BBP and the Back of the Napkin (Pt. 2 – Meryl’s View)

Back of the NapkinIn the previous post BBP and the Back of the Napkin, Randy took a look at how the book can help with creating BBP presentations. In this post I’ll take a bit different view and look at the meat and potatoes of the book and what it’s about.

I’m not good at drawing, but that doesn’t stop me from occasionally using a whiteboard to visually communicate ideas. Communicating ideas isn’t about creating a Picasso or a Rembrandt. Stick figures are welcome! After reading this book, I created these two drawings.

The first gives an overview of the visualization process. I sum the Back of the Napkin‘s ideas in one picture. Before reading the next paragraph, click the picture to view it larger. How does this help you or not?

Back of the Napkin

The visual process contains four phases:

  • Look: Orient yourself and know which way is up, where you are, and identify.
  • See: Explore the five W’s (who, what, when, where, and why) plus how many.
  • Imagine: No SQUIDS here (OK, so I can’t draw a squid) — it’s SQVID (simple, quality, vision, individual attributes, delta (change)).
  • Show: Telling the story with visuals.

Now my drawing is a simple example of what you can do with the visual process. Roam takes you through complicated examples — typical business problems. For example, a training department had hundreds of documents and couldn’t see anything anymore. After analyzing all of their work, the team created a visual process to break it down. The story becomes clearer.

The next one puts this Back of the Napkin review into a visual. Book reviews contain background information about the book, which the picture has along with my opinions. The only thing I would change is put five stars and color in four of them so you know the max number of stars. (Is it 5 or 10?)

Back of the Napkin

I appreciate that Roam provides many examples. He also walks through several case studies of putting visual process to work. It may take some time to get the hang of the process and turning complicated ideas into visuals the audience can absorb with little thought.

This isn’t the kind of book where you can scan a few pages and suddenly come up with a way to explain that doo-dad. I had to re-read and review portions of the book before I could draw the above drawings. I’m sure they could be better, but not bad for a first shot, right? Although, I think the book could stand an appendix or chapter on how to draw basic figures. I couldn’t even copy some of the simple drawings. Also, the software information needs to include Smartdraw. Although, not as powerful as Visio, it’s more affordable.

Sales people can use the book to learn how to communicate their complicated products or services to prospects. Web design agencies can communicate their solutions for a Web site’s architecture. Presenters can stop posting busy charts and use these drawings to quickly get a point across. The visual process comes in handy for many situations and I believe it’s a good skill to have.

I also learned something else while attempting these drawings. I tried to use Visio to create them, but it didn’t have what I wanted and it took too much time. These took about 10 to 20 minutes.

Book: Back of the Napkin: Solving Problems and Selling Ideas with Pictures by Dan Roam. Book retail price: $24.95. Amazon price: $16.47.

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5 Responses to “BBP and the Back of the Napkin (Pt. 2 – Meryl’s View)”

  1. Pedro Ricart says:

    If you want to learn how to draw basic figures, there is a 1997 book written by Milly R. Sonneman titled “Beyond Words. A Guide to Drawing Ideas” I think this book together with Roam’s book would be a very good complement. The chapter or appendix that you suggested would not be necesary.

  2. Meryl Evans says:

    Thanks for the recommendation. I will look it up. It’d be nice to scribble something cute instead of boring shapes and lines!

  3. Adelle Frank says:

    I love your visual overview of the visualization process!

    One question: what made you divide the “See” stage into the 5Ws and How many?

    I can’t wait to see if Dan Roam adds more visualization to his book in the edition coming out at the end of 2009. 🙂

  4. Pingback: Back of the Napkin « Design(ed) Processes

  5. Bob Hait says:

    I just StumbledUpon this. Not bad. I’ll give it a thumbs up.

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