The Back of the Napkin by Dan Roam - Book Review

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The Back of the Napkin by Dan Roam is a book about using hand-drawn pictures to illustrate points and make presentations. This is one of the most stupid books I've ever seen. You have a collection here of the most idiotic illustrations you can imagine. Look at page 38 for example where he illustrates "look", "see", "imagine" and "show." Is this a joke?

Everything else is just sort of stupid. Have you ever seen a chart before? Do you know how it works? Then you probably don't need this book. A lot of it is just how to draw a chart by hand instead of using Excel. I'll give you a clue: a hand-drawn chart looks a lot like a computer-drawn chart. Duh.

back of the napkin

On p107 he talks about SQVID, which is an acronym for different ways of seeing data. But again we're just talking about common sense.

This is a stupid book. If you want to spend all your time drawing cartoon characters and charts by hand, then well knock yourself out.

What Dan Roam doesn't understand is that the power of visual thinking is primarily spatial. It's not about cartoon characters. If you are a visual thinker or want to communicate visually, all you need to use are mind maps, diagrams and charts. This fact seems to be lost on the author.

A really good book though is Slide:ology. That and Presentation Zen are very good. Slide:ology in fact covers sketching far better than Back of the Napkin does. They actually give you examples of different kinds of sketches that depict different kinds of abstract concepts. Much more helpful than sketching cartoons that "look" and "see."

Drawing by tlemermeyer


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