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Elizabeth Chesney uses visual thinking to help people, animals, and the planet - S14/E04

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תוכן מסופק על ידי Sketchnote Army Podcast and Mike Rohde. כל תוכן הפודקאסטים כולל פרקים, גרפיקה ותיאורי פודקאסטים מועלים ומסופקים ישירות על ידי Sketchnote Army Podcast and Mike Rohde או שותף פלטפורמת הפודקאסט שלו. אם אתה מאמין שמישהו משתמש ביצירה שלך המוגנת בזכויות יוצרים ללא רשותך, אתה יכול לעקוב אחר התהליך המתואר כאן https://he.player.fm/legal.

In this episode, Elizabeth Chesney shares her approach to teaching design concepts coupled with handwritten notes to help her subjects understand how design concepts work and why they work.

Sponsored by Concepts

This episode of the Sketchnote Army Podcast is brought to you by Concepts, a perfect tool for sketchnoting, available on iOS, Windows, and Android.

Concepts' vector-based drawing feature gives you the power to adjust your drawings saving hours and hours of rework.

Vectors provide clean, crisp, high-resolution output for your sketchnotes at any size you need s ideal for sketchnoting.

SEARCH in your favorite app store to give it a try.

Running Order

  • Intro
  • Welcome
  • Who is Elizabeth Chesney
  • Origin Story
  • Elizabeth Chesney's current work
  • Sponsor: Concepts
  • Tips
  • Tools
  • Where to find Elizabeth Chesney
  • Outro

Links

Amazon affiliate links support the Sketchnote Army Podcast.

Tools

Amazon affiliate links support the Sketchnote Army Podcast.

Tips

  1. There is no standard.
  2. Create playbooks or scrapbooks of your work.
  3. Get away from your desk. Take a break.

Credits

  • Producer: Alec Pulianas
  • Theme music: Jon Schiedermayer
  • Shownotes and transcripts: Esther Odoro

Subscribe to the Sketchnote Army Podcast

You can subscribe to the podcast through iTunes, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Amazon Music, YouTube or your favorite podcast listening source.

Support the Podcast

To support the creation, production and hosting of the Sketchnote Army Podcast, buy one of Mike Rohde’s bestselling books. Use code ROHDE40 at Peachpit.com for 40% off!

Episode Transcript

Mike Rohde: Hey everyone, it's Mike and I'm here with Elizabeth Chesney. Elizabeth, how are you doing today?

Elizabeth Chesney: I'm good, I'm good. It's evening here in the UK, so it's quite relaxed and we've got a bank holiday, so it's even more relaxed.

MR: Good, good, good. Well, you'll be laid back and ready to answer all kinds of questions and let us see inside you, the way you think. So I brought Elizabeth on because I follow her on Instagram. I don't know how we crossed paths, but I'm glad we did. And she does a lot of sketchnoting that she shares online, but also taking design concepts, which I really like.

Her approach is taking these design concepts and then breaking them down with handwritten notes on top of them to help you understand how these design concepts work and why they work, which is really helpful education, especially for people who sort of sense something's going on, maybe they're not trained as a designer, but they sense something's going on and they're curious about why it works that way. And you sort of fill that gap, which I love that. I love education, I love that whole thing.

So that is how we crossed paths. And I thought Elizabeth would be a great person because very recently, you were doing some sketching for a project, then it turned into a full-blown sketchnote. You shared video on Instagram. So maybe we can even talk about that project. And I thought this would be great to talk with her and see how sketchnoting fits into her everyday life, and the stuff she does. So, welcome.

EC: Thank you for having me.

MR: Yeah, you're welcome. So why don't you start by telling us a little bit about who you are and what you do.

EC: That's great. So I am basically in England, despite my accent, I'm actually Scottish, so any of the British listeners are gonna be going, "No, doesn't sound right." But so I though mainly work from home. I am a freelance based marketing designer. I do two types of things. On the average day, I'm either building assets for commercial teams whether that's sort of layout design, landing pages, websites, and a lot of that is UX based as well.

So I've kind of got UX interweaved quite a lot in the background. Very similar to yourself, Mike. It's kind of something I've grown into or using skills I've learned before and applying them in that way. And then the other part of me is actually working with seed-level startups, so people who have an idea but actually don't have anything behind them to help them with the funding.

So actually, I build lightweight brands. I call them diet brands 'cause they're like mini logos and brand sheets rather than these big brand books. And then helping them with like a commercial slide deck to help with their sort of buy-in when they're presenting their idea. And then some flat user interface design concept. So they kind of got like, this is what we're looking to achieve.

And I also work with 'em in a marketing sense of like, how's the best way to present that information? So they might talk to me for 10 minutes and I say, "Well, this is how you frame it, this is how you'd phrase it." And that's part because of the big marketing background, which we'll get into that I have. And so it's kind of like a unique sort of offering for these startups. And I've done a couple now and it really helps 'em look professional at that seed funding level.

So I kind of do two arms, one of this sort of big marketing aspect with sort of SME, B2B companies, so you're sort of quite medium enterprise companies and then right at the start founders. So it's quite nice. I've got a mix that I work with.

MR: And I suppose the ideal client would be someone that you helped at a seed stage who turns into the middle stage, right, where they grow, and then you can stay with them ideally, I suppose at some point in the future, right?

EC: Yeah. Coincidentally, this is my anniversary today of when I decided to go freelance.

MR: Really?

EC: Yeah. So a year ago, last year is when I went, "I'm going to do freelance. I'm going to make this sort of decision. This is what I want to do. I wanna work in a sustainability climate action sort of sector as well." So purpose-driven businesses. So it's been really nice to sort of work with some of these seed founders who have got these ideas to try and help the planet or help people.

And that's the thing, helping people, planet, or animals. That's kind of my three pockets. I'm quite happy at the minute that I'm working with a lot, which has actually enabled social connectivity. So actually, ironically from some tech issues we had at the start of this podcast, I'm working with one which has actually enable telecoms to more rural areas, so lightweight telecoms.

So it's cheaper, it's quicker to put in. So giving a lot of rural areas in Scotland and Wales and Ireland, better access to the internet because the pandemic showed how just proportionate access to technology and internet was. And that's what one of these companies I'm working for at the minute, is doing is these startup telecom pools and cabinets to be able to be put in these places so everyone's got access to the same level of internet. So it's quite nice. It's quite nice to see sort of the different ways that these people are helping communities in their own way.

MR: That's really cool. So you obviously, just been a year since you've gone independent.

EC: Mm-hmm.

MR: Talk a little bit about what got you to that point, what did you do before that, and a little bit of why you decided to go independent. That would be really interesting, especially I think about the audience that's listening here, a lot of times they do sketchnoting or visual thinking on the side or as a side thing at work. And there comes a point for some people that they wanna go independent. I know several people, so it might be helpful for them to hear your journey and your thinking and all that.

EC: Yeah. Well, I would start my journey really, you know, 20 years ago now. Which makes me feel even older. I was like, oh, brilliant. [Unintelligible 05:56] for a minute. All right. Monty, come here. Sit. Sit. Wait. I don't know if somebody at my door next to -- so hold on. Wait.

MR: Okay. We can cut this.

EC: He's very agitated, which makes me think it's our door. Calming down. You are calming down. I know. It's making for interesting TV.

MR: What kind of dog do you have?

EC: He's a Golden Retriever.

MR: Oh.

EC: So he's a big loud dog, hence the noise. But I do have my bribery box, so he knows that when he gets a treat, he's quiet. So I told you it was gonna be that subtler. Good boy. Good boy. Right. I think that's it. I think they've gone one tea. Right. We're going through it all today.

MR: Makes for a fun time.

EC: Right. I'll start again. 20 years ago, making me feel old, I did a dual degree. It was design marketing, so it was about 70 percent design, 30 percent marketing, and it was design-focused as well for marketing. So packaging design, point of sale design, print design, very traditional design. Unfortunately, I am that old where, you know, websites really were just becoming a thing.

You know, I went to uni when it was zip disks. That was the biggest thing that you could store everything on. And I remember thinking brilliant. And it was Yahoo search rather than Google search. I was very traditionally taught in design, so very much pen and paper. I think my entire first year was markers, pens, and fine liners. It wasn't digital. And then we moved into digital and the Mac labs and all that side of things.

From university, I was very fortunate, got a job straight away into a marketing team doing design for the marketing team. Exactly what I did for about six years. And it was really interesting. You've got telling so much about marketing, it's so much about the inner workings of a business as well and how everything works and the commercial teams, sales guys, you know, all that side.

Then lucky for everybody who's old enough to remember as well, then we had a financial crash in 2008 where especially in the UK, most people weren't wanting in-house designers, agencies weren't hiring. It wasn't seen as something people wanted. So I kind of, luckily enough having the degree I had, I flipped my degree. Basically, I flipped my career. I went from doing pretty much pure design with a bit of marketing. So, you know, I used to do marketing admin to started department marketing.

So I went up in a journey in marketing. I quite rapidly went up to manager level, but I was very employable because I could do design and I could save companies thousands of pounds 'cause I could do everything they were paying somebody externally to do. Or at least I could take some of the load of that budget off.

I think because of that, it meant I had a secure job, luckily. And when it got to about six years of doing that, so early 2010, '11, I was like, right, this is definitely the career path. So I kept going, kept doing the marketing management side, and went into digital marketing specifically to really upskilled in web design and really start to take, without knowing it, a UX approach to website design.

I was always data-driven. I was always nerdy about where do people go, what journey did it go, what are they clicking on, and you know, speaking to users and all that side of things. And it got really interesting. But I was getting to a point in my career where, unless I went to the director level where you're just managing people a lot of the time and not doing the work, and I like doing the work.

I like doing the job. I don't wanna manage people doing the job. I want to do the job. Because of the financial crash, people still weren't hiring in-house designers. So I decided to take quite a bold step and I decided to retrain as a teacher. So about 2014 '15, that was, I think it was, I retrained as a teacher. And a design teacher specifically. You know, I wasn't randomly gonna go and do geography.

So went to do design and that's actually when I came across sketchnotes because I'd obviously gone from being hand drawn-taught, very traditional taught to then being thrust into pretty much computer-first design really. And always going to the computer first, it becomes habitual. And I suddenly realized how I'm gonna be teaching kids that some have never designed before.

They may have done art at at primary school, so I always taught secondary school. So high school level. And it was like in America it would be like middle and you know, top high school. I realized I was gonna teach 'em these kids how to draw in terms of design versus art. And then I thought I needed also a way of me relearning how to teach them to design 'cause I can quite instinctively draw a box and I'll draw it in a particular way, but how do I communicate to them, how do you draw this box? How do we annotate?

MR: Yeah, it's a process.

EC: Yeah. How do we annotate it? And I think as you touched on at the start, I got so used to having to teach annotation side, tell you why this thing does this. And that's why I label a lot my drawings educate and saying this is why it does this and this is why this button does this or side of things now. But back then I was struggling. I was like, "How do I teach them this?"

And the funny thing about learning to teach, they teach you how to teach not how to teach your subject in a way. It was quite like, "I'm gonna learn how to go back to basics to draw." And I just by randomness came across your book and I was like--and you know, it was one of those things you think, "I'm an experienced designer buying a book about drawing." And you just kind of think, "This doesn't seem right. But also, really right at the same time." You kind of go, it's like somebody buying me a coloring book. You're like really.

So I got the book and then I just fell in love with the methodology more than anything 'cause It really works for me, the logical side, the iteration side. And I thought, this is perfect for teaching kids. It's perfect for actually getting me back into that traditional design, but more importantly, I was trying to find one so I could show you these traditional homework sheets of basically if you were a top end student, I'll give you the end picture, and they had to backwork it in the building blocks.

