Book Review: The Back of the Napkin

Image taken from:
Image taken from:

For my 9th review/commentary on entrepreneurship-related books, I chose a book I’ve been wanting to get my hands on for quite some time. It’s on “The Back of the Napkin: Solving Problems and Selling Ideas (with pictures)” by Dan Roam, who also founded the Napkin Academy (how cool is this name?).

I have always considered myself a good draw-er (not the furniture!) and I have never skipped a chance to show off my drawing skills! Mainly in design thinking events and academies that I attended and later organized, I was always the one with the marker on the white board or the large papers, taking notes, drawing concepts, connecting etc. Contemplating back then, I traced this back to my childhood when I used to draw superheroes and other cartoons, on any surface I could get my hands on.

Looking at the introduction of this book, I immediately realized that there’s more to this whole drawing thing than meets my inexperienced eye! This book is about using pictures that you draw, to convey messages, discover and develop new ideas and solve problems in unexpected ways. Overall, by doing all of the above, you can definitely improve your ability to share your insights. I mean, I was kind of doing something like this already, but I was unaware of how much was actually part of my simple act of drawing on a piece of paper.

I don’t want to replicate the contents of the book (I don’t think it’s legal actually), but there are some highlights that I will try to list here, avoiding spoilers!

  • I really liked the organization of the types of problems into six (6) distinct categories that actually make lots of sense for me,
  • Also, the four-step process of looking, seeing, imagining and showing is a really intuitive and useful one,
  • I really recognized the different types of people from the events I attended (related to their attitude towards visual thinking),
  • The SQVID framework and its use as an “equalizer” was really inspiring and useful as well,
  • The Visual Thinking CODEX is already printed and posted on my office wall as a point of reference, like forever!

I think I’ll stick to the above as my highlights from the book, and just add a couple of extra thoughts. Overall, this book and the toolkit it contains, should be mastered by anyone that needs to depict ideas, examine them and share them with a group of people. In one of the previous books I read, it mentioned that you should hire good writers. The argument there is that anyone that can write and describe concepts and notions adequately, he/she shows that they can comprehend them and communicate them meaningfully. I think that the same goes for people that are good at drawing. Understanding concepts and being able to draw them, is key. Zipping them down in an even more compact version of a 10-page document to a single drawing of half a page, is just genious sometimes.

See below an amazing overview of the methods and “tricks” described in this awesome book, that kind of zips 280 pages or so, into one!

Image taken from:
Image taken from:

Btw, drawing here, is not merely putting some words in boxes and connecting them with an arrow, nor is creating lists with underlined headings. Visual Thinking is so much more than that, and it seems like a craft that needs practice to master, just like so many others. Having said that, I am happy that I have my basic 101 knowledge of visual thinking and some tricks up my sleeve, but I am fully aware that the actual learning begins from the next drawing I will make and continues from then on…

Get the book. Read it. You won’t regret it! 😉


*Please note that the previous lines are not a synopsis of the book. All the related posts are just about my personal interpretation of what a book contains, including some reflection as to what each book means for me. If you hold any copyright over the material discussed, please do not hesitate to contact me with your concerns. 


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