Drawing Is Our Oldest Technology


Below is an excerpt from Chapter 1 of my latest book, Draw to Win, available now (September 13, 2016): 

Drawing Is Our Oldest Technology

Thirty-two thousand years ago, your many-times-great-grandparents Oog and Aag drew pictures on the wall of a cave. They drew bison, a herd of horses, and many beautiful bulls. These drawings predate weapons, pots, jewelry, and most clothes.

Your ancient ancestors had things to tell each other, and the technology they used to record it was drawing. That desire to share was so compelling that Oog and Aag’s children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren kept going back to that same cave and drew the same pictures—for the next eight hundred years.

Adult drawing is “curious”? I don’t think so. The only thing curious is why people in business don’t draw more.

people love pictures

The Visual Is Back—and Here to Stay 

Everyone online relies on pictures: Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram, Snapchat, Tumblr; the greatest focus of social media is the image. This explosion of pictures isn’t a millennials-powered fad disconnected from the world of business. It’s the logical extension of those lines first drawn by Oog and Aag. Today we just have better technology.

Don’t think of sharing images as the dumbing-down of society or as threatening to business; on the contrary, creating and sharing pictures is the most natural thing in the world.

The problem is that there are too many images that aren’t very good, or good for you. Most pictures online are “lazy images.” Cute cats, train wrecks, and sexy bodies have their appeal, but they appeal to your lowest-common-denominator brain; they distract and occupy your brain without leaving much value behind.

Good images—meaningful pictures that trigger deep thoughts, clarify complexity, and inspire insight—exist too but are fewer in number. That’s not the fault of the pictures. The reason lazy images are so distracting is because the people who make them know that your brain loves to look at stuff. That’s good to know—and we’re going to take advantage of that too, but we’re going to use that insight to turn your good ideas into better pictures.

Why is that important? Because, as Cisco reminds us, 90 per-cent of the data you see is visual.

The Conversation Is Now Visual 

Always enter the conversation already taking place in the customer’s mind. — ROBERT COLLIER

If you walk through the office talking loudly to yourself, nobody will listen. But if you can enter the conversation that is already going on in your colleague’s head, he or she will pay complete attention and invite you in. That’s always been true.

What’s different today is that now the conversation is visual. People’s stories are visual. Shopping is visual. The news is visual. If you want to enter just about any conversation today, you need to be visual too. Learn to join the visual conversation and you will be seen and heard.


Don’t Be Afraid of Drawing 

Don’t be the businessperson who says, “I can’t draw; therefore, I’m not visual.” That’s a deceptive trap. It’s deceptive because it assumes that drawing is difficult and that being visual is dependent on drawing. Neither is true. And it’s a trap because it stops you from accessing the most powerful problem-solving part of your brain before you even know it exists. And that’s not just silly; it’s a huge roadblock.


Available now!

Draw to Win: A Crash Course on How to Lead, Sell, and Innovate With Your Visual Mind

Get ready for the ultimate crash course in communicating and solving problems through simple pictures. Get ready to draw to win.

Learn More

Excerpted from Draw to Win by Dan Roam with permission of Portfolio, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. Copyright © Dan Roam, 2016.


If you want to be in today’s conversation, you need to be visual!

Hi everyone!

It’s been ten years since I started writing The Back of the Napkin, beginning a small revolution in business visualization.

Since that time, I’ve delivered 700 speeches, classes, and projects to 180 clients. Along the way, I’ve learned a few things:

  • People love pictures, and the simplest pictures work the best.
  • With 3 minutes practice, anyone can draw.
  • Whoever draws the clearest picture wins.

Now, I want to share everything I’ve learned with you in my new book, Draw To Win—which is officially available today! 

Draw To Win is ten short chapters long. Each chapter introduces and explains one of the Ten Commandments of pictures: why you need to be visual, how to draw your ideas quickly, and what pictures work best in different situations.

It really comes down to this:

  1. If you want to lead, you should draw more.
  2. If you want to sell, you must draw more.
  3. If you want to innovate, just draw faster.

As I’ve said before, if you want to be in today’s conversation, you need to be visual. Draw To Win shows you how. Line-by-line.

