Pen, Paper, and Data Visualization

Pen, Paper, and Data Visualization

By Sujata Ramnarayan, Ph.D.

Books worth melting for v3

“Use a picture, it is worth a thousand words….” – those words are credited to a newspaper Editor, Arthur Brisbane, 1911. It stays true today as pictures and videos are shared more on every social network and are becoming an important tool for marketers to master among many other technologies coming their way. Instagram with its constant feed of photographs was the fastest growing social network last year. According to Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, most of Facebook will be videos in five years. Infographs are the raging technology of the day in content marketing and data visualization is a necessity in presentation of data.

You have to admit though that it is easier to keep information simple even when using pictures. There is sophistication and elegance in simplicity i.e. using pen and paper . In my recommendation of books worth melting for, I recently came across one titled “Back of the Napkin,” by Dan Roam that sets out exactly to do that – simplify with elegance. I can do justice to its review only by using what the author intends to teach you to do. Here is a summary of the book using pictures, pen, and paper – and a smartphone .

Any concept is better understood when presented visually.


Data Visualization 1

You do not need to be an artist to do that.

Data Visualization 2

You just need a few tools.

Data Visualization 3

You need a few figures we can all draw.

Data Visualization 4

Then use your imagination!

Data Visualization 5

As applicable in business,

Data Visualization 6

as in comic strips.

Data visualization 7


This book will round out anyone’s set of skills, especially in an age of photos, infographs, and data visualization. As the author says, the “Back of the Napkin” is for solving problems and selling ideas with pictures. Now try it out for yourself. If you found this useful, please share.

frontbookcover smallSujata Ramnarayan, Ph.D. is a Marketing Consultant focused on improving performance  through data-driven insights and strategy. She is a former Gartner Group Analyst/Professor, and the Author of Marketing in a World of Digital Sharing. Her writings have been published at and other publications. Follow Sujata on Twitter @mktgnugget and check out other articles by her here.

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