And if they were a lesser able child or one that hadn't really experienced any type of design or drawing, I gave them like little shadow boxes. This is kind of how you build up. So there was like, you can really skill it for different skill sets, but it was also, I was using that principle of, right, well how do I do this? And getting the kids to break things down, it was like, "Look at that object, tell me what shapes it is." Or "Draw those shapes under paper," right.

Now, we can combine those shapes under paper. And you could see some kids, their light bulb and their head go in. I never thought I could draw a camera. And then suddenly they just thought, oh, it's actually, I was saying it's a serial box. So they could visualize a serial box with like a round circle in front. That's all it is. And it was interesting where you could just see the thought process of realizing it's not art and it's not got a standard, it's not one plus one equals math. There's a different approach to this.

And then I really liked the methodology of sketch notes and it sort of kept it since then. And I would say the biggest decision I made in my life was training to teach. And I would say the hardest decision in my life was deciding not to continue. Because it was quite a big debate to admit saying this is not a route for me, 'cause sometimes you just think, "I've committed to this, now I'm just gonna have to stick with my guns." And I was like, "I've become one of those statistics where people go, ah, there's many teachers leaving in the first year of teaching. I'm now one of those statistics." Which I was like, well it's not really 101, but I'm one of them.

MR: You have to be real, right? I suppose.

EC: Yeah. And I was very conscious, and yourself and your listeners would be aware that if I was out of industry for a certain length of time, it would be very hard for me to get into a certain level in industry rather than start this at the bottom again. So I had to take quite a big bold step halfway through my first year and go, "This is not for me. At the end of this term, I'm going back into industry." So that's what I did.

I then went back into industry working for a manufacturing company, and I love how things are made. So that really ignited my passion again, I think. In a way, it was like taking a career break that I think that teaching it was kind of proved to be that sort of, well year and a half of a career break in a weird way. But it realized that I like design. I do like the marketing aspect in a smaller portion, but people are investing now back into design back into branding, regaining the customer base. So I went back into design, which I really enjoyed.

And I was focusing now on more sustainability as well. Sustainable business energy sector, which I work a lot in. And then action and climate change. So I've done quite a lot in sustainability. Learning a lot about that side as well. And I'm really focused on helping people with a purpose succeed.

And I got to about four or five years into the company I was working for previously last year, and I sat there and thought, again, "I don't wanna go to this marketing director level." I was getting to the same problem that I was like, I just, I like doing the work and I like project managing, which is a bit weird when you think, I don't wanna be a marketing director, but I like managing project, but I don't wanna be that director level. It's no interest to me and not everybody's career path is to go to the top of the pyramid. There's a lot of us like to sit a couple of steps below that.

And that's when I thought I'm gonna do freelance properly 'cause a lot of creatives, I've dabbled with it here and there and I've dipped my toe in and I thought actually -- and you know, it's a year ago to the day that sat, I remember on holiday went, "I think this is what I'm gonna do. I'm gonna go freelance. I'm gonna work for purpose-driven companies. I'm gonna work for marketing teams because I know what assets I have to that team 'cause They understand marketing teams."

So I come from a very practical approach to what they do. It's like, this is engaging content and it's practical and I talk marketing. I understand how they can get the budgets for what they need to do. I understand all that side. And then the other part of me was going, if I work on that, then a small part of me now is focused on working with seed founders to help their ideas within purpose-driven, whether it's in climate change or whether it's in animal welfare, whether it's telecoms to level up communities. Whether it's all that.

And a lot of the time I'm working with them nearly at cost as well because I am a firm believer in giving back. And I know these ones are wanting to do good. They're not doing this to make money, they're doing -- but side note, some of these are not-for-profits anyway, the way they're setting themselves up. And the a quote that's always stood with me and random person that I heard it from, I don't if it's actually him originally, but it's the person I remember saying it, which is the rapper/singer Pitbull of all people.

MR: Okay. Yeah.

EC: And he said "Money does buy you happiness, you just have to give it away." And I thought it was a really interesting way of framing it. And I was like, so I worked with these smaller projects to try and give back in a different way. So enabling them to have something that will do good at the same time working for these bigger SME marketing teams.

Yeah, so for nearly under a year now, I've been doing freelance. I attempted freelance at the started of the year. I have a contract job with a marketing company which secured my time because of the experience I've had. They were like, "Well, work for us for 20 hours a week." Anybody who's freelance will know, you know, any work 60 hours a week, I'm working for myself as well sort of thing. You know, there's no real, "Oh you only do 40 hours freelance." It's like, 'cause you're also marketing and accountant and HR and social media.

MR: Right. Yeah.

EC: Yeah. So you know, social media. Video grapher is my thing at the minute. So it's interesting because that journey, all those things I've gone through and experience I've had like the financial crash made me more prepared to be freelance 'cause I knew what I had to put in place to cope with those sort of events. The pandemic also had the same effect. I know what I need to do to that. So hopefully, this is now my journey.

MR: Wow. That's really great. And I would think too, you know, going back to your education, you took that year and a half to kind of potentially switch careers and it was clear that it wasn't the direction. But I would think that that education on how to educate as much as, you know, it didn't fit for you to be a full-time thing, you found ways to integrate that.

That's what I think attracted me when I was on Instagram. I see you doing that kind of work in the things you're doing. And I imagine for those seed-level startups, you're teaching them how to position themselves and how to reframe, what's the narrative, right? All those things are things you can teach out of your wealth of knowledge in marketing and then teach them in a way that fits their situation. Would that be a fair way to think of it?

EC: Yeah. And myself, I'm a constant learner. Like one of the master classes was actually yours, an Interaction design foundation. So, you know, I've watched one of your master classes, I think I've done one of your other ones as well, one you did as an independent webinar. And I'm always wanting to learn and I always like to experience how other people teach as well thinking, oh, I like that or I like that --

MR: Me too.

EC: -- that technique. And I'll be like, "Oh, I'll write that down." And funny enough, I have that in my sketch notes. I have my playbook, which we'll probably get to in terms of tips and that. And I write everything down and I'm always wanting to learn, even if it's subjects that are totally nothing to do because I've just got an interest in subject. I've done a criminology diploma because I was just really interested in like CSI and things. I was like, "I just wanna know more about this." I have no interest in doing it as a job, but I wanna learn more.

And through my sort of social media and part of what I've tried to do with some of the, you know, here's the buttons and this is why this is this and like trying to break it down to people, like trying to understand to them why like three lines of text, why it should be orientated like this and the different shapes it should do. And it's really nice getting feedback from a couple of people who are actually junior marketing people that are following me going, "Oh that's just made it look so much better now my PowerPoint."

And they're applying these little concepts in different ways and it was so nice. A woman was so proud, they sent me like, "Look at this. I took your ideas." And I didn't even know they were following me 'cause I've never interacted with them. But they were so tough just to say. And I was like, it's like that teaching approach. And I've got like a whole program of other things that it's just getting the time unfortunately of other things I wanna say like this way, this is why it looks better than this way. Both are fine, but you know, let's have a look, breakdown.

So it's kind of that, it's so nice to see little things I've done just to try and like help and part that information, and as other people are sucking in, like the little silent people, they don't interact, they don't like your stuff. They don't comment on your stuff, but they're clearly just sit --

MR: You're having an influence for sure. Yeah.

EC: Yeah. And I get like little messages going, "How did you edit that in?" Like they go, "Well how did you do that in Premiere Pro? And I'm like, "Well I didn't. I used such and such to start with. I said, "It's far easier, if you're not a pro with something like Premiere Pro or something like that." Goes, "Use Canva, use Adobe Express. Just use something that's easier." Sort of thing. Don't think you have to use its big software 'cause the big boys use it. You know what I mean?

MR: Right.

EC: And I always say, you know, "Use something that's just user-friendly." And that's the kind of the wins.

MR: Yeah, exactly. I mean I use iMovie for almost everything, podcasts. I've used it for my teaching. So when I do my training and I cut it up and turn it into a video for sale, I'm just using iMovie. I mean, I've always believed this, like a lot of times we tend to think that we need the big software when simple software that's default on your machine is often more powerful than you realize because you just overlook it and that there's opportunities to really push it further than you really think it could push.

EC: And I think like going back to my secondary school education, the most advanced type of art software was the equivalent of whatever paint was back then.

MR: Yeah, exactly.

EC: We were drawing everything in paint. And I have one of the first things I ever did upstairs, it was a little folder that my mom -- my mom was obviously like, look what she drew sort of thing. And you know, we just think that's cringe. "It's cringeworthy, mom. But now I'm 40, I think that's actually quite cool that I've got something that I did digital or way back when."

And I remember looking at every time going, but on the other hand, paint could do a lot back then. And that was 20, and on CorelDRAW, I think we were using and quo we were saying with layout design quo and things. So, you know, I'm in the age with Dreamweaver, used to be owned by Macromedia rather than Adobe. And I do sometimes think like -- I always say to people, Microsoft Paint can actually do a huge amount. 'Cause I'm a Mac -- not a Mac user, I'm a PC user.

I use Notepad by default for a lot of things, typing up notes. And it's so great if you are doing web development 'cause it strips all the code out, it strips all your formatting so you know, you've got a clean copy and paste when you're putting in something. So I do think that we forget the simpler things.

And it's the same, we've going back to just sketching, going back to that idea of stop forcing myself to use Illustrator straight away because I'm not a pro at Illustrator. I have to keep Googling stuff 'cause I always forget stuff. When you have to remember how to use Photoshop, Illustrator, Premiere and InDesign, and Figma on your average day, you get to the point of "There's only so much I'm gonna remember how to do." Sort of thing.

MR: Yeah, yeah. You focus on the things you use often, right? And you Google things you use occasionally, which is fine. I mean that's -- those tools.

EC: I wish Google when I was learning would've been brilliant when I was at university.

MR: No kidding. Well, we're on this discussion of software. We sort of hinted at this when we prepared for this, talking about the drawing and software, and so, I think agree in this sense that I think it's important that you do your concepting on paper with pen to get the idea and to think through the idea before you get into software.

My theory or my view is, the problem with software as powerful as it is, even the simple stuff, is once you enter software, you tend to adapt to the things that the software lets you do or even to this discussion we're having now. You adapt to the things you know how to make the software do, which is a narrow subset of what the software probably can do.

But by using pencil sketches or sketchnotes or whatever technique as ugly or beautiful as it is, it helps you think through where you're gonna go before you ever touch any bit of software. So you're coming with this approach that's not hindered in any way by what the software can or can't do.

It's more like what's the solution that we're solving for the person, the customer, the user using this thing. Let's start from that point, which, you know, that's our UX perspective. And then work back to making it happen and then bring the tools in. Would you kind of track along the side of that and have you seen that I would apply?

EC: Yeah, I would. And actually, I would say it pretty much aligns with exactly a project I've just sent to print. I've nerve-rackingly sent to print. It's always one of those moments, especially if you're so used to digital design, you've got send something to actually print. You're like, "I'm gonna check this 500 times." So I'm gonna actually a bit show. This is useless for people just listening rather than those watching.

MR: If you're listening to the podcast, look on the link for the YouTube and you can check it out.

EC: So this is something -- I'm gonna try and get it in screen. There we go.

MR: You got it on there. That's all in.

EC: There we go. So that is actually quite a few sheets worth of work. But this was deliberately designed in a comic book style. And it was something that I knew if I went to the computer, I'm gonna go and default a couple of things. I'm gonna look at some stock illustrations that can get me the boxes and the styles and the effects. And then I'm gonna go quite rigid and I'm gonna do this.

And I'm thinking, first of all, I've got to think it through because it's about actually how product is made from -- it's that telecoms brand company. So how someone gets from that sheet of metal all the way through to a roadside cabinet with a telecoms pool coming out of it and a wifi device at the top of it and all the stages in between? And I've got to remember what those stages are.

And I think taking it back to pen and paper, it was kind of a big sketchnote gone wrong. I was starting to actually do it as very -- I did say it was a sketchnote gone wrong 'cause I did originally plan just to do like little sketchnotes, going right, this would be this and this will be this. Then I took another sheet and went, "Oh no, I'll just draw it out properly."

