Quotographs and Mind-maps and Sketch-notes and Art, Oh, My!

“If you cannot find peace within yourself, you will never find it anywhere else.”Marvin Gaye.

I just saw an image on Facebook of this quote. It’s not the first time. Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve noticed a veritable onslaught of motivation and personal development quotes that are embedded in images (with varying degrees of artistic quality). Some of them are profound and powerful and some of them are quirky and cheesy. My added interest in this trend is the request to share, comment and spread them.

What’s going on here?

Mitch Joel has a good question, he calls it a Fascinating Trend, because I have been seeing a lot more of these lately, too. In fact, one of them inspired the recent essay on Breaking Things. This post is an attempt to capture some of my thoughts on the visual expression of thought that inspired the Breaking Things post. More than that, though, because I also need to record my learning when it comes to sketch-noting and mind-mapping.

In the course of gestating and writing that essay I became acquainted with the creator of that particular “image with a quote“, Todd Chandler. We had a short conversation on Twitter about how he creates these images and what they mean. Todd observed that “people have always loved quotes and sharing visuals has gotten really easy with Facebook and Pinterest”. Indeed. Anecdotal evidence is that images get much more attention, and are shared more often, on Facebook than other types of posts.

The downside, as described by Todd, is that people aren’t putting a lot of thought into the creation of these quotes-and-images. The quality is low, there is no real sense of typography, “just layered over a photo in a paragraph”, and many of the quotes seem to simply be pulled from a dictionary of quotations. Todd’s statement reminded me of this poster from Despair.com on Motivation.

The real resonator, for me, right now, comes from the chat I had with Chuck Frey last week (podcast here) and we spoke quite a bit about mind-mapping, sketch-noting and other visual forms of thinking and communicating. It is all writing, in a sense, a written form of communication, conveying information in a visual form with letters and pictures. The quotographs, done properly, as Todd says, “I try to find new, relevant thoughts each day” become more powerful when the words and pictures combine to form a more harmonious whole. Like the most recent one (as of this writing):


I love this. “A grand adventure” is exactly what it is. Especially when you combine writing with images, either photos or drawings. I have started drawing again, painting miniature soldiers and working with watercolors. The art is engaging a part of my psyche that I had lost touch with over the past couple of years. It is especially helpful in the context of my new, more healthy, lifestyle.

Where is this all going? I don’t know, but it’s my journal. We have looked at the quotographs, above, and I have determined that what makes a quotograph a work of art is that the words, the text, the typeface, the formatting were specifically chosen to overlap the image in a way that creates a whole greater than the sum of its parts.

Next we have doodles.


As Sunni Brown says, ” Doodling is a pre-emptive measure to stop you from losing focus”. I have always loved doodling, not that I was ever a “super-good drawer” I have enjoyed it and am acting with the intention of getting better. By doing more of it. I have started carrying a sketch book, pens and colored pencils around with me everywhere and from time-to-time just start drawing random things. While that is not exactly doodling, it will enhance my hand-eye coordination and improve my skills at drawing. Which in turn will improve my artistic eye when it comes to the quotographs and to sketch-notes.

Sketch-notes are just what they sound like, and Mike Rohde is the pioneer and rockstar of sketch-noting. He is writing a book about it right now.

Mike Rohde: The Sketchnoter from size43, LLC on Vimeo.

Finally, as sketch-notes are to collecting information, mind-maps are to organizing information. Loose, unorganized information can be dangerous and expensive. I have been experimenting a little with mind-mapping. If you know me at all then I am sure that you are surprised to learn that I haven’t been a big mind-mapper for years. I don’t know why, I have tried software applications and tend to not like them (learning curve?) and I shy away from doing the drawings. Maybe it is because I use note cards in lieu of a big sheet of paper, and I can move them around…

Anyway, here is a mind-map that I made while thinking about this article:


mind-map about the topics in this postI have to say that I would much rather create a batch of note cards or stickie-notes with the major topics and then new cards for various lists of sub-topics. I am just more comfortable with that. Plus, then they can go on my Kanban board.

How about you? What are your preferences on the visual representation of information?

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