For all those who have already pre-ordered the book or will do so today—THANK YOU! I have one additional ask, help support today’s launch in one of the following ways:




I look forward to seeing your drawings,



10 years, 10 commandments, 10,000 drawings: my new book is coming next week!

I was recently struck by three intersecting data points about information and pictures: 

90 percent

  1. IBM says 90% of all data has been generated in the past two years.
  2. Cisco says 90% of all online information is visual.
  3. Amazon says that the fastest-growing sales segment is adult coloring books.

What do these three have in common? Simple: more than ever before, the world is visual. To make sense of the world, people need pictures. What does this mean to me and you? If you want to be in today’s conversation, you need to be visual, too.

people love pictures

It’s been ten years since I started writing The Back of the Napkin, beginning a small revolution in business visualization. Since that time, I’ve delivered 700 speeches, classes, and projects to 180 clients, creating almost 10,000 drawings. Along the way, I’ve learned a few things:

  • People love pictures, and the simplest pictures work the best.
  • With 3 minutes practice, anyone can draw.
  • Whoever draws the clearest picture wins.

Now, I want to share everything I’ve learned with you. So I wrote a new book. It’s called, DRAW to WIN. It’s ten short chapters long. Each chapter introduces and explains one of the Ten Commandments of pictures: why you need to be visual, how to draw your ideas quickly, and what pictures work best in different situations.

It really comes down to this:

  • If you want to lead, you should draw more.
  • If you want to sell, you must draw more.
  • If you want to innovate, just draw faster.

If you want to be in today’s conversation, you need to be visual. DRAW to WIN shows you how. Line-by-line. I look forward to seeing your drawings,

- Dan

Dan Roam's DRAW to WIN: coming Sept 13, 2016

DRAW to WIN comes out on September 13, but you can see advance reviews and pre-order now:



Join me this summer in San Francisco — and draw to win.

My favorite event of the summer is when I get to book a beautiful space in San Francisco and invite fifty visual-thinkers to join me for two full days of intensive visual training. It’s engaging, it’s eye-opening, it’s strategic, it’s a lot of fun — and I’d love it for you to come. 


So please join me Aug 15-16, 2016 at the gorgeous Golden Gate Club overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge as we dive into my brand new book, Draw to Win. (The book won’t officially be available from Penguin/Random House until Sept. 15, so you’ll be the first to get a copy — one month ahead of everyone else!)

Get your advance copy of "Draw to Win"

I love this seminar because it is the real deal for intensive hands-on lessons in the art and science of visual problem-solving. We work through real-world case studies, we work through your challenges, and we do it in-person. Everybody has a chance to share, help, draw, think, and laugh.

This is what last year’s sold-out event looked like:


Here’s the agenda:

Day One [Aug 15]

  • Why you must use pictures in business.
  • How vision actually works.
  • How to draw anything in 3 minutes flat.
  • How to solve problems using your visual mind.

Day Two [Aug 16]

  • How to sell ideas, products, & services using pictures.
  • How to use pictures to tell your own truth.
  • How to draw to win. (Win business, win influence, win the day; whatever “win” means to you, that’s what drawing will help you do.)

Pictures are our best tool for leadership, sales, training, communications, and problem-solving. Over the past 10 years, I’ve personally trained thousands of professionals like you to become master visual-thinkers. Now I’d like to invite you to join me in San Francisco for my full two-day training conference. Discover for yourself the problem-solving power of your own visual mind. This is your chance to experience the same training I’ve delivered at Microsoft, Google, Boeing, Gap, Siemens, Philips, the United States Senate, and the White House.

Here are the details:

When: August 15-16, 2016.

Where: The Golden Gate Club in the Presidio of San Francisco.

Cost: EARLY-BIRD pricing now through June 15, 2016!

This two-day workshop normally costs $1,595, but if you register before June 15, you’ll save $300 off.
Register now and save $300! (Only $1,295 through June 15, 2016)

golden gate club

This course consistently ranks as the BEST COURSE offered at corporate training programs across the country. This is the same full course I have lead at Microsoft, Stanford, Boeing, Deloitte, Lucasfilm, the US Navy, the US Senate, and the White House Office of Communications.

