Better Whiteboard Sketches
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Better Whiteboard Sketches

How To Sketch Clear Technical Diagrams

About the Book

"A picture is worth a thousand words" goes the English saying, but too often whiteboard sketches and notebook drawings quickly lose their meaning after they are drawn. If you have ever looked at a technical diagram and thought "these squiggles are meaningless!", then this book is for you.

This book provides a simple, proven approach to drawing clear, memorable technical diagrams. Although the focus is on whiteboard sketches, the principles apply to chalkboards, paper notebooks, and even digital tools. the techniques are applicable to a wide range of technical disciplines, including:

  • software architecture
  • systems architecture
  • business process modelling
  • chemical engineering
  • mechanical engineering and robotics
  • electronic and electrical engineering

The approach is designed to be suitable for people with a range of learning and visual needs, including:

  • people with dyslexia and other specific learning differences
  • people with visual impairments in colour or acuity
  • people who learn visually or audibly 
  • people who like to categorise in order to understand

The techniques lead to diagrams that still make sense many months or years after drawing them. The diagrams tend to be clear enough to include directly in slide decks and even official documentation. The techniques make it simple and quick to redraw diagrams if needed, without having to begin from the very start each time.

About the Author

Matthew Skelton
Matthew Skelton

Matthew Skelton is co-author of Team Topologies: organizing business and technology teams for fast flow. Head of Consulting at Conflux (, he specialises in Continuous Delivery, operability and organisation dynamics for software in manufacturing, ecommerce, and online services, including cloud, IoT, and embedded software.

Recognised by TechBeacon in 2018 as one of the top 100 people to follow in DevOps, Matthew curates the well-known DevOps team topologies patterns at and is co-author of the books Continuous Delivery with Windows and .NET (O’Reilly, 2016) and Team Guide to Software Operability (Skelton Thatcher Publications, 2016). He is also co-founder at Conflux Books which publishes books for technologists by technologists. / @matthewpskelton

Table of Contents

  • Conflux Books
  • How to use this book
    • Conventions used in the book
  • Introduction - the value of clear diagrams
    • Why sketch?
    • Typical problems with whiteboard sketches
    • Drawing helps us to understand and remember
    • Use a physical whiteboard
    • Take photographs and share
    • 3 core principles: concepts, colour, repeating
    • Summary
  • 1. Define and group key concepts
    • 1.1 Decide on the 3 or 4 most important concepts
    • 1.2 Identify the audience
    • 1.3 Map the concepts to 4 colours
    • 1.4 Use different shapes to separate the concepts
    • 1.5 Use a key or legend on the diagram itself
    • 1.6 Use proven techniques like C4 Model and DDD to help focus
    • 1.7 Summary
    • 1.8 Exercises
  • 2. Use colour but think in monochrome
    • 2.1 Colour is often invisible
    • 2.2 Do not rely on colour alone
    • 2.3 Many common situations remove colour
    • 2.4 Use extra lines and shading to increase meaning
    • 2.5 Worked example: shapes, colour, lines, shading
    • 2.6 Summary
    • 2.7 Exercises
  • 3. Use multi-stage sketches for clarity
    • 3.1 Multi-stage sketches avoid confusing diagrams
    • 3.2 Multi-stage sketches help learning and understanding
    • 3.3 Summary
    • 3.4 Exercises
  • 4. Case Studies and Quick Reference
    • 4.1 Case Studies
    • 4.2 Quick Reference
  • Terminology
  • References
  • Acknowledgements
    • Licenses
  • About the author
    • Matthew Skelton
    • Why I wrote this book
  • Notes

About the Publisher

This book is published on Leanpub by Conflux Books

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