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Concrete Theory Draws on Napkins December 6, 2009

Posted by mgodoublems in Book Analysis.
Tags: , , ,

Last night I finished reading The Back of the Napkin by Dan Roam.  The My Little Black Sketchbook post line spawned from reading it.  Roam writes an extremely interesting book, defining a process for visual thinking that just works… I went from not being able to easily think visually to being able to produce visual thought diagrams in a short order over the course of the book.

I will be incorporating the things I have learned from this book into a majority of my work in the future.  Book analysis after the jump.  I’m just going to go over the final chapter, because it’s a book that really needs to be read by anyone that is interest in visual thinking and advancing their ability to express themselves.  Note: It’s not 1000 words, but it has a picture, so it is really over 1000.  The book is really a must-read.

Roam explains visual thinking in a very simple diagram, which I have reproduced here.  It’s really supposed to be on a napkin, but I put it in my sketchbook so that I am always carrying a copy of it with me.  I will be able to reproduce it from this point forward, though.  Also, I’m sorry about the quality of the image, but I was using my iPhone as per usual.  As such, I’ve included a description.

The three tools of visual thinking are in the upper right – the eye, the mind’s eye, and the ability to coordinate the hand and eye.

The four steps of visual thinking are the lower right – look, see, imagine, and show.

The SQVID process, described here, is in the lower left.

Finally, the six primary questions for seeing and showing are in the top left.

Dan Roam calls this the ‘visual thinking toolkit’, and I would have to agree that the toolkit he provides is extremely powerful. The way I see it, there are three processes to producing something, and a set of questions to ask for each.  Roam only covers the last two, but the first one is implied.

Process One: Determination of Presentation

  • Who: Audience
  • What: Subject Matter
  • When: Timeline
  • Where: Venue
  • Why: Purpose
  • How: Medium (Process Two)
  • How Much: Level of Detail (Process Three)

Process Two: Determination of Medium A (How)

  • Who/What: Produce a Portrait
  • How Much: Produce a Chart
  • Where: Produce a Map
  • When: Produce a Timeline
  • How: Produce a Flowchart
  • Why: Produce a Multivariable Plot

Process Three: Determination of Medium B (How Much)

  • Simple-Complex
  • Qualitative-Quantitative
  • Vision-Execution
  • Individual-Comparison
  • (Delta) Change-Status Quo

Next time you are going about laying out an idea, follow this process.  See how it goes.

As I said before, everyone should read Roam’s book.  It has a very detailed set of diagrams to help with visual thought processes for SQVID and the <6><6> rule, as he calls the question-asking of Process 2.  There is also a case study to run through, which is an excellent drawing practice that I will be posting separately, with very little explanation so as not to spoil things.  His blogis also excellent, and he’s coming out with a new book in the next few months.  Definitely a man that has influenced me significantly in my thought processes.


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