Six tools for the back of the napkin


I came across this video of Dan Roam (author of Back of the Napkin) speaking at Google [via Presentation Zen], and I was really quite taken by his ability to clarify (Dan Roam’s word) problems by visualising them a certain way.*

I think it’s worth watching the whole way through, but I took away this: People process visual information by categorising it in six ways, namely what/who, how much, where, when, how and why.  And Dan Roam recommends certain types of drawings to best communicate each category of information, i.e.

  • If you want to show “What/Who”, draw a portrait.
  • If you want to show “How much”, draw a chart.
  • If you want to show where, draw a map.
  • If you want to show “When”, draw a time-line.
  • If you want to show “How” (a certain immediate causality; what triggers what), draw a flowchart.
  • And if you want to show “Why” (a “big picture” sort of cause and effect), draw a multivariate plot.

*And I just think it’s really swell of Google to bring in authors, politicians and other folks of public interest to speak at its campus, and then share these speeches with anyone who can download these videos.

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Author: lichone

Ethics by Enid Blyton; physique by deep-fried things. I think we all have an instinct to tell stories and to build things and relationships,

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