And then I got to the third sheet 'cause and I'll add a little bit of marker pen. It literally just started to build up. I was like, "This is quite funny. This is me really not doing sketchnotes now." I was like, "I've abandoned it. It's not a sketchnote, it's a full-on illustration." But the best thing about that was, it took me maybe a couple of hours to draw all out, get the concept, a few annotations kind of like the teaching side as well.

Just took a picture of it and sent it to the MD and went, "This is the idea and I don't wanna spend time doing a illustrate if you don't like the concept of this being this comic book superhero theme." And he was like, "I like it. I really like it." Luckily, he's got a good vision. He can see what's gonna be the end result as well. He knows what I'm capable of so he knows what would be produced. And even when he looked at this very basic sketch, he went, "Oh by the way, it's not called that, it's called this so you need to google this."

So you already gave me feedback just because the sketch was just good enough where you could get what it was supposed to be, but you could pick up on, "Oh you've not quite got that terminology. So just point in the right path." So my next version of that was fine and then fine lined it, took pictures of it, and then took it into Illustrator.

And I think it's better because it's, a lack way of putting it got that one key approach. And my lines aren't quite parallel. Like curves aren't perfect because I've traced the image of that. And it's given a very hand-drawn effect. And rather than if I had gone to illustrate straight away, I know I would've done really nice straight lines. A really nice arc. And it would've looked too polished.

And whole point of this was, it's supposed to be somebody sketched out like a story like you do with comics. Sometimes I have to remember that's actually gonna be a better approach. And I think that's why stripping back to pen and paper and having that base skillset really helpful in trying to convey an idea as well and get buy-in. Before I go and invest 40 hours of my time, "Are we all right with this one hour of time I've invested?"

MR: Well, and you have to think that way as an independent especially, 'cause that means if you spend 40 hours going all the way with that, that's 40 hours you can't spend on something else that maybe you should be, right? It's sort of a seed idea that, "Hey, is this right?" Even if it gets you arguing over the concept, at least it's movement. And then you can move from there. Either you'd say, "No, that's too loose. I don't want that." Or "Hey, it looks great, he chose that way, but at least it gives him an option and is our invested." And you can now choose your adventure based on that.

EC: I think the reason behind doing it as well goes back to maybe the last two to three years of really getting deep into UX design in terms of websites where really starting with pen and paper wireframes. Pen and paper wireframes, then even moving into just block design and saying, "This is where the hero shot's gonna be. This is where the interest's gonna be." And laying it out blocks like that before even building it.

And again, web design, we get so carried away from going, getting a brief and going right bang, here's your website. And then going, "Oh actually we don't really like that and it doesn't flow here. But doing it in that stage work, which does take more time, but then that's kind of part of the investment with UX rather than just going straight into web design.

And that's part of what I've been trying to do when doing freelance is going, but even when I approach the marketing teams, I go, "I don't do your brochure straight out the bat. What I do is I go, here's the general skeleton structure. This is what your page layout's gonna be." And I give them like a skeleton grid of their say 16 pages. These are where your content blocks are. This is roughly where your imagery is gonna be. This is the idea. And I'll give them a like a mood ball going, "And this is the visuals." And then they can buy in on that.

So when they produce the end result, it should be pretty much on the button rather than coming back going, "Oh actually, we'd rather it was a bit like this. And could those be amalgamated together?" Don't go it wrong. You do get ones like that. Where you've somehow, it's been lost in translation. But again, it's to try and help me knowing that that's kind of way marketing teams work as well. If you can give them an idea. If you've got somebody with a remote bit of creative brain, they can visualize it already in their head as well. They kind of know what the end result's gonna be.

And it just helps and gives them confidence that they know I know what I'm doing. So I kind of strip it down even if it's digitally kind of blocks. But yeah, I think going straight into the actual design end phase. And in a way that's what sketchnotes has taught me is to not always go for that sort of thing. Not always go for the end result with a color and a fine line and all that. You know, use a pen and paper, use a pencil sort of thing.

MR: That seems to work. I've been doing this for many years and sometimes I'll jump right to the computer and stop myself and come back and get out my iPad or a piece of paper and just sketch the concept. And it always seems that those projects turn out better. They iterate better, they're smoother. They're more thought out. Like all those things that you want in an end product, ends up getting bound into them when I approach 'em that way.

And typically, I do, but there's times when, if I'm in a hurry, I might forget that step and I'll have to like, "Okay, stop. Let's go back let's do some sketching." Even if it's just a little bit in my bullet journal, just to think through the process, that might be enough, right. It doesn't have to be some crazy detailed thing, but a little dump of ideas and seeing it helps reinforce things and give it direction, which is really valuable.

EC: Yeah. I even do that with quite a few of my social media posts. If they're gonna be actually illustrating a topic or I go for one that's about buttons. You know, I've got them in one of my notebooks where I was going, right, this is how it's gonna lay out, these are the buttons I'm gonna talk about. Giving myself the space and oh that's not gonna work. Do the next one. The next one. Rather than going straight into these ones were done in Figma. So rather than going straight into Figma and going, "Oh no, I have to resize this and I have to move this." I already know what it's gonna be.

MR: You got the map. Yeah.

EC: Yeah. And you can go straight in. And I do think going digital first sometimes isn't the best way. And I think that's one of the big benefits of having the career that I've had where, you know, my first year university was pretty much analog and that set me off success. You know, we learned proper old school market techniques. You know, with the blending up and sort of thing and you know, and having to use masking tape to keep your line script.

So I've learned all of those skills. You wouldn't think that looking at some of my designs. I look at some of my sketchnotes and going, "I have no idea how I've got the degree I've got sometimes. Or how I was allowed to teach children how to draw." But then that's kind of one of the things I try and do is go, "Don't get hung up on the way it looks. Just get it down." Sort of thing.

MR: Yeah. Functional, functional, functional.

EC: Yeah.

MR: That's really cool. This is a great story and it's brought back a lot of memories for me as well. So that's encouraging. Let's shift a little bit. I'd love to hear the tools that you like to use. You've hinted at some on the design on the marketing side which you can certainly go into. You can start either analog or digital, whichever way you'd like first.

EC: Well, I think we should start analog because you know, we're saying we should go analog first. I'd like to say I'm a black pen enthusiast. I have a lot of black pens, those listening to the audio, there. I try lots --

MR: A bucket full black pens.

EC: Yeah. Obviously, some of them are different thicknesses and some are like brush tip and normal tip. But doesn't matter which black pen I use, I go back to an actual Uniball finite pen. Just 'cause it's a really simple, nice black pen. And I like it 'cause it's reliable and it's consistent. And usually come in packet of like five 'cause I seem to lose them. I don't how I'll lose them. It's like batteries, you know, they just disappear. But I really like the Uniball high fine pen.

And you can get them in like every supermarket here in the UK. Especially, at the minute it's back-to-school stuff. So, funny enough, I've just bought another packet. I like them as well 'cause they're consistent. It doesn't really matter what paper I use, they come out the same. They don't really bleed and it's just got their nice crispness to it. And then with them, if you think I'm a black pen enthusiast, you still need to see the amount of marker pens I own.

But I have a huge amount of color and marker pens. But for the sketch notes side, I found I was trying to focus too much on the color instead of just giving it a bit of a highlight and a bit of a punch more than anything. And then my brain tweaked them I was like, well just use highlighters sort of thing. So one of the things I really like is, these are the Sharpe highlighters. So the s-not and they come in about20 or so colors

MR: Look like nice pastel colors. If you're listening, they're not the traditional intense crazy colors. It's more like pastel colors.

EC: Yeah. And I think that's why we like 'em because they've got a bit of a punch of a traditional neon sort of highlight. You know, they've got a bit of that punch, but they've got the softness of the pastel sort of very zebra, I think bring out a pastel range. I've got twitch, I've got God knows how many of them as well.

MR: Oh, okay.

EC: But they're kind of very vibrant and they come in a whole range of colors. You wouldn't get that -- you know, there's no neon, real true neon, but them combined, they just give that highlight. And what I try to do is I look at what I'm taking a sketchnote off. So if we go back to -- they're always learning. That's what I use my sketchnotes for is always like watching the webinars and using it to remember what I'm learning. Or when I read books, I try and condense a book I've read into one or two pages of notes.

So one of the things I do is, so I've got quite nicely got to actually a page use those. So I try and use the colors just -- I pick a couple of colors to match maybe the brand of the person that I'm watching. Or it could be to do with the topic because then it helps me remember it and learn it. I'm that design nerd, so I'm kind of thinking he needs to have a nice theme. I can't just rock up with any random color.

MR: Yeah.

EC: So that's kind of how I do. I always have a Uniball pen on me. I've got them in my bags. I've got 'em in the car because they are just so relatively foldable as well. They're really quite cheap. It's only like a few bucks for a pack of three or five, however many they come in.

MR: That's great. Yeah.

EC: And paper-wise, I'm quite particular. So when I'm doing the actual UX design, so when I'm doing wireframes because I really don't want to use color. These are black and white and I know if I use white paper I'm gonna add color 'cause I know what sort of person I am.

MR: Interesting.

EC: Yeah. So I use Kraft brown paper.

MR: Oh wow.

EC: So deliberately you put color on that, it doesn't really show at all. So I've got like a nice sort of spiraled brown and it's quite a nice size as well. So sort of landscape orientation, it's kind of monitor then portrait orientation, you've kind of got more of a mobile style. I've got a couple of these now and they're quite thick as well. So if I wanna use a heavier-duty thicker black pen, they work really well.

MR: They can't bleed.

EC: Yeah. And so I use Kraft, and it forces me not to use color. It forces me to keep -- this is purely about wire framing. This is where the base element's go in the page. And then I use post-it notes to highlight up to like, this is where it's gonna move. In terms of the notebooks, it was funny enough, I was just looking at the sketchnote one the other day.

But I use quite a thick, really thick gram paper. And I like nice notebooks. It's one of my things. I don't like just using generic paper as well. And I think 'cause those sharpies can be quite heavy duty. It's a Sharpie at the end of the day, you know, it's gonna have a bit of a bleed through the page. So I'm quite conscious of having a really heavy gram paper.

And I like dot grid. I can't do the blank paper. 'Cause Even those comic book strips, actually it's on the reverse side of blue graph paper. So I can roughly see the graph through it. So I've got an idea of where the lines are. But I like dot grid. All of my general notebooks are dot paper or grid paper, depending on how people call them. And that's kind of what I like analog-wise, I'm quite traditional. I think. I'm not really into anything fancy.

MR: So for the heavy gram notebook, that looked like a LEUCHTTURM, if I were to guess. I don't know If that's the brand.

EC: No, I'm gonna pronounce this wrong. I already know I'm gonna -- Ottergami

MR: Oh, okay. Ottergami. I haven't heard that. There's a fun shot now. So for bullet journalists. Or bullet journalists and they have quite thick paper.

EC: Yeah, it's really nice quality. From my sustainability side and also, 'cause I am actually a vegan as well, so I'm very conscious about them not having real leather on the covers and things. And it is a bit like your own one, which -- that's how I came across it. 'Cause I was looking for notebooks that weren't real leather covers. But I do like it because it is so heavy duty and it's got that nice quality.

And I think if I'm gonna be writing something I'm gonna look back on, I want it to feel nice. You know, I want that tact. I like the tactileness sort of thing. And I think that's, again, goes back to being old-school print design. You like the feel of the paper and it's got the nice gram effect, et cetera.

MR: Yeah, exactly. Now what about if we switch to digital, assuming that you don't have any other analog tools that you'd like to share? What would be the tool?

EC: Well, I have a lot of analog tools, but I don't think any of them are -- I've got, you know, every type of color pencil going. Digital-wise, 'cause I'm not a Mac user, I am a Windows user, so I've got a Samsung Galaxy Tab. And I use Concepts because it's just a brilliant app.

