Sketchnoting with the Wacom Bamboo Spark

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I realise I'm late to this party, but I've recently begun to sketchnote. I've had Mike Rohde's Sketchnote Handbook for quite a while but hadn't gotten around to read more than the first couple of pages.

What motivated me to try it out now is my new toy: I got myself a Wacom Bamboo Spark. This is due to me being interested in bridging the gap between analogue and digital note taking and brainstorming. As mentioned in an earlier article, I am a huge proponent of doing things "offline" and "analogue", i.e. on paper, first. But at some point, you will run into the problem of having to take your notes with you or you will want to transfer them into some digital format for further use and processing.

The Bamboo Spark is interesting because it isn't one of those "smart pens" that require special paper. Instead, you write on a regular A5-sized notepad. It's the cover underneath the notepad that records your pen strokes. So while you write on paper, just like you are used to, the Bamboo Spark also makes a digital copy of everything.

It's not perfect, but it's the best solution for my specific problem that I have found so far. And so I try using it as much as possible right now. Which brings me back to sketchnoting: I used the Bamboo Spark to take notes at a conference recently. Only then did I remember that I had the Sketchnote Handbook sitting at home and that some form of sketchnoting would have come in handy when taking notes. So as soon as I got back from the conference, I devoured the book and started practising.

Now, I can't draw. I mean, I'm really, really bad at this. But the first thing I learned about sketchnoting is that it's for you and that you shouldn't care what others think. Whether they can draw better or take different points away from a talk - sketchnoting is about your interpretation of the talk. And that includes any form of illustration (if you can call my scribbles that).

The Wacom Bamboo Spark probably wasn't made with sketchnoting in mind. One of its restrictions is that it only works with the supplied ballpoint pen. For "proper" sketchnoting, you would use different pens, of different width and colour, and even some markers to highlight things. You can't do that with the Bamboo Spark's pen. You can, however, do some of that afterwards, in the digital copy that it provides. This, too, is somewhat limited, since it currently only exports sketches to JPEG (not the greatest format for line drawings), PDF, and Wacom's own proprietory WILL vector format. The latter can be read by the free Bamboo Paper app, which offers some limited options to enhance your sketches (eraser, different pens, highlighting).

As a beginner in sketchnoting, I'm not too concerned about those limitations. I'm too busy getting the basics right and having to consider switching pens while listening to a talk would only make things more complicated for me. Simple, i.e. having only one pen, is better in this case.

This is really just a quick report of what I'm currently working on (in addition to trying to get a business off of the ground). I've set myself the goal of sketchnoting one talk every day (e.g. TED talks), since the only way to get better at this is to practise, practise, practise. We'll see how it works out.

(Photos by yours truly.)

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Creative Commons Licence "Sketchnoting with the Wacom Bamboo Spark" by Dirk Haun is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International Licence.