Cartoons! They carpet the walls of our studio, and they make frequent appearances in Design that Matters presentations and TED talks. In his 2009 book, The Back of the Napkin, design thinker and professional doodler Dan Roam demonstrates how simple cartoons can help us to explain and visualize complex concepts, brainstorm more effectively and extract meaning from piles of data.
The Back of the Napkin argues that if you can draw a smiley face and a stick figure, you’re ready to become a visual thinker. The book demonstrates how even simple doodles can help ideas jump off the page.
DtM’s value is expressed in terms of novel solutions to tough problems. Where powerpoint slides and bullet points can lead to anxiety and boredom, drawing cartoons makes people happy. Happy people are more creative. Creativity pays the bills at DtM.
But there’s more! We’ve found loads of resources describing human-centered design research methods, including IDEO’s Method Cards and the LUMA Institute’s Innovating for People. Back of the Napkin is the first book we found that explains the kinds of visual “frameworks” we use for data-reduction. Frameworks help us to organize the enormous undifferentiated mass of observations and insights we collect during field research. Frameworks lead to qualitative design principles, and then to quantitative product requirements and specifications. Roam’s framework examples on pages 130-133 are worth the price of the book.
And if you buy this or any of the other books through the links in this email, Amazon will send part of the proceeds to DtM!
This “Design Experience that Matters” series is provided courtesy of Timothy Prestero and the team at Design that Matters (DtM). As a nonprofit, DtM collaborates with leading social entrepreneurs and hundreds of volunteers to design new medical technologies for the poor in developing countries. DtM’s Firefly infant phototherapy device is treating thousands of newborns in 21 counties from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe. In 2012, DtM was named the winner of the National Design Award.