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Exploring the Distinction: Visual Facilitation vs. Sketchnoting

written by Mandy Johnson

Visual facilitation and sketchnoting are two distinct but related practices that involve using visual elements to enhance communication and understanding. While they share similarities, there are key differences between the two approaches.

Visual Facilitation:

Visual facilitation is a broader practice that encompasses various techniques and tools to support group communication and collaboration. It focuses on facilitating group processes, such as meetings, workshops, and conferences, by incorporating visuals to make information more accessible and engaging. Visual facilitators use a range of methods, including live sketching, graphic recording, mind mapping, and visual templates, to capture and organize ideas, facilitate discussions, and foster understanding among participants. The primary goal of visual facilitation is to enhance group dynamics, promote active participation, and aid in problem-solving and decision-making processes.


Sketchnoting, on the other hand, is a form of visual notetaking rather than active participation. It involves capturing key ideas, concepts, and information in a visual format using a combination of text and imagery. Sketchnoters create visually appealing and concise representations of the content they are documenting, often using a mix of hand-drawn illustrations, icons, typography, and organisational techniques. Sketchnotes are typically created during conferences, lectures, meetings, or events. The main purpose of sketchnoting is to help people retain information, improve understanding, and create a more engaging record of a meeting, speech or event.

Key Differences:

  • Context: Visual facilitation is primarily used in group settings, where a facilitator employs visual aids to support communication and collaboration among participants. Sketchnoting, on the other hand, is the equivalent of inviting a visual note-taker to be a fly on the wall at your event.

  • Scope: Visual facilitation involves a broader range of techniques and methods, including graphic recording, mind mapping, and visual templates, to support group processes and decision-making. Sketchnoting, in contrast, typically revolves around the creation of visually enriched notes without participation.

  • Audience: Visual facilitation aims to benefit the entire group or audience by making information more accessible and fostering understanding among participants. It is less about the final image that is captured. Whereas sketchnoting solely focuses on creating a visual representation of the content of the day.

In summary, visual facilitation is a practice that supports group communication and collaboration using visual aids. The graphic outputs of visual facilitation are often less polished than a finished sketchnote as they more about the process, rather than something designed to be shared. In contrast, sketchnoting is often less interactive – with the artist listening and observing rather than participating to the conversation. The final creation from the sketchnoting process is one that can be useful for both attendees and non-attendees of the event.

Both approaches harness the power of visuals to enhance understanding and engagement, but they differ in terms of context, scope, and audience.

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