MR: That's a great tool.

EC: Yeah. The Concepts app. And I would say in the last two years, the Samsung Pen has been really up its game with its sensitivity. It works like my old Apple iPad Pro, what was it called? Yeah, iPad Pro that had the tablet. I had one of the first edition ones and then Procreate stop supporting it, so I sold it. And that's when I was like, well actually it was the last piece of Apple products I had.

So I thought, well, this is the time I'm gonna move to Galaxy Tab. And I wanted something smaller because this is small enough to go into, you know, a small like rucksack. So in a out and about. And I love the Concepts app. Really been looking at using it in the last year or so.

I like the never-ending art board as well, although sometimes it kind of feels like you don't have scale. So I've noticed when I've gone back and looked at sketches I've done or UX wireframes where some look proportionally fine and then I zoom out and then somehow I've managed to do giant boxes and tiny boxes. But because it's vector-based, at least you can start to resize things.

MR: Yeah. You can size it. Yeah.

EC: But sometimes you kinda lose the awareness of where you are 'cause it's obviously a smaller screen 'cause it's a Galaxy Tab rather than like a big iPad Pro. But I do like the Concepts app. I've tried a few and they just didn't seem to have that sensitivity with the Samsung Pen. But equally they didn't have even just a free version of Concepts, the wide range of colors, wide range of pens available and not. So yeah, I do like sketchnoting though, because you can press Undo and you can change the line that you just thought it's a bit dodgy.

MR: Yeah. That's nice.

EC: And it does the smoothing out. I was like, "Oh, I like this. Why can't I do this a real life for a pen and paper."

MR: Yeah, exactly. So the tab I think is more like an A5 size?

EC: It is. To be fair, it's not far off the size of notebooks.

MR: It'd probably be closest to an iPad Mini if someone's used to iPad. It's probably more in that range.

EC: Yeah, it is a nice size. And I got that 'cause I wanted something that was bigger than my phone for actually learning because a lot of learnings now online you can't get books for a lot of things anymore. But I didn't wanna have to keep using my phone. And when I've spent 11 hours of the day at my computer, I don't wanna have to have my computer on an evening. So I bought it originally to be able to read eBooks or do some of the courses I've signed up to.

MR: And do a training. Yeah.

EC: Yeah. And even like your webinar, I think I watched it on my Galaxy Tab or potentially drew it on my Galaxy Tab. I can't remember now. But I use it for that. And then it's like the penny dropped. I was like, "Well, why don't I do some sketch notes on this?" And then I've started to use it more for the wireframes because it's easy then to take that and then put it into likes of Figma. And that's I found rather than having to take pictures and then move them in. So I'm using Concepts more for wireframes than sketchnoting. I think the tactlessness of the notebook for sketchnoting.

MR: Well, that's really cool. We don't have lots and lots of PC-only users or Galaxy Android users. So it's good to have represented because I know there must be more out there. So it's good to hear that. Good feedback. Yeah.

EC: Well I was like -- my computers all the way through university, even all the way up to near enough when I went to teacher training, were all Macs. For those who are watching, you'll see I've got in the background probably you can just see I've got an original iPhone, an iPod on the wall. Still have a better battery life to old iPhone 'cause they still work. And I had the old school, massive Mac, the Blueberry Mac with the big blue colors. So you know that I had one of them. So I've always been Mac from training.

And then it just got more into PC-based because I knew a large portion of my audience were using PCs. The market teams teams were using PCs. It was an easy sell to people to, "Well, we don't wanna put a Mac into the IT system and things." So I got used to using a Windows-based ecosystem. And then gradually as things in my Apple ecosystem died off, they just replaced with a Windows and Android.

MR: Yeah, makes sense.

EC: So I kind of smoothly moved over.

MR: That's pretty cool. Well, thanks for sharing your tools. People always like to have this section so they can learn about new tools and try things out. I know I learn about tools all the time from this section as well, so.

EC: When I walk the dog and listen to the podcast, I'm always like, "Oh, I didn't know that." Or, "Oh, there's another pen I'm gonna -- I think that's another pen I'm gonna buy." And then go back to the Uniball. Hence the tub of nearly 50 black pens that I own.

MR: Wow. Well, let's go to the next portion of the show, which is your three tips. So I always frame it as someone's listening, they're individual thinking, whatever that means to them. Maybe they've gotten into a rut and they need just some encouragement. Like what would be three things you would encourage them to do to kind of get back into a good rhythm?

EC: I think the first one, and this is something that I used to champion a lot when I was teaching and trying to get kids to get out the mindset of. You've just come from, you know, maths or you've come from geography or history or wherever it might be. And you've come and sat in this room, you've gotta get kids credit 'cause they've gotta suddenly switch from one class to another. And I'll just be sitting going, I can't get my head into this mindset. Or it's not perfect or it's whatever it might be.

And I used to say to them at the level they're doing, or the level that most designers are doing, there's no standard. Don't worry about a standard. Try and remember there's no standard. This is not maths. One plus one doesn't equal two. So your standard is not my standard. Your design is not my design. And that's why I actually love sketchnotes 'cause everybody's is completely different. Everyone's styles are different.

And trying to remember that unless you're doing architecture and building regulations, design is quite free. And don't you put that pressure on yourself? So give yourself a break. Remember that you are setting the standard in a way and try and give yourself a break. 'Cause I think we all kind of get a bit too hung up on, "Oh, it needs to be like this." And it's kinda like, no, just, there's no standard to design really. It's, quite freeing.

It's not as free as art. Granted. But that's very expressive. You know, you've got the fine line. You know, we do have some standards, you know, we're not going to the really, really fluid art world, but yeah, try and remember that you are the one giving yourself a hard time. So let up on yourself. There is no standard. So I would say that's probably number one.

The second one is a bit something that I wish I did a lot early on in my career. And I've only started doing in the last, I think five, six years actually after I finished teaching, really, I'm gonna get an example, is I create playbooks 'cause a hybrid of a sketchbook, a scrapbook, important notes. Things that I find I think are really interesting that I want to sort of scrapbook.

And the reason why I wish I started this earlier -- so for those listening, I'm sort of holding up some like cutouts I've done and I've annotated them and things that I've found online or logos and packaging that I like and I cut them out and I sort of stick them in and I write why I like them or why it's worked and so annotating them.

But I also do my sketch notes in it from the books that I've read or the webinars I've attended. And I have one for each year. And the reason I like them is sometimes it's really good to just, if you've got that mental block, is go back and look at something, pick a subject you've read and think it could inspire you.

Or if you think, oh, this is no good, look what you were doing five, six years ago. And it's like, when I look at the thing I designed when I was 15 using Microsoft Paint or whatever it would've been, I'm like, "Oh yeah, I've actually come quite a way since then." Sort of thing. So I wish I did these earlier because it's so interesting to look back on.

But more importantly, I get inspiration every time I look at them because it is personalized to me. It's my journey. It's my type of design and it helps inspire me to look at it and go, "Oh yeah, why didn't I try that?" Or "Oh wait, I forgot about this."

And sometimes it can spark that idea or give you the confidence boost. You remember you can actually do this, right? It's like when I draw badly or -- I wouldn't say badly. It's not a word I like to use. But I draw in a way where I just think, "How do people pay me to do this?" Sort of thing.

I deliberately sometimes go -- and I've got like some really nice hand-drawn, colored in really heavy-duty, 20 hours sort of pencil colors drawings in my playbooks, in my sketchbooks because it's just to remind myself I do actually have that talent. It's just my brain's not using that talent at the minute. It's clearly using it for something else. You know, it's worrying about, "What I'm gonna have from a dinner." So it's nice to look back and it kind of reaffirms where you are, but also gives you that inspiration.

And I would say the third one is probably a classic one is walk the dog. The amount of things I can solve by walking my dog. I take him out for a walk, 45 minutes later I'm either re-inspired, I fixed a problem while either walking the dog. I might think, "Oh, this is a different way to approach it." The dog is brilliant 'cause I talked to him like a crazy dog owner I am, you know, and he doesn't answer back. He has a good go, granted, but he generally doesn't answer back.

And I would say, so take that tea break, go in the garden, walk the dog. Like during a pandemic was harder. So I used to go in the garden and just walk up and down a few times throwing a ball with a dog because as soon as my brain -- it is that adage of, to be creative, you also have to be bored. You have to have that bit where your brain is not thinking about what you're trying to think about. And that's why we have our best ideas in the shower when you're going to sleep because you've suddenly switched off. So I try sometimes a dog, it's four walks a day.

MR: It's a lot I'm sure.

EC: Yeah. Well, it gets to a point where it's like, "Oh, do we have to? Do we have to?" So I think we really underestimate getting away from your desk. Get out to nature, walk the dog. Just, you know, that fresh air is something about it that for me really works to help me get over that struggle.

And it could be any struggle, it could be a design struggle, it could be from the marketing stuff that I work on teams with, saying how should we approach this? So I find it's one of the best things I've -- well say it's nine years in now. It's the best thing I've had really in terms of my tools as well, is very analog tool.

MR: Yeah. That's good. That's good. Reset.

EC: Mm-hmm.

MR: Well, those are great tips. Thanks for sharing those, Elizabeth. Very helpful and encouraging. Making me wanna take my dog for a walk now, which maybe I should do after this 'cause I've been sitting for an hour, so

EC: Well, yeah. One of my friends, she says she plays with the kids. She says she'll go and she'll just build Lego with the kids or she'll go and color in with the kids because it is one of the few friends I've got that's in a relatively similar role. So she gets it as well. And she says sometimes just doing that and drawing it back to a more basic level makes her go, "Ah, that's how I could approach this problem." Or "That's how I could do this logo idea." 'Cause She's very much logo design and she's like, ah, that's -- you know, it's like the penny drops moments 'cause she's doing something related, but at the same time not thinking about it. So I really do think sometimes you have to give yourself 10 minutes to go do something else.

MR: Yeah. Let's your subconscious work for a bit, I guess. You know, so it can kind of churn on things and give you back some ideas.

EC: Yeah.

MR: So Elizabeth, where can we find you? What's the best place to locate you? A website, social media? Where do you hang out?

EC: My website is Below Two, so spelled out T-W-O.co.uk. And that's pretty much all of my social media is the same. So it's Below Two Studio. So whether it be Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, the whole lot, very rare. I've managed to secure it on all of the platforms. Especially in today's world where so many things are taken up. But you can find me there. I'm generally mostly on LinkedIn and Instagram. I've quoted Twitter there, which just start getting called using X, that's the term. But yeah, you can find me on LinkedIn, Instagram mainly and my website, which is a key thing.

MR: Okay. That's really great. And you can go check that out everyone. We'll have of course, as always show notes and samples. And if we can get some samples from Elizabeth, we'll link to those as well so we can, she can throw 'em on our website and send us some links and we can see some pictures of her playbooks and some other things that she's talked about, if you're listening.

EC: It'll be great once this has actually come out, the thing I've just done a comic book stuff, we'll actually have all the end results.

MR: Oh.

EC: It's part of a huge exhibition that the entire standard is now gonna be comic book superhero design. So we've done the whole lot to that sort of style now.

MR: Wow. Cool.

EC: So hopefully, I'll have some quite like, literally here's the idea here. Is it now fully?

MR: That would be cool. Yeah, that'd be great.

EC: So hopefully I'll have that.

MR: Great. Well, thanks Elizabeth for all the sharing and teaching you do on Instagram that I've seen and for your generosity and hanging out with us and telling us your story and laughing and having the dog bark and the network flake out and all the things that we've gone through. It's been a joy just to hang out with you.

EC: Yes, thank you very much for having me. It's made a nice start to the bank holiday weekend here.

MR: Well, that's great. That's great. For all those who are listening or watching, this will wrap up another episode of the Sketchnote Army Podcast. Until next time, talk to you soon.

