One Squiggly Line Blog

Hand-drawn pictures can make things clear, simple, and fun in blogs, too!

Creativity: Creative Combinations


There's a myth out there that highly creative people just sit around and wait for inspiration to strike. Like a great big lightening bolt from the sky. Or a soft whisper from a mystical muse.

Truth is, creativity is not quite so passive. It is an active process. And there's a science to it, not just an art. There are even formulas, methods, and procedures for generating ideas and, equally importantly, evaluating them.

One classic way to create something new is to combine two things. Take the markers above, for example. Nothing new about a round tip marker. Or a brush tip marker. But when you put them both in one pen, you end up with a whole new product!

Visual Thinking: Grab-n-Go Graphic Recording Supplies

A big part of visual thinking involves organizing information. Laying it all out so you can see the big picture. Then, you know exactly what you have to work with. If anything is missing, that becomes obvious, too. And when you need to find something fast, you know just where to look. The same is true with supplies.


Choose your markers

I have tons of drawing supplies - I've been collecting them pretty much my entire life! But when it comes to my visual thinking work, I know exactly which markers to use. I made my decision a while ago and stick with it every time. With that decision out of the way, I can get to work much faster. Sticking with the same core drawing materials also gives your work a more unified and consistent look - a big branding bonus!

My Markers of Choice

For most client work, I use Nueland Big One markers. I only use the permanent black ink so it doesn't smear when I color over it. I also use their round-tip Outliner and FineOne markers in black and only in black. When I need an even bolder line, I put the Nueland ink in a thicker paint marker - I love a big, bold line, especially for lettering! 

Simplify Your Color Palette

I've also streamlined my color options quite a bit. I settled on about seven core colors that photograph well. I often carry two of each with me so I don't have to refill so often. No need to bring the refill ink for shorter jobs - so much easier! I usually throw in a few extra colors each time, like for the client's logo. Since I know I won't use those colors much, there's no need to bring the ink for those colors.

Storage and Organization

To store and carry my markers, I love these little mesh cubes from the container store. They're the perfect size for both markers and ink. For local jobs, I have one cube with markers and one with ink. If traveling by plane, I put the markers in a ziplock bag in my carry-on and the ink goes in my liquids bag. The mesh cubes fold up in my suitcase. Whether traveling or not, I always group the black markers together so they're easier to find.

Grab and Go!

The mesh cubes fit perfectly in this clear plastic bag, with room on top for a towel, tape, camera, water bottle, and iPad, if needed. And I love the added bonus of toting my logo around! Since the bag is plastic, if any ink spills, I just wash out the bag. Far worse would be if ink ended up on the client's carpet! So I always bring a towel with me to put all my supplies on.

So that's my grab-n-go bag for graphic recording and visual thinking work! Hopefully, you discovered a few things that will work for you. If so, please share in the comments below. If not, please share what works best for you.

Graphic Recording: TEDxBerkeley ~ Steve Wozniak


Graphic recording is full of surprises. You never know who you're going to run into or what they're going to say.  But no matter the speaker or the topic, the process remains the same - listen and draw! 

This image was created just a few days ago at TEDxBerkeley by the last speaker of the day, Steve Wozniak, the co-founder of Apple Computers Inc. He had a lot of great stories to share about his times on the Cal campus as a student. He talked about all kinds of random things - shaving cream, pay phones, saltine crackers, and typing, to name a few. All great stories in and of themselves, but far too many for me to capture visually in such a short time. But that doesn't matter. His overarching message was crystal clear - find happiness.

That's what graphic recording is all about - making the big picture clear for everyone, even those not in the room.

Visual Thinking Supplies: Prismacolor Markers


When choosing the best drawing supplies, you've gotta keep the end goal in mind. If you're drawing to think, you can use pretty much anything. If you're drawing to create great art, you've gotta use something that will last.

I've been using Prismacolor markers since high school. I never use them for live graphic recording, though. I have a special set of supplies set aside just for live graphic recording work. But I do use Prismacolor markers for studio work sometimes.

Prismacolor markers are art markers. You'll need to go to an art store to get them or order online. So they're more expensive than Crayola or Mr. Sketch markers. Way more expensive. But they do go on sale sometimes, usually around the start of the school year.  They occasionally offer pretty big rebates, too. And Prismacolor markers do last a long time.

I like the broad range of colors offered. Also, because they're permanent, they don't smear. You can color over things drawn with non-permament markers without smearing. And there's nothing worse than outlining a drawing only to have it smear when you color it in!

Unfortunately, they do bleed through paper. And they do smell a little. But they are nontoxic, so they're safe. 

To see a sample of some work done with Prismacolor markers, go to this blog post.

Graphic Recording: Great Drawing is not the Secret!

Graphic Recording is all about communication. There's definitely an art to it. But it's so not about art! Knowing a few things from the art world can certainly help, though.

Look at the graphic recording above. There's barely any drawing in it - some generic buildings, a few arrows, and a star. That's it! This image is mainly text. And some of that text is even a bit sloppy.

Yet, the image has impact. The impact comes from a few bold words and the bright orange color. Even with a lot of text, there's a sense of movement and balance. Thanks to how things are arranged on the page (the composition).

Bad composition makes people uncomfortable. Good composition draws them in. That's why great drawing is not the secret to creating great visuals. Great composition is really where it's at.

This graphic recording was created while listening to a pre-recorded TED talk, using one black and one orange marker.

Graphic Recording: Mr. Sketch Markers


There's no denying it, Mr. Sketch Markers are just plain fun to use!

Each marker smells like either a fruit or spice. They're pretty easy to get your hands on, too. Most office supply stores carry them, as well as places like Walmart or Target. And they're a lot less expensive than fancy art markers.

They have a chisel tip that lets you draw thin or think lines, depending on how you hold the marker. Bold lines are great because people can see them from across the room. Thin lines are great, too, because they let you add some details for people to see when they're closer.

Back to the bold lines for a minute...

Working with big, bold lines is a great habit to get into. Whether you're working alone or with a group, bold lines make it much easier to see things. If you're planning to send pictures of any sketches electronically, bold lines will actually let people see what you've drawn. And that's the whole point, right?

Graphic Recording: Experiment!


Most of my work is done with markers. I thought it would be fun for a change to try something new, so I used crayons to add some color to this graphic recording. This was an experiment done with a Ted Talk, not live with a client! And I'm very glad I experimented first.

Crayons look great in person and they're easy to use, but as you can see, they don't photograph as well as markers. This image is not "cleaned up", meaning the background is evenly white. With the background evenly white, a lot of the crayon disappears. This doesn't happen so much with markers. If you just want the actual physical graphic recording and no digital images of it, then crayons might work for you.


Sketching: Quick and Simple



Elaborate drawings are great but not everyone has the time or skills to create one. Often, a quick sketch can get the message across just as well. Especially if you're brainstorming and looking for as many ideas as possible. When you choose an idea to flesh out, the sketch can then be fleshed out, too, if you want.

The sketch above was one of several done to convey a coaching session, done with a Sharpie marker. Sketching with a bold marker makes it much easier to share online. And if you you want to use that sketch at some point, you're ready to go - no redrawing necessary.

Strong, Bold Lines Make a Great Big Difference!


I spent the earlier part of Halloween this year in a plane, flying back from a job in Milwaukee. I didn't quite finish this doodle, but you can clearly see what a difference strong, bold lines make. No need to have a big broad tip marker to go big and bold, though. This doodle was done with a regular ball point pen I bought in an airport snack shop. If you keep adding to a thin line, eventually you get a thick one!