchnote at the conference, I borrowed a “shadow marker” from a colleague (Thanks, Peter!). Shadows are important to me.

Anyway, here’s my combo:

3 pens - Neuland No One Marker #102, orange Sharpie, edding 1200 black felt pen

The markers I used for all Agile 2015 sketchnotes

  • Neuland No One Marker #102 for the shadows – Can absolutely recommend! You can paint over other pens and the lines won’t bleed.
  • Orange Sharpie I got from the organizers after losing the board marker I’d brought (Thank you!) – It’s okay. Bleeds a little and stinks a little. Would use again.
  • edding 1200 black felt pen – It’s okay. Bleeds a little. Doesn’t stink 😉 I’ll try to find a non-bleeding pen with a finer tip to use next time.

Additionally I used thicker-than-usual paper (100gr instead of the usual 80gr) because I had a stack at home and thought the bleeding might be less of a problem. I like the thicker paper. Feels more substantial and it’s nice that they are less transparent. If I hadn’t had thick paper I’d have used the “normal” one for printers.

Many sketchnoters have beautiful notebooks for their sketches. I love to look at those, but I would be inhibited by such a book. I’d always be afraid to put in a shitty sketch in between the nice ones. (It has happened. I’ve redone sketchnotes before.) I can sketch more freely on loose paper. Maybe I’ll overcome this one day.

If you’re already a sketchnoter, what pens and paper do you use?

Little Book of Sketchnotes for Agile 2015

[This post is one of many related to Agile 2015.]

Listen up, y’all, Claudia Sandoval has created a thing of beauty!

Cover of the Little Book of Sketchnotes (Agile 2015)

She’s collected all known sketchnotes from Agile 2015 into an amazing PDF called “Agile 2015 – Little Book of Sketchnotes“. I’m honored to have my sketchnotes next to hers, Renee Troughton’s, Elizabeth McClellan‘s and Tim Meyers‘s. It’s a joy to flip through the PDF and see the different styles!

Check it out here

Thanks to my fellow contributors & especially Claudia for putting this together!

1-Pagers: Elevator Pitch Template, Fancier Sketchnotes & Configuration Management

There are 3 new 1-pagers over at that you might have missed:

An elevator pitch captures what makes your product a great solution. This elevator pitch template reminds you of all the important parts of an elevator pitch.

Want to spruce up your flipcharts and sketchnotes? 80% fancier sketchnotes & flipcharts.

Last but not least, something DevOps-y: Configuration Management – Ansible, Salt, Chef, Puppet.

Explain, Explore

[This post is one of many inspired by Agile 2015.]

Here’s a game for newly-formed teams that you could play during a liftoff: “Explain, Explore”. It’s from Luke Lackrone‘s engaging session “#awkward – Coaching a new team“.

All you need is a piece of paper and pen per person. It’s probably more fun with more people. 8 or more participants would be good.

In the Explain round, everybody writes down a word or phrase that is true for them. Then they team up with someone else, preferably someone they don’t know yet. The partners exchange names and then explain to each other, why their description is true for them.

Example descriptions from the session: “foodie”, “mom of a Golden Retriever”, “hiker”, “dad of a 4-yr old”, …

Now you mix things up. People walk about the room and swap their notes for someone else’s at least 3 times.

After swapping, the Explore round begins with finding a new partner. Everybody checks the description they got via swapping and explore in what respect that might be true for them, too.

It’s a fun game that serves 2 objectives: Getting to know each other and taking on a new perspective. To quote Luke Lackrone:

I always like to say one of the outcomes here is to point out two mindsets. The Explain mindset is easy for us: we can explain something true about us easily to others; but the Explore mindset encourages us to push through surface resistance and connect things that aren’t obvious. For example, I might get a card that says, “Mom” but I’m not a mom. How might that be true for me? Well, perhaps the traits of a mom — giving structure, loving, teaching — reflect how I interact with my team. Maybe I’m the team mom!

As teams are going through agile transformation, or even routine self-improvement, we want to encourage them to live more and more in the Explore mindset.

Thanks, Luke, for sharing this game, the equally great “Journey Lines“, and your help proof reading this post!

PS: How awesome is “Luke Lackrone” for a name, eh? I need to write a novel just so that I can name a character thusly 🙂

Sketchnotes from Agile 2015

[This post is one of many sparked by Agile 2015.]

Note taking helps me to stay focused on a presentation or meeting. I used to produce loads of  densely scribbled sheets that I never looked at again, because I couldn’t find the pertinent points anyway. For Agile 2015 I decided to go the extra mile and sketchnote: to add icons and arrange all information visually. This way I can tell one note from the other, I’m likely to remember more and to actually look at my notes. And they’re likely to be pretty:


Sketchnote for Luke Hohmann’s keynote on “Super Awesome  Problems”

Before Agile 2015, with just 1 sketchnote under my belt, I would not have considered myself a sketchnoter. I mean, heck, I can’t draw to save my life (just look at the hand below). But I did train Bikablo for flipcharts and arranged loads of information for Wall-Skills. It seems to have carried over.


Sketchnote for Jessie Shternshus’ keynote on “Individuals, Interactions & Improv”

So now, yes, I do consider myself a sketchnoter! Not a particularly good one, but at least an inspiring one: Shoutout to Tim, Rob, and Kimberly – Have fun! Can’t wait to see yours!


Sketchnote on “Coaching Flow” by Esther Derby and Mike Lowery

BTW, I wasn’t the only sketchnoter:


Sketchnote for Ellen Grove’s highly engaging workshop “Games to learn about Conflict Resolution”

If you’d like to know more about Sketchnotes, check out Mike Rohde’s book. Don’t get analysis paralysis, though. Just start to sketchnote. It takes practise but and It’s fun!

PS: If you’d like to know my tricks, here they are:


Sketchnote about sketchnotes. Can you say “meta”?

The Sketchnote Handbook

Taking notes during presentations helps me stay focused and to remember the content. Visual notetaking aka sketchnoting is more fun and the result is more interesting to others.

If you’ve never tried sketchnoting, check out “the sketchnote handbook” for a head start.

The book practises what it preaches and is very visually engaging. I especially enjoyed the guest sketchnotes at the end of each chapter. They introduce you to a range of styles and elements. Very interesting!

Brainstorming vs. BrainstormingBut

Like there’s Scrum and ScrumBut, most “brainstorming” sessions I ever took part in were BrainstormingBut sessions, instead of true brainstorming. They didn’t adhere to the key rules of a true brainstorming, namely:

  1. Defer judgement
  2. Aim for quantity

Up until I was well into my 20s, every “brainstorming” I had ever participated in, had violated at least the first rule. Sometimes the second rule, also. Those sessions should have been called “listing options” or something akin. When the realization dawned on me that I had never truly brainstormed… Bummer!

But why do you defer judgement in the first place? Why not weed “stupid” ideas out right when they come up?

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Problems in the real world often have more than one root cause. Worse, the causes tend to be intertwined and reinforcing (aka vicious circles). It’s easy to get caught in circular thinking, unable to begin with any changes. A neat way to overcome this are cause-effect-diagrams:


A (relatively simple) cause-effect-diagram

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Places for information radiators

Big visible charts are a great way to convey information. The more visible something is, the less likely you are to forget or disregard it. This week we tried a new location, when we needed additional maintainers for a handful of systems: Right next to the rest rooms (the door slightly ajar is the Gents).

“Daemons looking for a maintainer”

Works pretty well, much better than the lone email, that we traditionally sent. Already 5 out of 6 daemons have found a loving home maintainer. Added bonus: By striking out these daemons we indicate the progress for everyone 🙂 Continue reading