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תוכן מסופק על ידי Sketchnote Army Podcast and Mike Rohde. כל תוכן הפודקאסטים כולל פרקים, גרפיקה ותיאורי פודקאסטים מועלים ומסופקים ישירות על ידי Sketchnote Army Podcast and Mike Rohde או שותף פלטפורמת הפודקאסט שלו. אם אתה מאמין שמישהו משתמש ביצירה שלך המוגנת בזכויות יוצרים ללא רשותך, אתה יכול לעקוב אחר התהליך המתואר כאן https://he.player.fm/legal.

In this episode, Elizabeth Chesney shares her approach to teaching design concepts coupled with handwritten notes to help her subjects understand how design concepts work and why they work.

Sponsored by Concepts

This episode of the Sketchnote Army Podcast is brought to you by Concepts, a perfect tool for sketchnoting, available on iOS, Windows, and Android.

Concepts' vector-based drawing feature gives you the power to adjust your drawings saving hours and hours of rework.

Vectors provide clean, crisp, high-resolution output for your sketchnotes at any size you need s ideal for sketchnoting.

SEARCH in your favorite app store to give it a try.

Running Order

  • Intro
  • Welcome
  • Who is Elizabeth Chesney
  • Origin Story
  • Elizabeth Chesney's current work
  • Sponsor: Concepts
  • Tips
  • Tools
  • Where to find Elizabeth Chesney
  • Outro

Links

Amazon affiliate links support the Sketchnote Army Podcast.

Tools

Amazon affiliate links support the Sketchnote Army Podcast.

Tips

  1. There is no standard.
  2. Create playbooks or scrapbooks of your work.
  3. Get away from your desk. Take a break.

Credits

  • Producer: Alec Pulianas
  • Theme music: Jon Schiedermayer
  • Shownotes and transcripts: Esther Odoro

Subscribe to the Sketchnote Army Podcast

You can subscribe to the podcast through iTunes, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Amazon Music, YouTube or your favorite podcast listening source.

Support the Podcast

To support the creation, production and hosting of the Sketchnote Army Podcast, buy one of Mike Rohde’s bestselling books. Use code ROHDE40 at Peachpit.com for 40% off!

Episode Transcript

Mike Rohde: Hey everyone, it's Mike and I'm here with Elizabeth Chesney. Elizabeth, how are you doing today?

Elizabeth Chesney: I'm good, I'm good. It's evening here in the UK, so it's quite relaxed and we've got a bank holiday, so it's even more relaxed.

MR: Good, good, good. Well, you'll be laid back and ready to answer all kinds of questions and let us see inside you, the way you think. So I brought Elizabeth on because I follow her on Instagram. I don't know how we crossed paths, but I'm glad we did. And she does a lot of sketchnoting that she shares online, but also taking design concepts, which I really like.

Her approach is taking these design concepts and then breaking them down with handwritten notes on top of them to help you understand how these design concepts work and why they work, which is really helpful education, especially for people who sort of sense something's going on, maybe they're not trained as a designer, but they sense something's going on and they're curious about why it works that way. And you sort of fill that gap, which I love that. I love education, I love that whole thing.

So that is how we crossed paths. And I thought Elizabeth would be a great person because very recently, you were doing some sketching for a project, then it turned into a full-blown sketchnote. You shared video on Instagram. So maybe we can even talk about that project. And I thought this would be great to talk with her and see how sketchnoting fits into her everyday life, and the stuff she does. So, welcome.

EC: Thank you for having me.

MR: Yeah, you're welcome. So why don't you start by telling us a little bit about who you are and what you do.

EC: That's great. So I am basically in England, despite my accent, I'm actually Scottish, so any of the British listeners are gonna be going, "No, doesn't sound right." But so I though mainly work from home. I am a freelance based marketing designer. I do two types of things. On the average day, I'm either building assets for commercial teams whether that's sort of layout design, landing pages, websites, and a lot of that is UX based as well.

So I've kind of got UX interweaved quite a lot in the background. Very similar to yourself, Mike. It's kind of something I've grown into or using skills I've learned before and applying them in that way. And then the other part of me is actually working with seed-level startups, so people who have an idea but actually don't have anything behind them to help them with the funding.

So actually, I build lightweight brands. I call them diet brands 'cause they're like mini logos and brand sheets rather than these big brand books. And then helping them with like a commercial slide deck to help with their sort of buy-in when they're presenting their idea. And then some flat user interface design concept. So they kind of got like, this is what we're looking to achieve.

And I also work with 'em in a marketing sense of like, how's the best way to present that information? So they might talk to me for 10 minutes and I say, "Well, this is how you frame it, this is how you'd phrase it." And that's part because of the big marketing background, which we'll get into that I have. And so it's kind of like a unique sort of offering for these startups. And I've done a couple now and it really helps 'em look professional at that seed funding level.

So I kind of do two arms, one of this sort of big marketing aspect with sort of SME, B2B companies, so you're sort of quite medium enterprise companies and then right at the start founders. So it's quite nice. I've got a mix that I work with.

MR: And I suppose the ideal client would be someone that you helped at a seed stage who turns into the middle stage, right, where they grow, and then you can stay with them ideally, I suppose at some point in the future, right?

EC: Yeah. Coincidentally, this is my anniversary today of when I decided to go freelance.

MR: Really?

EC: Yeah. So a year ago, last year is when I went, "I'm going to do freelance. I'm going to make this sort of decision. This is what I want to do. I wanna work in a sustainability climate action sort of sector as well." So purpose-driven businesses. So it's been really nice to sort of work with some of these seed founders who have got these ideas to try and help the planet or help people.

And that's the thing, helping people, planet, or animals. That's kind of my three pockets. I'm quite happy at the minute that I'm working with a lot, which has actually enabled social connectivity. So actually, ironically from some tech issues we had at the start of this podcast, I'm working with one which has actually enable telecoms to more rural areas, so lightweight telecoms.

So it's cheaper, it's quicker to put in. So giving a lot of rural areas in Scotland and Wales and Ireland, better access to the internet because the pandemic showed how just proportionate access to technology and internet was. And that's what one of these companies I'm working for at the minute, is doing is these startup telecom pools and cabinets to be able to be put in these places so everyone's got access to the same level of internet. So it's quite nice. It's quite nice to see sort of the different ways that these people are helping communities in their own way.

MR: That's really cool. So you obviously, just been a year since you've gone independent.

EC: Mm-hmm.

MR: Talk a little bit about what got you to that point, what did you do before that, and a little bit of why you decided to go independent. That would be really interesting, especially I think about the audience that's listening here, a lot of times they do sketchnoting or visual thinking on the side or as a side thing at work. And there comes a point for some people that they wanna go independent. I know several people, so it might be helpful for them to hear your journey and your thinking and all that.

EC: Yeah. Well, I would start my journey really, you know, 20 years ago now. Which makes me feel even older. I was like, oh, brilliant. [Unintelligible 05:56] for a minute. All right. Monty, come here. Sit. Sit. Wait. I don't know if somebody at my door next to -- so hold on. Wait.

MR: Okay. We can cut this.

EC: He's very agitated, which makes me think it's our door. Calming down. You are calming down. I know. It's making for interesting TV.

MR: What kind of dog do you have?

EC: He's a Golden Retriever.

MR: Oh.

EC: So he's a big loud dog, hence the noise. But I do have my bribery box, so he knows that when he gets a treat, he's quiet. So I told you it was gonna be that subtler. Good boy. Good boy. Right. I think that's it. I think they've gone one tea. Right. We're going through it all today.

MR: Makes for a fun time.

EC: Right. I'll start again. 20 years ago, making me feel old, I did a dual degree. It was design marketing, so it was about 70 percent design, 30 percent marketing, and it was design-focused as well for marketing. So packaging design, point of sale design, print design, very traditional design. Unfortunately, I am that old where, you know, websites really were just becoming a thing.

You know, I went to uni when it was zip disks. That was the biggest thing that you could store everything on. And I remember thinking brilliant. And it was Yahoo search rather than Google search. I was very traditionally taught in design, so very much pen and paper. I think my entire first year was markers, pens, and fine liners. It wasn't digital. And then we moved into digital and the Mac labs and all that side of things.

From university, I was very fortunate, got a job straight away into a marketing team doing design for the marketing team. Exactly what I did for about six years. And it was really interesting. You've got telling so much about marketing, it's so much about the inner workings of a business as well and how everything works and the commercial teams, sales guys, you know, all that side.

Then lucky for everybody who's old enough to remember as well, then we had a financial crash in 2008 where especially in the UK, most people weren't wanting in-house designers, agencies weren't hiring. It wasn't seen as something people wanted. So I kind of, luckily enough having the degree I had, I flipped my degree. Basically, I flipped my career. I went from doing pretty much pure design with a bit of marketing. So, you know, I used to do marketing admin to started department marketing.

So I went up in a journey in marketing. I quite rapidly went up to manager level, but I was very employable because I could do design and I could save companies thousands of pounds 'cause I could do everything they were paying somebody externally to do. Or at least I could take some of the load of that budget off.

I think because of that, it meant I had a secure job, luckily. And when it got to about six years of doing that, so early 2010, '11, I was like, right, this is definitely the career path. So I kept going, kept doing the marketing management side, and went into digital marketing specifically to really upskilled in web design and really start to take, without knowing it, a UX approach to website design.

I was always data-driven. I was always nerdy about where do people go, what journey did it go, what are they clicking on, and you know, speaking to users and all that side of things. And it got really interesting. But I was getting to a point in my career where, unless I went to the director level where you're just managing people a lot of the time and not doing the work, and I like doing the work.

I like doing the job. I don't wanna manage people doing the job. I want to do the job. Because of the financial crash, people still weren't hiring in-house designers. So I decided to take quite a bold step and I decided to retrain as a teacher. So about 2014 '15, that was, I think it was, I retrained as a teacher. And a design teacher specifically. You know, I wasn't randomly gonna go and do geography.

So went to do design and that's actually when I came across sketchnotes because I'd obviously gone from being hand drawn-taught, very traditional taught to then being thrust into pretty much computer-first design really. And always going to the computer first, it becomes habitual. And I suddenly realized how I'm gonna be teaching kids that some have never designed before.

They may have done art at at primary school, so I always taught secondary school. So high school level. And it was like in America it would be like middle and you know, top high school. I realized I was gonna teach 'em these kids how to draw in terms of design versus art. And then I thought I needed also a way of me relearning how to teach them to design 'cause I can quite instinctively draw a box and I'll draw it in a particular way, but how do I communicate to them, how do you draw this box? How do we annotate?

MR: Yeah, it's a process.

EC: Yeah. How do we annotate it? And I think as you touched on at the start, I got so used to having to teach annotation side, tell you why this thing does this. And that's why I label a lot my drawings educate and saying this is why it does this and this is why this button does this or side of things now. But back then I was struggling. I was like, "How do I teach them this?"

And the funny thing about learning to teach, they teach you how to teach not how to teach your subject in a way. It was quite like, "I'm gonna learn how to go back to basics to draw." And I just by randomness came across your book and I was like--and you know, it was one of those things you think, "I'm an experienced designer buying a book about drawing." And you just kind of think, "This doesn't seem right. But also, really right at the same time." You kind of go, it's like somebody buying me a coloring book. You're like really.

So I got the book and then I just fell in love with the methodology more than anything 'cause It really works for me, the logical side, the iteration side. And I thought, this is perfect for teaching kids. It's perfect for actually getting me back into that traditional design, but more importantly, I was trying to find one so I could show you these traditional homework sheets of basically if you were a top end student, I'll give you the end picture, and they had to backwork it in the building blocks.

And if they were a lesser able child or one that hadn't really experienced any type of design or drawing, I gave them like little shadow boxes. This is kind of how you build up. So there was like, you can really skill it for different skill sets, but it was also, I was using that principle of, right, well how do I do this? And getting the kids to break things down, it was like, "Look at that object, tell me what shapes it is." Or "Draw those shapes under paper," right.

