How To Organize Your Notes
…With Containers and Connectors
Taking notes in an organized, visual way helps you think and learn better. At Ink Factory, when we take professional visual notes, we use visual symbols that we call connectors and containers to organize ideas on a page. Connectors (like lines and arrows) and containers (like speech or thought bubbles) are one important element of creating an organized composition for your visual notes. If you’ve ever tried visual note-taking and struggled with where to put what on the page–you know how difficult creating an organized composition is! But learning how to organize your notes with connectors and containers can help tremendously.
A Visual Note-Taking 101 participant practices using containers and connectors
Why Use Visual Note-Taking Strategies?
There are lots of note-taking methods out there meant to help you organize your thoughts when taking notes–mind mapping, Cornell notes, bullet journaling, and many more. If you learn best through visual forms of communication, there are so many reasons to try incorporating visual note-taking into your studies.
A study found that students who take handwritten notes generally perform better in tests on those lectures than students who type their notes on a computer. But that’s not the only reason you should try visual note-taking strategies.
Visually organizing your handwritten notes with connectors and containers will:
- Create notes that are easier to read and understand when going back to reference them
- Help you better process information in the moment
- Help you make more connections between ideas and content
- Help you better remember information afterward
How to Draw Connectors and Containers
Two examples of visual notes from new visual note-takers. The visual note on the left uses no connectors or containers, and the one on the right makes full use of them. Which one is better organized and easier to read?
Connectors and containers come in all different shapes and sizes. Connectors are the lines, arrows, dots, or any form of eye-guiding element that goes from one point on the page to another, causing your brain to connect the two points. Containers are anything that acts as an outline around the text on the page, like speech bubbles, thought bubbles, shapes, or even objects.
Containers are helpful in establishing the hierarchy of information on the page. Generally, the most important points on a page are written in larger, bolder text than most of the supporting points. Containers can be used to further emphasize main points, like drawing a banner or large shape around the text.
Containers can also be blocks of color on the page, like in the below example from visual notes we created for Teleperformance. Using color behind a main or supporting point makes it pop on the page, compared to other text.
Notice how the text inside the dark purple circles pops off the page, so you know the main topics covered in the presentation.
Containers are not only for the most important points on the page, though. They can be used to visually separate points so they remain legible and distinct. They can help to break up the page into more cohesive sections so your brain can quickly see what topics might be covered on the page, and how they relate to one another.
Connectors also organize and reinforce the relationship between points of information.
Arrows are helpful to direct the eye. Think of it like pointing at something–that arrow is telling you (or your viewer) where to look. Arrows can be small and subtle or bold.
Lines can imply a two-way connection between ideas. They’re great for connecting main points to sub-points. Dashed lines can be used for a more subtle connection between ideas, or to create a less busy or obvious visual connection.
A Visual Note-Taking 101 participant connects key points to the title of their drawing.
Connectors can be as simple as a line from one point on the page to the next, or they can be more elaborate. They do exactly what their name implies- connect. If you have a main point written in large text and supporting points around it that are inside containers, connectors would be what brings all of those supporting points to one spot. That could be dotted lines, arrows, a chain, dashes of color that lead from the container to the point it is supporting.
In this talk, the most detailed points are connected to higher-level points but aren’t contained by anything.
Connectors are also helpful for organizing smaller points and additional information that is not in a container. You can surround a point that lives in a container with smaller text and then use a connector to attach it to the point it supports.
Not all points should be in a container and not all points should have a connector. It is the combination of both connectors and containers that help organize information and reinforce the level of importance.
Do not feel the need to perfectly connect and contain every point either–it would be exhausting to do so! Simply practice using connectors and containers to organize your notes, and see how using them feels best to you.
Tip for students!
If you are more comfortable taking traditional notes in class, connectors and containers can help you study for a test or prepare to write a paper. Read through your notes on a topic, and then summarize and re-draw the content using the principles of containers and connectors we’ve outlined above. Then you’ll be able to visually see how each topic connects, and what the most important key learnings are.
Exercise: Fill In the connectors and containers
Now it’s your turn! Print out this visual note (or save it to your drawing tablet) and draw in your own connectors and containers. When does it make sense to contain, and when do you make connections?
Want to learn visual note-taking from the pros? Attend a visual note-taking workshop on composition!
Organizing Your Visual Notes: Composition
Do you struggle with the layout of your visual notes? What points and visuals go where? Why are some things we capture larger than others? Let us demystify how we arrange our notes into clear compositions in this 90-minute mini-workshop.