What Is a Visual Pkm? A Complete Guide (2024)

Do you want to take better notes and remember more, but you’re a terrible artist? Don't worry, a Visual PKM can help!


Home > What is PKM? > What Is a Visual Pkm? A Complete Guide (2024)

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SUMMARY: Have you ever wished you could take better notes and remember more of what you learn?

Despite being a terrible artist, I’ve learned to use visual note-taking. It’s a game-changing approach that’s transformed how I learn, think, and create.

What is a Visual PKM?

A Visual Personal Knowledge Management (PKM) system is a way of organizing and expressing thoughts, ideas, and information. Instead of just text, Visual PKMs use drawings, diagrams, and sketches.

A Visual PKM allows you to capture and communicate complex concepts more intuitively.

It’s a powerful tool that combines the benefits of traditional note-taking with the power of visual thinking.

Visuals help you understand relationships and connections between pieces of information.

Imagine being able to grasp the key points of a book or a lecture by glancing at a single, visual map. Or picture yourself effortlessly recalling a complex process by following some simple sketches.

Visual PKMs boost learning, memory, and creativity better than text-based methods.

How Is Visual PKM Different Than “Non-Visual” PKM?

Traditional Personal Knowledge Management (PKM) systems rely on text-based notes and outlines. But, a Visual PKM takes a different approach. It uses the power of visuals to enhance understanding, retention, and creativity.

Imagine trying to explain the intricate workings of a car engine using only words.

It’s a tough task needing pages of dense text.

Now, picture conveying the same information with a simple, well-designed diagram. Suddenly, the complex relationships between the engine components become crystal clear.

That’s the difference between a Visual PKM and its text-based counterpart.

Traditional note-taking is linear, but visual techniques capture interconnected ideas better. Visual notes represent information holistically and intuitively.

A Visual PKM uses visuals like diagrams, mind maps, and sketches. They engage your brain’s inborn ability to process and understand visual info.

This not only makes it easier to grasp complex concepts, but also aids in memory retention and recall.

Components of a Visual PKM

A Visual PKM system is a versatile toolkit. It combines many techniques that help you capture, organize, and share information better. The key components of a Visual PKM include:

Visual Note-taking

Visual note-taking is about using diagrams, symbols, and sketches in notes. It boosts understanding and memory of complex concepts.

Mind Mapping

Mind mapping is a great way to organize info visually. It starts with a central idea and branches into subtopics. This helps you see connections and hierarchies clearly.


Sketchnoting combines text with visuals. It creates engaging notes that capture a topic’s essence. By adding simple drawings, icons, and visual metaphors, you make dense information easier to remember.

Visual Storytelling

Visual storytelling uses visuals to convey ideas and narratives. It helps communicate complex messages, spark creativity, and make a lasting impact.

Tools and Resources for Visual PKM

To embrace the power of a Visual PKM, you’ll need the right tools and resources. The beauty of a Visual PKM is that it can adapt to suit your preferences and workflow.

Analog Tools (e.g., Notebooks, Pens, Markers)

For many, putting pen to paper is an essential part of the visual note-taking process. A good notebook, bright markers, and a scanning app on your phone (like Scanner Pro for iPhone) can be all you need.

Digital Tools (e.g., Sketchnoting Apps, Mind Mapping Software)

Tools like Excalidraw and Notability make visual note-taking easy. They can be integrated with other apps. Mind mapping software, like MindNode or XMind, can help you organize and see complex information easily.

VPKM Creators you should follow:

Follow VKPM creators for tips, techniques, and inspiration. Some of my favorites include Zsolt and Nicole Vanderhoven.

Why Our Brains Love “Visuals”

Our brains are wired to process and understand visuals better than text. We have an innate preference for visuals. It is deeply rooted in our evolution. Our ancestors relied on visual cues for survival.

Today, the power of visuals can offer many brain benefits, including:

Improved Learning and Retention

Research shows that adding visuals to text boosts learning and memory. Brains process visuals quicker than text. This makes it easier to understand and remember complex topics.

Enhanced Creativity and Problem-Solving

Visual thinking encourages divergent and non-linear thinking. This can spark creativity and foster innovative problem-solving. By using visuals, you can spot patterns. You can also see connections and relationships that you might not notice otherwise.

Better Organization and Recall

Visual tools like mind maps and diagrams help you organize information. They provide structure and make it easier to recall details.

Integrating Visual PKM into Your Workflow

Integrating a Visual PKM into your workflow can seem daunting at first, but it’s worth it!

Start small. Then, slowly add visuals to your knowledge management practices.

Begin by experimenting with simple visual note-taking techniques during meetings or lectures. As you become more comfortable, explore mind mapping to organize your thoughts and ideas.

Gradually, you can incorporate more advanced techniques like sketchnoting and visual storytelling.

Remember, a Visual PKM is not an all-or-nothing approach.

Combining visual techniques with other knowledge management methods can be powerful. For instance, use text notes for details and mind maps to see the structure and connections.

The beauty of a Visual PKM lies in its flexibility and adaptability. Tailor it to your specific needs and preferences, and don’t be afraid to experiment.

Over time, you’ll develop a system just for you. It will use the power of visuals and fit into your workflow.


Embracing Visual Personal Knowledge Management can improve your learning, creativity, and productivity. Using visuals, you open up endless opportunities. Complex ideas become intuitive, and knowledge sticks better.

If you’re a student dealing with heavy course material, a professional handling complex projects, or an entrepreneur exploring new ideas, a Visual PKM can be your secret weapon. It helps organize thoughts, share ideas, and solve problems using your brain’s visual processing.

So, don’t let the fear of being a “bad artist” hold you back.

A Visual PKM isn’t about making masterpieces. It’s using simple visuals to boost understanding, memory, and creativity. Embrace this method to make managing knowledge more rewarding.

Learn more about how a PKM can improve your life.


Do I need to be a great artist?

Absolutely not! Even basic shapes, symbols, and stick figures can be incredibly effective in conveying complex ideas. The focus is on capturing the essence of the information, not producing works of art.

Can a Visual PKM replace traditional note-taking methods?

A Visual PKM can boost note-taking but not replace it. Combine visuals with text for best results. Use visuals for structure and concepts, text for details.

How Do I Get Started With Visual PKM?

Starting your Visual PKM journey is easier than you think. Try simple techniques like mind mapping or basic diagrams. As you get more comfortable, explore sketchnoting and visual storytelling. Start small and grow your skills gradually.