Dan Roam's "The Back of the Napkin"

I can’t draw. Really. I’m a competent interaction designer, but my graphic design skills are those of a plankton. I can’t draw on the right side or the left side of my brain.

Yet, like everyone else in business and technology, I need to communicate. As so many studies — and common sense — show, we make decisions better (or, at least, faster) when there are pictures involved. I’ve written awkward stick figures and embarrassingly asymmetric circles on whiteboards and the backs of napkins and envelopes to make points. And now there’s a book to support those of us who have to communicate visually but shouldn’t be allowed to. Dan Roam’s The Back of the Napkin (Portfolio) is breezy in presentation but rigorous in approach. Essentially, it’s a framework for understanding why presenting problems in visual form makes it easier to solve them and presenting ideas in visual form makes it easier to develop them and convince others that they’re good ideas. Most important, it shows you how to show things, walking through some vivid examples and well-worn metaphors. Chances are you won’t pick the same visual metaphors — but you will think in terms of visual metaphors and that’s what will stick.

I hope I’ve made the case for this book, although I realize I would have done it more effectively if I had drawn something.

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