Sketch Squad: Iowa State’s newest club


Courtesy of Priyankaa Krishnan

Sketch Squad is a new club on campus which teaches students the art of sketchnoting and uses sketchnoting as a learning tool. 

Macy Ott

Sketch Squad will make its debut at Iowa State as the first sketchnoting club — a growing trend in education— this fall.  

Sketchnoting originated from Purdue University and has grown in popularity because of its ability to help students retain information more than written note taking. Sketchnoting is the process of taking handwritten-notes and illustrating them in an artistic way. This could be applied to lecture notes, meeting agendas or simply an artistic outlet. 

Priyankaa Krishnan, a graduate student in industrial design, co-founded Sketch Squad and brought sketchnoting to Iowa State. 

“You always remember a picture better than you remember words,” Krishnan said. “It promotes cognitive function and does it in a fun way.”

Krishnan and a few of her peers on campus took up sketchnoting after being taught the artform by a professor in the College of Design, Verena Paepcke-Hjeltness. After seeing the benefits of this alternative method of note-taking, Krishnan and her peers decided to start the club.

Before sketchnoting became an organized club, Krishnan and her peers would take illustrated notes of meetings, conferences and their classes as a hobby. Krishnan said she saw enough interest and positive feedback in the art to want to start a club.

Verena Paepcke-Hjeltness, assistant professor in industrial design, has published research about the benefits of sketchnoting which include higher concentration, comprehension, retention of information, listening, observation and synthesis skills.

“Some students still prefer to take traditional linear notes during lectures to not miss any information, while others use sketchnoting to synthesize what they hear and see,” Paepcke-Hjeltness said. 

While some students show great results with sketchnoting, not everyone has that same experience and sees those benefits.

“Some students outside the College of Design have found sketchnoting to allow them to rediscover their drawing skills,” Paepche-Hjeltness said. “Others found it cumbersome and time consuming.”

Paepche-Hjeltness also said sketchnoting can improve reading comprehension because it forces students to think in a way that traditional note-taking does not. 

“When using it for studying, it can foster subject matter expertise,” Paepche-Hjeltness said. “This is because you have to understand a concept before visualizing it. Overall, it is a non-linear approach to note-taking and communicating which, for some, can foster listening, observation and synthesis skills.”

Krishnan has high hopes for the potential of Sketch Squad in the coming years. 

“My vision is to take it to job opportunities. It can act as a resume builder and it’s a great skill to have, even for non-design majors,” Krishnan said. 

When Krishnan first became interested in sketchnoting, she got a few of her peers involved including Alyssa Tiedeman, a junior in industrial design and a member of the Sketch Squad. Tiedman also sees many possibilities for the future of Sketch Squad. 

“It encourages students of all majors, years and abilities to go out of the box to learn new skills and to build their professional connections alongside a diverse group of their peers,” Tiedman said.