Now, we can combine those shapes under paper. And you could see some kids, their light bulb and their head go in. I never thought I could draw a camera. And then suddenly they just thought, oh, it's actually, I was saying it's a serial box. So they could visualize a serial box with like a round circle in front. That's all it is. And it was interesting where you could just see the thought process of realizing it's not art and it's not got a standard, it's not one plus one equals math. There's a different approach to this.

And then I really liked the methodology of sketch notes and it sort of kept it since then. And I would say the biggest decision I made in my life was training to teach. And I would say the hardest decision in my life was deciding not to continue. Because it was quite a big debate to admit saying this is not a route for me, 'cause sometimes you just think, "I've committed to this, now I'm just gonna have to stick with my guns." And I was like, "I've become one of those statistics where people go, ah, there's many teachers leaving in the first year of teaching. I'm now one of those statistics." Which I was like, well it's not really 101, but I'm one of them.

MR: You have to be real, right? I suppose.

EC: Yeah. And I was very conscious, and yourself and your listeners would be aware that if I was out of industry for a certain length of time, it would be very hard for me to get into a certain level in industry rather than start this at the bottom again. So I had to take quite a big bold step halfway through my first year and go, "This is not for me. At the end of this term, I'm going back into industry." So that's what I did.

I then went back into industry working for a manufacturing company, and I love how things are made. So that really ignited my passion again, I think. In a way, it was like taking a career break that I think that teaching it was kind of proved to be that sort of, well year and a half of a career break in a weird way. But it realized that I like design. I do like the marketing aspect in a smaller portion, but people are investing now back into design back into branding, regaining the customer base. So I went back into design, which I really enjoyed.

And I was focusing now on more sustainability as well. Sustainable business energy sector, which I work a lot in. And then action and climate change. So I've done quite a lot in sustainability. Learning a lot about that side as well. And I'm really focused on helping people with a purpose succeed.

And I got to about four or five years into the company I was working for previously last year, and I sat there and thought, again, "I don't wanna go to this marketing director level." I was getting to the same problem that I was like, I just, I like doing the work and I like project managing, which is a bit weird when you think, I don't wanna be a marketing director, but I like managing project, but I don't wanna be that director level. It's no interest to me and not everybody's career path is to go to the top of the pyramid. There's a lot of us like to sit a couple of steps below that.

And that's when I thought I'm gonna do freelance properly 'cause a lot of creatives, I've dabbled with it here and there and I've dipped my toe in and I thought actually -- and you know, it's a year ago to the day that sat, I remember on holiday went, "I think this is what I'm gonna do. I'm gonna go freelance. I'm gonna work for purpose-driven companies. I'm gonna work for marketing teams because I know what assets I have to that team 'cause They understand marketing teams."

So I come from a very practical approach to what they do. It's like, this is engaging content and it's practical and I talk marketing. I understand how they can get the budgets for what they need to do. I understand all that side. And then the other part of me was going, if I work on that, then a small part of me now is focused on working with seed founders to help their ideas within purpose-driven, whether it's in climate change or whether it's in animal welfare, whether it's telecoms to level up communities. Whether it's all that.

And a lot of the time I'm working with them nearly at cost as well because I am a firm believer in giving back. And I know these ones are wanting to do good. They're not doing this to make money, they're doing -- but side note, some of these are not-for-profits anyway, the way they're setting themselves up. And the a quote that's always stood with me and random person that I heard it from, I don't if it's actually him originally, but it's the person I remember saying it, which is the rapper/singer Pitbull of all people.

MR: Okay. Yeah.

EC: And he said "Money does buy you happiness, you just have to give it away." And I thought it was a really interesting way of framing it. And I was like, so I worked with these smaller projects to try and give back in a different way. So enabling them to have something that will do good at the same time working for these bigger SME marketing teams.

Yeah, so for nearly under a year now, I've been doing freelance. I attempted freelance at the started of the year. I have a contract job with a marketing company which secured my time because of the experience I've had. They were like, "Well, work for us for 20 hours a week." Anybody who's freelance will know, you know, any work 60 hours a week, I'm working for myself as well sort of thing. You know, there's no real, "Oh you only do 40 hours freelance." It's like, 'cause you're also marketing and accountant and HR and social media.

MR: Right. Yeah.

EC: Yeah. So you know, social media. Video grapher is my thing at the minute. So it's interesting because that journey, all those things I've gone through and experience I've had like the financial crash made me more prepared to be freelance 'cause I knew what I had to put in place to cope with those sort of events. The pandemic also had the same effect. I know what I need to do to that. So hopefully, this is now my journey.

MR: Wow. That's really great. And I would think too, you know, going back to your education, you took that year and a half to kind of potentially switch careers and it was clear that it wasn't the direction. But I would think that that education on how to educate as much as, you know, it didn't fit for you to be a full-time thing, you found ways to integrate that.

That's what I think attracted me when I was on Instagram. I see you doing that kind of work in the things you're doing. And I imagine for those seed-level startups, you're teaching them how to position themselves and how to reframe, what's the narrative, right? All those things are things you can teach out of your wealth of knowledge in marketing and then teach them in a way that fits their situation. Would that be a fair way to think of it?

EC: Yeah. And myself, I'm a constant learner. Like one of the master classes was actually yours, an Interaction design foundation. So, you know, I've watched one of your master classes, I think I've done one of your other ones as well, one you did as an independent webinar. And I'm always wanting to learn and I always like to experience how other people teach as well thinking, oh, I like that or I like that --

MR: Me too.

EC: -- that technique. And I'll be like, "Oh, I'll write that down." And funny enough, I have that in my sketch notes. I have my playbook, which we'll probably get to in terms of tips and that. And I write everything down and I'm always wanting to learn, even if it's subjects that are totally nothing to do because I've just got an interest in subject. I've done a criminology diploma because I was just really interested in like CSI and things. I was like, "I just wanna know more about this." I have no interest in doing it as a job, but I wanna learn more.

And through my sort of social media and part of what I've tried to do with some of the, you know, here's the buttons and this is why this is this and like trying to break it down to people, like trying to understand to them why like three lines of text, why it should be orientated like this and the different shapes it should do. And it's really nice getting feedback from a couple of people who are actually junior marketing people that are following me going, "Oh that's just made it look so much better now my PowerPoint."

And they're applying these little concepts in different ways and it was so nice. A woman was so proud, they sent me like, "Look at this. I took your ideas." And I didn't even know they were following me 'cause I've never interacted with them. But they were so tough just to say. And I was like, it's like that teaching approach. And I've got like a whole program of other things that it's just getting the time unfortunately of other things I wanna say like this way, this is why it looks better than this way. Both are fine, but you know, let's have a look, breakdown.

So it's kind of that, it's so nice to see little things I've done just to try and like help and part that information, and as other people are sucking in, like the little silent people, they don't interact, they don't like your stuff. They don't comment on your stuff, but they're clearly just sit --

MR: You're having an influence for sure. Yeah.

EC: Yeah. And I get like little messages going, "How did you edit that in?" Like they go, "Well how did you do that in Premiere Pro? And I'm like, "Well I didn't. I used such and such to start with. I said, "It's far easier, if you're not a pro with something like Premiere Pro or something like that." Goes, "Use Canva, use Adobe Express. Just use something that's easier." Sort of thing. Don't think you have to use its big software 'cause the big boys use it. You know what I mean?

MR: Right.

EC: And I always say, you know, "Use something that's just user-friendly." And that's the kind of the wins.

MR: Yeah, exactly. I mean I use iMovie for almost everything, podcasts. I've used it for my teaching. So when I do my training and I cut it up and turn it into a video for sale, I'm just using iMovie. I mean, I've always believed this, like a lot of times we tend to think that we need the big software when simple software that's default on your machine is often more powerful than you realize because you just overlook it and that there's opportunities to really push it further than you really think it could push.

EC: And I think like going back to my secondary school education, the most advanced type of art software was the equivalent of whatever paint was back then.

MR: Yeah, exactly.

EC: We were drawing everything in paint. And I have one of the first things I ever did upstairs, it was a little folder that my mom -- my mom was obviously like, look what she drew sort of thing. And you know, we just think that's cringe. "It's cringeworthy, mom. But now I'm 40, I think that's actually quite cool that I've got something that I did digital or way back when."

And I remember looking at every time going, but on the other hand, paint could do a lot back then. And that was 20, and on CorelDRAW, I think we were using and quo we were saying with layout design quo and things. So, you know, I'm in the age with Dreamweaver, used to be owned by Macromedia rather than Adobe. And I do sometimes think like -- I always say to people, Microsoft Paint can actually do a huge amount. 'Cause I'm a Mac -- not a Mac user, I'm a PC user.

I use Notepad by default for a lot of things, typing up notes. And it's so great if you are doing web development 'cause it strips all the code out, it strips all your formatting so you know, you've got a clean copy and paste when you're putting in something. So I do think that we forget the simpler things.

And it's the same, we've going back to just sketching, going back to that idea of stop forcing myself to use Illustrator straight away because I'm not a pro at Illustrator. I have to keep Googling stuff 'cause I always forget stuff. When you have to remember how to use Photoshop, Illustrator, Premiere and InDesign, and Figma on your average day, you get to the point of "There's only so much I'm gonna remember how to do." Sort of thing.

MR: Yeah, yeah. You focus on the things you use often, right? And you Google things you use occasionally, which is fine. I mean that's -- those tools.

EC: I wish Google when I was learning would've been brilliant when I was at university.

MR: No kidding. Well, we're on this discussion of software. We sort of hinted at this when we prepared for this, talking about the drawing and software, and so, I think agree in this sense that I think it's important that you do your concepting on paper with pen to get the idea and to think through the idea before you get into software.

My theory or my view is, the problem with software as powerful as it is, even the simple stuff, is once you enter software, you tend to adapt to the things that the software lets you do or even to this discussion we're having now. You adapt to the things you know how to make the software do, which is a narrow subset of what the software probably can do.

But by using pencil sketches or sketchnotes or whatever technique as ugly or beautiful as it is, it helps you think through where you're gonna go before you ever touch any bit of software. So you're coming with this approach that's not hindered in any way by what the software can or can't do.

It's more like what's the solution that we're solving for the person, the customer, the user using this thing. Let's start from that point, which, you know, that's our UX perspective. And then work back to making it happen and then bring the tools in. Would you kind of track along the side of that and have you seen that I would apply?

EC: Yeah, I would. And actually, I would say it pretty much aligns with exactly a project I've just sent to print. I've nerve-rackingly sent to print. It's always one of those moments, especially if you're so used to digital design, you've got send something to actually print. You're like, "I'm gonna check this 500 times." So I'm gonna actually a bit show. This is useless for people just listening rather than those watching.

MR: If you're listening to the podcast, look on the link for the YouTube and you can check it out.

EC: So this is something -- I'm gonna try and get it in screen. There we go.

MR: You got it on there. That's all in.

EC: There we go. So that is actually quite a few sheets worth of work. But this was deliberately designed in a comic book style. And it was something that I knew if I went to the computer, I'm gonna go and default a couple of things. I'm gonna look at some stock illustrations that can get me the boxes and the styles and the effects. And then I'm gonna go quite rigid and I'm gonna do this.

And I'm thinking, first of all, I've got to think it through because it's about actually how product is made from -- it's that telecoms brand company. So how someone gets from that sheet of metal all the way through to a roadside cabinet with a telecoms pool coming out of it and a wifi device at the top of it and all the stages in between? And I've got to remember what those stages are.

And I think taking it back to pen and paper, it was kind of a big sketchnote gone wrong. I was starting to actually do it as very -- I did say it was a sketchnote gone wrong 'cause I did originally plan just to do like little sketchnotes, going right, this would be this and this will be this. Then I took another sheet and went, "Oh no, I'll just draw it out properly."