Seminar clients


Here’s what previous attendees say:

“Well worth my personal investment. Absolutely exceeded my expectations.” – Startup Entrepreneur

“I flat-out loved this conference!” – Project Manager at a Tech Giant

“Your Visual Codex is revolutionary; it will change the way the world communicates.” – CEO

Become a master visual-thinker!

  • Think faster.
  • Communicate more clearly.
  • Solve complex problems.
  • Draw to win.

Drawings and smiles

 Your fee includes:

  • 16 hours of intense, hands-on visual training.
  • Draw to Win pre-release edition book.
  • Personal whiteboard, pen, & erasure.
  • Excellent lunch.
  • True insight, useful tools, & real-world exercises.

Your fee includes: a full day of training, my book, your own whiteboard, lunch.



I discovered something that could change your business: hand-drawn videos


As a fellow visual-thinker, I wanted to share with you an update and special discount on my Udemy.com hand-drawn video course. I launched the course two weeks ago and already have 200 students — and the reviews are great:

“Really empowering! This course makes me feel I can do this too. Everything is explained in detail and with concrete examples. Very inspiring.” 5 Stars

“Short lectures and easy to understand! It is great fun to start making hand-drawn videos just after some lectures.” 5 Stars

“The lessons are great because they are simple and fun. Dan keeps things focused on sharing ideas in a simple way. One of the best courses on Udemy!” 5 Stars

Here’s the backstory: Two years ago, I made a simple discovery which has had an extraordinary impact on my business: hand-drawn videos. Hand-drawn videos are are magnetic to viewers, typically attracting twice the audience of a talking-head video of the same message. And they are easy to make using just PowerPoint and simple screen-recording software. Last year alone, hand-drawn videos added $150,000 to my business revenue!

Hand-drawn whiteboard videos are clear and authentic animations that make your marketing, sales, and educational messages come alive. For cognitive and neuro-mechanical reasons we will explore, these videos are like catnip to the human mind. And the best part is: you can make these videos by yourself using with no previous animation experience and using basic software that you probably already have.

Let me repeat that: with no cameras, no lights, no studio, no on-screen stress, and no hired animators, you can create uniquely powerful and memorable videos that audiences can’t stop watching. 

To share this discovery with the visual-thinking community, I spent last year developing a complete training course that explains every single step required to create these videos using PowerPoint and a simple screen-capture app called Camtasia. I tested and refined the course for six months with 300 students at my napkinacademy.com. And now I’m releasing the course through Udemy.com, just for you.

Today, I’m offering you Lifetime access to the course as a Launch Student for 50% off. (Save $100! Normally this course costs $199, but sign up now and pay only $99.) Be sure to take advantage of this discount while it lasts. (Through October 31, 2015.) Here is where you can get your 50% off discount:


In this course, we’ll be covering:

  • The two pieces of basic software you’ll need to create your own videos.
  • Learn to create your first hand-drawn video in less than four minutes.
  • See how to use the basic animation tools of PowerPoint to visualize your thoughts.
  • Use my video checklist to review your clip before you upload to YouTube (or any other video site).

I put my best teaching to use in this course, so you’ll learn through a combination of video lessons delivered by me, real life examples and case studies, quizzes to check your progress, and plenty of printable supplemental material.

I look forward to seeing you in the course. Feel free to forward this to friends and colleagues who would benefit!

All the best,




Top 3 reasons Apple’s iCar will happen. (Hint: it isn’t about the car.)


Over the past three weeks, more interesting articles have appeared in the business press about Apple’s potential move into the car business than about any other single tech innovation, including the Apple Watch. (Which unlike the car, is a real product with a real launch date.)

Lead initially by a story in the WSJ.com and a quick back-of-the-napkin analysis by @jason, everyone then jumped onto the iCar bandwagon from the Economist to NYT to Bloomberg to the NewYorker … the list goes on.

Business Insider: Why Apple will enter the auto industry.

Business Insider: Why Apple will enter the auto industry.

And that’s a good thing. Why? Because as the chart above shows, just about the only industry left on earth big enough for Apple to disrupt is the auto industry.

