OWL Magazine Korea

Dan Roam “The Back of the Napkin: Solving Problems and Selling Ideas with Pictures”

Dan Roam’s “The Back of the Napkin: Solving Problems and Selling Ideas with Pictures” is a book that delves into the art of effectively conveying thoughts and ideas through visual aids. While having good thoughts or ideas is important, merely possessing them alone doesn’t lead to significant outcomes. Ultimately, it’s crucial to share these thoughts effectively, garnering empathy and persuasion from others, to make things happen.

The atmosphere of today’s job market may vary, but in the 2010s, there were many instances of “presentation interviews.” Even though conducting interviews in the form of presentations might seem excessive, it became an important era where knowing how to effectively share thoughts was crucial.

“Effective Ways to Convey Thoughts or Ideas”

Dan Roam’s book emphasizes the use of visual materials, such as drawings, as a far more effective means of communication than relying solely on language-based methods like text-filled slides. With the rise of Steve Jobs’ presentation style in the 2000s and 2010s, which emphasized visual imagery over text-heavy slides, most presentations now primarily use images. While some presentations still adhere to traditional text-based methods, depending on the content, the era has largely shifted towards utilizing visual-centric approaches.

This book emphasizes the importance of combining linguistic and visual thinking to achieve balance, suggesting that such a combination is more effective in conveying ideas and information. Roam categorizes this combination as “VIVID thinking,” where language-based thinking is likened to a fox and visual thinking to a bee.

“VIVID Thinking”

VIVID thinking, as outlined in the book, entails the integration of visual and verbal elements to create a unified form of expression. This approach is supported by a grammar system consisting of six main components: Portrait, Chart, Map, Time Line, Flow Chart, and Multivariate Plot.

“FOAM: Form”

Ideas need to have a form just like recognizable clouds, whether resembling something else or having a distinct shape.

“Only Essentials”

Ideas should convey only the essentials. If necessary, extraneous details should be trimmed away to focus on the core concept.


Visual metaphors, such as the pyramid-shaped hierarchy of needs by Maslow, aid in effectively communicating ideas.


Good ideas are those that can be further developed by others, allowing for evolution and eventual realization.

“Span Difference”

Ideas benefit from being combined with diverse elements, expanding their potential.


Understanding the audience is essential for effective communication. Adapting the presentation style to suit the audience’s level of comprehension is key.

Roam also suggests various tactics for utilizing VIVID thinking effectively, such as employing a VIVID checklist, conducting reverse thinking exercises, creating character profiles for books or reports, and drawing sketches before meetings.

Overall, “The Back of the Napkin” presents practical strategies for enhancing idea communication and is a valuable resource for anyone seeking to improve their presentation skills.

“The Back of the Napkin: Solving Problems and Selling Ideas with Pictures”