And then I got to the third sheet 'cause and I'll add a little bit of marker pen. It literally just started to build up. I was like, "This is quite funny. This is me really not doing sketchnotes now." I was like, "I've abandoned it. It's not a sketchnote, it's a full-on illustration." But the best thing about that was, it took me maybe a couple of hours to draw all out, get the concept, a few annotations kind of like the teaching side as well.

Just took a picture of it and sent it to the MD and went, "This is the idea and I don't wanna spend time doing a illustrate if you don't like the concept of this being this comic book superhero theme." And he was like, "I like it. I really like it." Luckily, he's got a good vision. He can see what's gonna be the end result as well. He knows what I'm capable of so he knows what would be produced. And even when he looked at this very basic sketch, he went, "Oh by the way, it's not called that, it's called this so you need to google this."

So you already gave me feedback just because the sketch was just good enough where you could get what it was supposed to be, but you could pick up on, "Oh you've not quite got that terminology. So just point in the right path." So my next version of that was fine and then fine lined it, took pictures of it, and then took it into Illustrator.

And I think it's better because it's, a lack way of putting it got that one key approach. And my lines aren't quite parallel. Like curves aren't perfect because I've traced the image of that. And it's given a very hand-drawn effect. And rather than if I had gone to illustrate straight away, I know I would've done really nice straight lines. A really nice arc. And it would've looked too polished.

And whole point of this was, it's supposed to be somebody sketched out like a story like you do with comics. Sometimes I have to remember that's actually gonna be a better approach. And I think that's why stripping back to pen and paper and having that base skillset really helpful in trying to convey an idea as well and get buy-in. Before I go and invest 40 hours of my time, "Are we all right with this one hour of time I've invested?"

MR: Well, and you have to think that way as an independent especially, 'cause that means if you spend 40 hours going all the way with that, that's 40 hours you can't spend on something else that maybe you should be, right? It's sort of a seed idea that, "Hey, is this right?" Even if it gets you arguing over the concept, at least it's movement. And then you can move from there. Either you'd say, "No, that's too loose. I don't want that." Or "Hey, it looks great, he chose that way, but at least it gives him an option and is our invested." And you can now choose your adventure based on that.

EC: I think the reason behind doing it as well goes back to maybe the last two to three years of really getting deep into UX design in terms of websites where really starting with pen and paper wireframes. Pen and paper wireframes, then even moving into just block design and saying, "This is where the hero shot's gonna be. This is where the interest's gonna be." And laying it out blocks like that before even building it.

And again, web design, we get so carried away from going, getting a brief and going right bang, here's your website. And then going, "Oh actually we don't really like that and it doesn't flow here. But doing it in that stage work, which does take more time, but then that's kind of part of the investment with UX rather than just going straight into web design.

And that's part of what I've been trying to do when doing freelance is going, but even when I approach the marketing teams, I go, "I don't do your brochure straight out the bat. What I do is I go, here's the general skeleton structure. This is what your page layout's gonna be." And I give them like a skeleton grid of their say 16 pages. These are where your content blocks are. This is roughly where your imagery is gonna be. This is the idea. And I'll give them a like a mood ball going, "And this is the visuals." And then they can buy in on that.

So when they produce the end result, it should be pretty much on the button rather than coming back going, "Oh actually, we'd rather it was a bit like this. And could those be amalgamated together?" Don't go it wrong. You do get ones like that. Where you've somehow, it's been lost in translation. But again, it's to try and help me knowing that that's kind of way marketing teams work as well. If you can give them an idea. If you've got somebody with a remote bit of creative brain, they can visualize it already in their head as well. They kind of know what the end result's gonna be.

And it just helps and gives them confidence that they know I know what I'm doing. So I kind of strip it down even if it's digitally kind of blocks. But yeah, I think going straight into the actual design end phase. And in a way that's what sketchnotes has taught me is to not always go for that sort of thing. Not always go for the end result with a color and a fine line and all that. You know, use a pen and paper, use a pencil sort of thing.

MR: That seems to work. I've been doing this for many years and sometimes I'll jump right to the computer and stop myself and come back and get out my iPad or a piece of paper and just sketch the concept. And it always seems that those projects turn out better. They iterate better, they're smoother. They're more thought out. Like all those things that you want in an end product, ends up getting bound into them when I approach 'em that way.

And typically, I do, but there's times when, if I'm in a hurry, I might forget that step and I'll have to like, "Okay, stop. Let's go back let's do some sketching." Even if it's just a little bit in my bullet journal, just to think through the process, that might be enough, right. It doesn't have to be some crazy detailed thing, but a little dump of ideas and seeing it helps reinforce things and give it direction, which is really valuable.

EC: Yeah. I even do that with quite a few of my social media posts. If they're gonna be actually illustrating a topic or I go for one that's about buttons. You know, I've got them in one of my notebooks where I was going, right, this is how it's gonna lay out, these are the buttons I'm gonna talk about. Giving myself the space and oh that's not gonna work. Do the next one. The next one. Rather than going straight into these ones were done in Figma. So rather than going straight into Figma and going, "Oh no, I have to resize this and I have to move this." I already know what it's gonna be.

MR: You got the map. Yeah.

EC: Yeah. And you can go straight in. And I do think going digital first sometimes isn't the best way. And I think that's one of the big benefits of having the career that I've had where, you know, my first year university was pretty much analog and that set me off success. You know, we learned proper old school market techniques. You know, with the blending up and sort of thing and you know, and having to use masking tape to keep your line script.

So I've learned all of those skills. You wouldn't think that looking at some of my designs. I look at some of my sketchnotes and going, "I have no idea how I've got the degree I've got sometimes. Or how I was allowed to teach children how to draw." But then that's kind of one of the things I try and do is go, "Don't get hung up on the way it looks. Just get it down." Sort of thing.

MR: Yeah. Functional, functional, functional.

EC: Yeah.

MR: That's really cool. This is a great story and it's brought back a lot of memories for me as well. So that's encouraging. Let's shift a little bit. I'd love to hear the tools that you like to use. You've hinted at some on the design on the marketing side which you can certainly go into. You can start either analog or digital, whichever way you'd like first.

EC: Well, I think we should start analog because you know, we're saying we should go analog first. I'd like to say I'm a black pen enthusiast. I have a lot of black pens, those listening to the audio, there. I try lots --

MR: A bucket full black pens.

EC: Yeah. Obviously, some of them are different thicknesses and some are like brush tip and normal tip. But doesn't matter which black pen I use, I go back to an actual Uniball finite pen. Just 'cause it's a really simple, nice black pen. And I like it 'cause it's reliable and it's consistent. And usually come in packet of like five 'cause I seem to lose them. I don't how I'll lose them. It's like batteries, you know, they just disappear. But I really like the Uniball high fine pen.

And you can get them in like every supermarket here in the UK. Especially, at the minute it's back-to-school stuff. So, funny enough, I've just bought another packet. I like them as well 'cause they're consistent. It doesn't really matter what paper I use, they come out the same. They don't really bleed and it's just got their nice crispness to it. And then with them, if you think I'm a black pen enthusiast, you still need to see the amount of marker pens I own.

But I have a huge amount of color and marker pens. But for the sketch notes side, I found I was trying to focus too much on the color instead of just giving it a bit of a highlight and a bit of a punch more than anything. And then my brain tweaked them I was like, well just use highlighters sort of thing. So one of the things I really like is, these are the Sharpe highlighters. So the s-not and they come in about20 or so colors

MR: Look like nice pastel colors. If you're listening, they're not the traditional intense crazy colors. It's more like pastel colors.

EC: Yeah. And I think that's why we like 'em because they've got a bit of a punch of a traditional neon sort of highlight. You know, they've got a bit of that punch, but they've got the softness of the pastel sort of very zebra, I think bring out a pastel range. I've got twitch, I've got God knows how many of them as well.

MR: Oh, okay.

EC: But they're kind of very vibrant and they come in a whole range of colors. You wouldn't get that -- you know, there's no neon, real true neon, but them combined, they just give that highlight. And what I try to do is I look at what I'm taking a sketchnote off. So if we go back to -- they're always learning. That's what I use my sketchnotes for is always like watching the webinars and using it to remember what I'm learning. Or when I read books, I try and condense a book I've read into one or two pages of notes.

So one of the things I do is, so I've got quite nicely got to actually a page use those. So I try and use the colors just -- I pick a couple of colors to match maybe the brand of the person that I'm watching. Or it could be to do with the topic because then it helps me remember it and learn it. I'm that design nerd, so I'm kind of thinking he needs to have a nice theme. I can't just rock up with any random color.

MR: Yeah.

EC: So that's kind of how I do. I always have a Uniball pen on me. I've got them in my bags. I've got 'em in the car because they are just so relatively foldable as well. They're really quite cheap. It's only like a few bucks for a pack of three or five, however many they come in.

MR: That's great. Yeah.

EC: And paper-wise, I'm quite particular. So when I'm doing the actual UX design, so when I'm doing wireframes because I really don't want to use color. These are black and white and I know if I use white paper I'm gonna add color 'cause I know what sort of person I am.

MR: Interesting.

EC: Yeah. So I use Kraft brown paper.

MR: Oh wow.

EC: So deliberately you put color on that, it doesn't really show at all. So I've got like a nice sort of spiraled brown and it's quite a nice size as well. So sort of landscape orientation, it's kind of monitor then portrait orientation, you've kind of got more of a mobile style. I've got a couple of these now and they're quite thick as well. So if I wanna use a heavier-duty thicker black pen, they work really well.

MR: They can't bleed.

EC: Yeah. And so I use Kraft, and it forces me not to use color. It forces me to keep -- this is purely about wire framing. This is where the base element's go in the page. And then I use post-it notes to highlight up to like, this is where it's gonna move. In terms of the notebooks, it was funny enough, I was just looking at the sketchnote one the other day.

But I use quite a thick, really thick gram paper. And I like nice notebooks. It's one of my things. I don't like just using generic paper as well. And I think 'cause those sharpies can be quite heavy duty. It's a Sharpie at the end of the day, you know, it's gonna have a bit of a bleed through the page. So I'm quite conscious of having a really heavy gram paper.

And I like dot grid. I can't do the blank paper. 'Cause Even those comic book strips, actually it's on the reverse side of blue graph paper. So I can roughly see the graph through it. So I've got an idea of where the lines are. But I like dot grid. All of my general notebooks are dot paper or grid paper, depending on how people call them. And that's kind of what I like analog-wise, I'm quite traditional. I think. I'm not really into anything fancy.

MR: So for the heavy gram notebook, that looked like a LEUCHTTURM, if I were to guess. I don't know If that's the brand.

EC: No, I'm gonna pronounce this wrong. I already know I'm gonna -- Ottergami

MR: Oh, okay. Ottergami. I haven't heard that. There's a fun shot now. So for bullet journalists. Or bullet journalists and they have quite thick paper.

EC: Yeah, it's really nice quality. From my sustainability side and also, 'cause I am actually a vegan as well, so I'm very conscious about them not having real leather on the covers and things. And it is a bit like your own one, which -- that's how I came across it. 'Cause I was looking for notebooks that weren't real leather covers. But I do like it because it is so heavy duty and it's got that nice quality.

And I think if I'm gonna be writing something I'm gonna look back on, I want it to feel nice. You know, I want that tact. I like the tactileness sort of thing. And I think that's, again, goes back to being old-school print design. You like the feel of the paper and it's got the nice gram effect, et cetera.

MR: Yeah, exactly. Now what about if we switch to digital, assuming that you don't have any other analog tools that you'd like to share? What would be the tool?

EC: Well, I have a lot of analog tools, but I don't think any of them are -- I've got, you know, every type of color pencil going. Digital-wise, 'cause I'm not a Mac user, I am a Windows user, so I've got a Samsung Galaxy Tab. And I use Concepts because it's just a brilliant app.

