The Napkin Sketch Workbook by Don Moyer

The Napkin Sketch Workbook

You can’t draw (I can’t either), but you know drawings are a compelling way to communicate information. Graphic designers usually handle the infographics, conceptual art, and other images that appear in web content, but graphic designers are not always information designers. If you create or manage instructional content, the concepts should begin with you or someone on your team.

The Napkin Sketch Workbook by Don Moyer is the essential textbook for how to get started with this. (I’ve recently misplaced my copy and it’s driving me nuts, because I refer to it all the time). Sketchnoters advocate drawing as a simple and universal way to make information easier to digest (an essential skill in our world of info-overpopulation) but here’s the thing about these guys: they’re artists. And their drawings are great. Now Don Moyer is an artist too, and his work is incredible. But! His book starts out exactly where you need it to: with a basic library of how to draw stuff. He makes NO assumptions. He gets that non-artists don’t have the first clue where to start.

Other sketchnoters hint that it’s easy to doodle, but don’t provide the tools. This book does. Not only does Don Moyer provide the basic shapes to work with, but he puts you to work proving to yourself that with just these basic shapes, you can draw vignettes that explain fairly abstract concepts. I tried it, and my 5 year old correctly explained every drawing I made. (Here’s where I scan a page of the drawings I made in the book so you can see how simple they are, if only I could find it).

If the book just contained this much information it would be worth the price, but subsequent chapters teach you how to use drawings to explain relationships, business processes, timelines, and other concepts that are poorly served by words alone. Because it’s a workbook, you’ll interpret and sketch out a fairly involved business process for yourself— which you can then compare against his version for ideas.

He also provides tips for how to work with designers to finesse the ideas, different styles you can use, and an excellent and thorough list of resources for further research on the subject, although if you stop with just this book, you’ll be white-boarding circles around colleagues or fellow students within a few hours (the book is a short paperback, and easy to read).

There is but a single downside to The Napkin Sketch Workbook, and it is this: you have to buy it from Blurb, which has absurdly high shipping prices (if it didn’t, I’d save myself the frustration of searching for my lost copy and just replace it). It’s self-published and doesn’t appear to be available anywhere else (a shame, it is hands-down one of the most useful business books I’ve ever encountered). That said, the knowledge you’ll gain makes it completely worth the investment (although hang on to your copy once you get it).

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4 Comments

  1. Thanks for the kind words. Sorry that Blurb is less convenient than Amazon. I created the workbook to share with my students in workshops. So postage wasn’t my main concern. I think of this edition of the workbook as a preview. I’m collecting feedback and later will make refinements before I make it a “real” book. Meanwhile, I’m glad that people are finding it useful.

    • Cheryl

      Looking forward to seeing it as a ‘real’ book – it’s terrific. Meanwhile I may just have to suck it up and pay Blurb a ransom for my replacement copy!

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