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In Defense of Doodling

I’m a doodler, and I am not ashamed.

The fact that I doodle during meetings should come as no surprise to those who know me. I used to think it was evidence that I had an attention deficit or that my mind easily wanders or that I went to art school — or all of the above. In college, my notebooks contained more doodles than text. In Art History lecture courses, I would draw doodles of the artwork slides instead of taking notes and audio record the lecture for transcribing later. Honestly, I think doodling kept me from falling asleep most of the time in college.

In the past year, I’ve read articles revealing that doodling actually helps people focus, ease impatience, vent emotions, and even generate bursts of insight or new ideas. There has been nueroscience and psychology research on doodling as well as books about the power of doodling.

Doodling has even been incorporated into a formal note-taking method. Mike Rohde, a designer, author, and illustrator working in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, has developed “sketchnoting” which combines drawing with note-taking to visually capture ideas, experiences and information and make note-taking more memorable and fun. Mike wrote a book on the method and has gathered quite a following of sketchnoters.

You may be familiar with the popular RSA Animate videos on YouTube. These videos feature animated whiteboard “doodles” that illustrate the speaking events hosted by the British non-profit Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA). Topics range from the power of network visualization to the darker side of positive thinking. The first RSA video I ever saw was on changing the paradigm of public education and I was able to recall almost the entire lecture to a friend of mine a few days later.

The RSA Animate videos pair audio of academic lectures with animated whiteboard illustrations, the result of which is a great mnemonic device for retaining information.

Of course you would expect someone like myself, who has an art background, to incorporate doodling into productive work but doodling doesn’t really require any artistic talent. And the benefits of doodling during certain tasks (like listening to a lecture or sitting in a meeting) are available to everyone.

This is a doodle I created between September 30, 2013 and February 3, 2014, during our weekly production meetings.

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