MR: That's a great tool.

EC: Yeah. The Concepts app. And I would say in the last two years, the Samsung Pen has been really up its game with its sensitivity. It works like my old Apple iPad Pro, what was it called? Yeah, iPad Pro that had the tablet. I had one of the first edition ones and then Procreate stop supporting it, so I sold it. And that's when I was like, well actually it was the last piece of Apple products I had.

So I thought, well, this is the time I'm gonna move to Galaxy Tab. And I wanted something smaller because this is small enough to go into, you know, a small like rucksack. So in a out and about. And I love the Concepts app. Really been looking at using it in the last year or so.

I like the never-ending art board as well, although sometimes it kind of feels like you don't have scale. So I've noticed when I've gone back and looked at sketches I've done or UX wireframes where some look proportionally fine and then I zoom out and then somehow I've managed to do giant boxes and tiny boxes. But because it's vector-based, at least you can start to resize things.

MR: Yeah. You can size it. Yeah.

EC: But sometimes you kinda lose the awareness of where you are 'cause it's obviously a smaller screen 'cause it's a Galaxy Tab rather than like a big iPad Pro. But I do like the Concepts app. I've tried a few and they just didn't seem to have that sensitivity with the Samsung Pen. But equally they didn't have even just a free version of Concepts, the wide range of colors, wide range of pens available and not. So yeah, I do like sketchnoting though, because you can press Undo and you can change the line that you just thought it's a bit dodgy.

MR: Yeah. That's nice.

EC: And it does the smoothing out. I was like, "Oh, I like this. Why can't I do this a real life for a pen and paper."

MR: Yeah, exactly. So the tab I think is more like an A5 size?

EC: It is. To be fair, it's not far off the size of notebooks.

MR: It'd probably be closest to an iPad Mini if someone's used to iPad. It's probably more in that range.

EC: Yeah, it is a nice size. And I got that 'cause I wanted something that was bigger than my phone for actually learning because a lot of learnings now online you can't get books for a lot of things anymore. But I didn't wanna have to keep using my phone. And when I've spent 11 hours of the day at my computer, I don't wanna have to have my computer on an evening. So I bought it originally to be able to read eBooks or do some of the courses I've signed up to.

MR: And do a training. Yeah.

EC: Yeah. And even like your webinar, I think I watched it on my Galaxy Tab or potentially drew it on my Galaxy Tab. I can't remember now. But I use it for that. And then it's like the penny dropped. I was like, "Well, why don't I do some sketch notes on this?" And then I've started to use it more for the wireframes because it's easy then to take that and then put it into likes of Figma. And that's I found rather than having to take pictures and then move them in. So I'm using Concepts more for wireframes than sketchnoting. I think the tactlessness of the notebook for sketchnoting.

MR: Well, that's really cool. We don't have lots and lots of PC-only users or Galaxy Android users. So it's good to have represented because I know there must be more out there. So it's good to hear that. Good feedback. Yeah.

EC: Well I was like -- my computers all the way through university, even all the way up to near enough when I went to teacher training, were all Macs. For those who are watching, you'll see I've got in the background probably you can just see I've got an original iPhone, an iPod on the wall. Still have a better battery life to old iPhone 'cause they still work. And I had the old school, massive Mac, the Blueberry Mac with the big blue colors. So you know that I had one of them. So I've always been Mac from training.

And then it just got more into PC-based because I knew a large portion of my audience were using PCs. The market teams teams were using PCs. It was an easy sell to people to, "Well, we don't wanna put a Mac into the IT system and things." So I got used to using a Windows-based ecosystem. And then gradually as things in my Apple ecosystem died off, they just replaced with a Windows and Android.

MR: Yeah, makes sense.

EC: So I kind of smoothly moved over.

MR: That's pretty cool. Well, thanks for sharing your tools. People always like to have this section so they can learn about new tools and try things out. I know I learn about tools all the time from this section as well, so.

EC: When I walk the dog and listen to the podcast, I'm always like, "Oh, I didn't know that." Or, "Oh, there's another pen I'm gonna -- I think that's another pen I'm gonna buy." And then go back to the Uniball. Hence the tub of nearly 50 black pens that I own.

MR: Wow. Well, let's go to the next portion of the show, which is your three tips. So I always frame it as someone's listening, they're individual thinking, whatever that means to them. Maybe they've gotten into a rut and they need just some encouragement. Like what would be three things you would encourage them to do to kind of get back into a good rhythm?

EC: I think the first one, and this is something that I used to champion a lot when I was teaching and trying to get kids to get out the mindset of. You've just come from, you know, maths or you've come from geography or history or wherever it might be. And you've come and sat in this room, you've gotta get kids credit 'cause they've gotta suddenly switch from one class to another. And I'll just be sitting going, I can't get my head into this mindset. Or it's not perfect or it's whatever it might be.

And I used to say to them at the level they're doing, or the level that most designers are doing, there's no standard. Don't worry about a standard. Try and remember there's no standard. This is not maths. One plus one doesn't equal two. So your standard is not my standard. Your design is not my design. And that's why I actually love sketchnotes 'cause everybody's is completely different. Everyone's styles are different.

And trying to remember that unless you're doing architecture and building regulations, design is quite free. And don't you put that pressure on yourself? So give yourself a break. Remember that you are setting the standard in a way and try and give yourself a break. 'Cause I think we all kind of get a bit too hung up on, "Oh, it needs to be like this." And it's kinda like, no, just, there's no standard to design really. It's, quite freeing.

It's not as free as art. Granted. But that's very expressive. You know, you've got the fine line. You know, we do have some standards, you know, we're not going to the really, really fluid art world, but yeah, try and remember that you are the one giving yourself a hard time. So let up on yourself. There is no standard. So I would say that's probably number one.

The second one is a bit something that I wish I did a lot early on in my career. And I've only started doing in the last, I think five, six years actually after I finished teaching, really, I'm gonna get an example, is I create playbooks 'cause a hybrid of a sketchbook, a scrapbook, important notes. Things that I find I think are really interesting that I want to sort of scrapbook.

And the reason why I wish I started this earlier -- so for those listening, I'm sort of holding up some like cutouts I've done and I've annotated them and things that I've found online or logos and packaging that I like and I cut them out and I sort of stick them in and I write why I like them or why it's worked and so annotating them.

But I also do my sketch notes in it from the books that I've read or the webinars I've attended. And I have one for each year. And the reason I like them is sometimes it's really good to just, if you've got that mental block, is go back and look at something, pick a subject you've read and think it could inspire you.

Or if you think, oh, this is no good, look what you were doing five, six years ago. And it's like, when I look at the thing I designed when I was 15 using Microsoft Paint or whatever it would've been, I'm like, "Oh yeah, I've actually come quite a way since then." Sort of thing. So I wish I did these earlier because it's so interesting to look back on.

But more importantly, I get inspiration every time I look at them because it is personalized to me. It's my journey. It's my type of design and it helps inspire me to look at it and go, "Oh yeah, why didn't I try that?" Or "Oh wait, I forgot about this."

And sometimes it can spark that idea or give you the confidence boost. You remember you can actually do this, right? It's like when I draw badly or -- I wouldn't say badly. It's not a word I like to use. But I draw in a way where I just think, "How do people pay me to do this?" Sort of thing.

I deliberately sometimes go -- and I've got like some really nice hand-drawn, colored in really heavy-duty, 20 hours sort of pencil colors drawings in my playbooks, in my sketchbooks because it's just to remind myself I do actually have that talent. It's just my brain's not using that talent at the minute. It's clearly using it for something else. You know, it's worrying about, "What I'm gonna have from a dinner." So it's nice to look back and it kind of reaffirms where you are, but also gives you that inspiration.

And I would say the third one is probably a classic one is walk the dog. The amount of things I can solve by walking my dog. I take him out for a walk, 45 minutes later I'm either re-inspired, I fixed a problem while either walking the dog. I might think, "Oh, this is a different way to approach it." The dog is brilliant 'cause I talked to him like a crazy dog owner I am, you know, and he doesn't answer back. He has a good go, granted, but he generally doesn't answer back.

And I would say, so take that tea break, go in the garden, walk the dog. Like during a pandemic was harder. So I used to go in the garden and just walk up and down a few times throwing a ball with a dog because as soon as my brain -- it is that adage of, to be creative, you also have to be bored. You have to have that bit where your brain is not thinking about what you're trying to think about. And that's why we have our best ideas in the shower when you're going to sleep because you've suddenly switched off. So I try sometimes a dog, it's four walks a day.

MR: It's a lot I'm sure.

EC: Yeah. Well, it gets to a point where it's like, "Oh, do we have to? Do we have to?" So I think we really underestimate getting away from your desk. Get out to nature, walk the dog. Just, you know, that fresh air is something about it that for me really works to help me get over that struggle.

And it could be any struggle, it could be a design struggle, it could be from the marketing stuff that I work on teams with, saying how should we approach this? So I find it's one of the best things I've -- well say it's nine years in now. It's the best thing I've had really in terms of my tools as well, is very analog tool.

MR: Yeah. That's good. That's good. Reset.

EC: Mm-hmm.

MR: Well, those are great tips. Thanks for sharing those, Elizabeth. Very helpful and encouraging. Making me wanna take my dog for a walk now, which maybe I should do after this 'cause I've been sitting for an hour, so

EC: Well, yeah. One of my friends, she says she plays with the kids. She says she'll go and she'll just build Lego with the kids or she'll go and color in with the kids because it is one of the few friends I've got that's in a relatively similar role. So she gets it as well. And she says sometimes just doing that and drawing it back to a more basic level makes her go, "Ah, that's how I could approach this problem." Or "That's how I could do this logo idea." 'Cause She's very much logo design and she's like, ah, that's -- you know, it's like the penny drops moments 'cause she's doing something related, but at the same time not thinking about it. So I really do think sometimes you have to give yourself 10 minutes to go do something else.

MR: Yeah. Let's your subconscious work for a bit, I guess. You know, so it can kind of churn on things and give you back some ideas.

EC: Yeah.

MR: So Elizabeth, where can we find you? What's the best place to locate you? A website, social media? Where do you hang out?

EC: My website is Below Two, so spelled out T-W-O.co.uk. And that's pretty much all of my social media is the same. So it's Below Two Studio. So whether it be Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, the whole lot, very rare. I've managed to secure it on all of the platforms. Especially in today's world where so many things are taken up. But you can find me there. I'm generally mostly on LinkedIn and Instagram. I've quoted Twitter there, which just start getting called using X, that's the term. But yeah, you can find me on LinkedIn, Instagram mainly and my website, which is a key thing.

MR: Okay. That's really great. And you can go check that out everyone. We'll have of course, as always show notes and samples. And if we can get some samples from Elizabeth, we'll link to those as well so we can, she can throw 'em on our website and send us some links and we can see some pictures of her playbooks and some other things that she's talked about, if you're listening.

EC: It'll be great once this has actually come out, the thing I've just done a comic book stuff, we'll actually have all the end results.

MR: Oh.

EC: It's part of a huge exhibition that the entire standard is now gonna be comic book superhero design. So we've done the whole lot to that sort of style now.

MR: Wow. Cool.

EC: So hopefully, I'll have some quite like, literally here's the idea here. Is it now fully?

MR: That would be cool. Yeah, that'd be great.

EC: So hopefully I'll have that.

MR: Great. Well, thanks Elizabeth for all the sharing and teaching you do on Instagram that I've seen and for your generosity and hanging out with us and telling us your story and laughing and having the dog bark and the network flake out and all the things that we've gone through. It's been a joy just to hang out with you.

EC: Yes, thank you very much for having me. It's made a nice start to the bank holiday weekend here.

MR: Well, that's great. That's great. For all those who are listening or watching, this will wrap up another episode of the Sketchnote Army Podcast. Until next time, talk to you soon.

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