Sheryl Connelly’s 2013 TED Notes –

Conference veteran and Ford futurist Sheryl Connelly shares her brilliantly illustrated synopsis

by Josh Rubin in Culture on 04 April 2013


Each year we travel to Long Beach, CA for TED and each year, though armed with inspiration anew, we’d leave with scattered notes—hammered out on an iPad or illegibly scribbled alongside speaker bios in the TED program—that hardly do justice to the knowledge we’ve gleaned. That was until our friend Sheryl Connelly—Ford Motor Company Futurist, TED alum and note-taker extraordinaire—began sharing with us her illustrated record of the creative conference. Her objective notes have given us a much-needed, definitive summary in the past, and this year we’ve convinced Connelly to share her gift with our readers—available in their entirety as a free, downloadable PDF.


Creating illustrations and infographics on the fly isn’t easy when you’re listening to a lecture, and only after years of practice has Connelly been able to perfect the skill. Wrapping text around blank spaces and condensing speeches into blurbs is simple enough given time and a word processor, but Connelly insists that it’s better done by hand. “Years ago, I would type the notes but quickly discovered there is some content that cannot be expressed in words,” she says. “Since I love to draw, I started to take notes by hand so I could incorporate cartoons that captured key ideas or concepts at a glance.”


More than the content, it’s the spirit of TED that Connelly so colorfully captures. “The best part of the TED notes for me is not necessary recalling what was said; I value them because they help me remember how I felt when I first heard the message,” she explains. For this reason, Connelly does minimal emendations to the notes beyond completing her illustrations after the event—unfinished sentences, misspelled words and other errors are all part of the appeal of her unorthodoxed record.


“When I am taking the notes, the message goes in one ear and out the other. In fact, in the short-term I might have trouble recalling what I just heard; but once I refer to the notes—it takes me right back to the moment I heard it for the first time and reinforces the long-term memory.” Whether or not you made it to TED 2013, Connelly’s 121-page document is worth a read if for no other purpose than to reconsider your own note-taking strategy.

Download a PDF of TED Notes 2013 through WeTransfer.