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How did this all begin?

Hi! I’m Emily Mills, and I created Sketchnote Academy. My background is in graphic design. I got my degree in 2010 and had been working graphic design jobs since then. In 2015 I was hired as a contractor for a company to do sketchnotes and graphic recording for clients all over the country. I was excited about the job and the chance to be a professional visual notetaker, but I hadn’t been sketchnoting for very long- just a few months! I was really embarrassed about the quality of my sketchnotes. My boss saw potential, but all I saw were bad drawings and illegible writing:

I needed a way to get better at sketchnotes FAST because I was scared of showing up to a gig and the client being really unhappy with the quality. I had taken workshops and got some basic training, so I thought I had all the tools I needed to improve fast… but I quickly discovered that there is no magic bullet for improving your sketchnotes, and it doesn’t get better overnight. To get better at sketchnoting, you have to practice regularly!

I began sketchnoting multiple times per week. One month I even challenged myself to do a sketchnote every day! When I put in the work to practice regularly, I saw dramatic results. Maybe not from page to page, but the beginning of my sketchbook looked a lot different than the end… I was getting better!

Sharing My Work

I posted every sketchnote on Instagram, even if I wasn’t proud of them. Even today, you can scroll back and see my first sketchnotes and how far I’ve come. Sharing my work had 3 main benefits: 

  1. I had an easy way to see my work all at once. I could scroll back on Instagram and notice my progress in skills.
  2. Clients started to find me online! I was getting inquiries for sketchnoting and other illustration work because I was sharing my process. My publisher also found my work on Instagram and this was how my book, The Art of Visual Notetaking was born!
  3. When I shared my work online, I started getting plugged into the sketchnoting community. I loved commenting on others’ work and asking questions about how they did certain things. I was asked to be a guest on podcasts, I joined groups, and I began writing articles to help others with their own sketchnoting.

Teaching Begins

Eventually, my articles turned into full-blown lessons. I realized I could never teach sketchnoting completely in articles online, so I began to teach workshops. In 2017, I taught 7 sketchnoting and illustration workshops in Tennessee and Georgia, working to create a curriculum that was easy to follow and produced real results. But there was one problem… …with every in-person workshop I announced, I got more messages from people in other states and countries who were really bummed they couldn’t come. I hated that people were missing out on learning about sketchnotes just because of their location, so sketchnoteacademy.com online courses were born!

Online Courses Launch

The first official online course launched in October 2018. Sketchnote Academy online courses are deep dives on specific aspects of sketchnoting, like drawing or developing your Visual Library. More courses are being added every year, and you have the opportunity to help influence what courses come next via this quick survey. My hope is for everyone who wants to learn more about sketchnoting to be able to do so through my online courses, books, and in-person workshops.