Sketchnote Advent Calendar: 5 – Mike Rohde

Of course, I heard about Mike Rohde, his books, his work as an illustrator for famous books Rework and Remote. At that time, I was a bit short cash and buying more books was not a priority. That postponed my encounter with the work of Mike. Finally, in 2017, I bought the books, read them and met him. I was not disappointed. Mike is a pro. He draws fast, think fast and don’t impose his views. He’s on a generous leadership path.

Mike does the Sketchnote Camp keynotes. That’s his role as the senior prominent member of the community. He’s good at it.

This year in Lisbon he sketched the roadmap:

“Our Joyful challenges”

1) Build up this friendly community

2) Teach sketchnoting right where we live

3) Make sketchnoting standard note method in public school

We are the Torch Bearers, said Mike to conclude

The whole keynote captured by Luis

This advent calendar is my part of bearing the torch.

Back to his style. Mike’s idea is for live sketchnoting. While Tammay, Krisztina or Sylvia draw as a reflective, after action practice, Mike is all in the action. To be honest it’s still quite hard for me. I tried last Monday with a Q&A webinar with @HennekeD. It requires a full focus, to be very prompt in taking layout decision. Mike uses almost only back, tones of grey, occasional touches of red, small booklets, a very systematic writing style. It’s not a surprise. Sketchnoting live events imply to streamline the process, practice for speed.

His layouts are often simple, minimal but elegant. He uses his distinctive font. A font you can buy and use in your designs too. In real life, Mike is an Experience Designer. He is also an illustrator as a side hustle. he illustrated the well know books from the founders of Basecamp: Jason Fried and David Heinemeier. Remote and Rework. You surely heard about 37 Signals, Ruby: Here we enter the legend of web design and apps design.

Retrospectively I understand his book at another level. It’s not about sketching, it’s about taking notes in sketching. The sketching is secondary to the mental act of taking notes, staying focused, associating words and visuals continuously. This requires speed but also to have a vast visual vocabulary. Every minute lost searching how to draw something is a loss of focus and a friction. It’s a bit like yoga. At first, you see the moves, the postures. when you practice and get into it, you realize it’s all about breathing. It’s about the process, the practice, not the result you see after. Same for design, the neophyte see the appearance, the designer see the logic underneath, the structure laid down to guide the user to do his job. I need a second reading.

It is said that to live a joyful life, it’s good to be surrounded by positive friends. Mike and his wife Gail are like this. One should keep positive, smiling people around.

Follow Mike on Twitter! @RohDesign

His site: https://
His books: and

He is in the crew of the SketchnoteArmy podcast. The podcast features sketchnoters from all origin and styles. Mauro is in too.

That’s his presentation on Whiteboarding

Did I mention Mike like to travel, enjoy local food? That’s a drawing Mike did for me in 2017. We trade tips, cheese against pens.

That’s a drawing he did for me. I think there is a lot to learn about Mike from it.

In this holiday season, if we want to identify the Kings and Queens of Sketchnoting, Mike definitely qualifies for a King position.

I look forward to seeing Mike again in Paris. Yet another Sketchnote Camp.

Essential to start sketchnoting and becoming a visual thinker!

Grab your invite below for my new project! An app to build your visual vocabulary.