As a car-nut, tech-nut, Apple-nut, and business-nut, I decided to pull the pieces together and see if the Apple iCar makes any sense. The result? It does.


Check out my full iCar presentation here on slideshare.net:

The 3 top takeaways:

1) Apple serves to change the world. A watch doesn’t change anything.


2) Apple has the design, outsourcing, technical, and marketing skill to do it.

3) Above all, Apple changes industries, not just technologies.


My take? iCar by 2021.

Available in white, silver, or black.




Our Health Care Napkins pass 2.7 million views!

A FEW YEARS AGO, my doctor friend Tony Jones and I became worried about the health care reform debate. People were bringing guns to town hall meetings, there were fist-fights in the hallways of congress, and it felt like the nation was tearing itself apart.

In the midst of all this, Tony and I agreed that the media wasn’t doing anything to help — in fact, it was the media (left and right alike) that was driving the angst. Rather than providing any explanation of what “Obamacare” was actually about, all they were doing was talking about how ‘divisive’ everything was. (Which in media-speak is just an excuse to air the very worst of human behavior in order to capture eyeballs.)

So we decided to create a simple visual explanation of the ACTUAL LAW. And we did.

And our drawings just passed 2.7 MILLION views on slideshare.net. Wow.

It took 43 simple pictures to do it, but we managed to cover:

  1. The perceived need for health care reform.
  2. The underlying rift between doctors and insurance that drove the problem in the first place.
  3. How big health care spending has become.
  4. The various proposed solutions.

When we were done, I posted our slideshow on slideshare.net. Within weeks it became one of the most viewed presentations on the site. It was picked up by the HuffingtonPost.com, which got me invited on-air by Fox News. That got me invited to present to the White House Office of Communications. A month later, BusinessWeek selected our napkins as “The World’s Greatest Presentation of 2009.”

Without a doubt, those 43 simple drawings were the most influential I’ve ever created.

So here we are 5 years later. Obamacare is law. It was a mess at first, but seems to be working better and attracting members. It remains a central point of political contention in America. The Supreme Court is thinking of debating it again. So around and around we go, again. At least now I feel like I understand it.



Join me this summer in London & Berlin


May 29 event update: I still have 5 seats available in London and 4 seats available in Berlin. I really want you to have one of those seats, so I’m offering a last-minute special savings of £/€ 150.

Enter the coupon code BLACKPEN when you register and pay only £/€ 645. (Regular £/€ 795.)

London June 13: http://www.regonline.com/napkinacademy_london_2013

Berlin June 18: http://www.regonline.com/napkinacademy_berlin_2013

See you there!

- Dan


London Dan Roam vidoe

Video intro to my London event.

Please join me on June 13, 2013 in London and June 18, 2013 in Berlin as I offer my full-day Back of the Napkin visual-thinking seminar. Register now for London or Berlin!

Drawings and smiles

Become a master visual-thinker!

  • Think faster.
  • Communicate more clearly.
  • Solve complex problems.
  • See the invisible.

I’ve trained thousands of businesspeople around the world to become master visual-thinkers. Following the sold-out success of my 2012 Amsterdam event, let’s continue the visual magic in Europe. Join me at London’s Novotel Paddington Hotel or Berlin’s Hotel Concorde for a full day of drawing, thinking, sharing, and inspiration.



The cost for the full day in London is £795 and Berlin is €795 . (Early bird special: Register for London before April 15, 2013 and save £100 OR Register for Berlin before April 15, 2013 and save €100! Only £/€695 for this limited time.) Your fee includes:

  • 8 hours of intense, hands-on visual training.
  • The Back of the Napkin Expanded Edition book.
  • Personal whiteboard, pen, & erasure.
  • Excellent lunch.
  • True insight, useful tools, & real-world exercises.

Your fee includes: a full day of training, my book, your own whiteboard, lunch.

In this fun, engaging, and inspiring seminar, we’ll cover:

  1. The essentials of visual-thinking.
  2. How to leverage visual cognition in business.
  3. Use the visual-thinking toolkit for discovery & decision-making.
  4. How to clarify and persuade with pictures.

This is what my last seminar looked like: total visual action!

This is the full-day version of the seminar I have delivered at Microsoft, Boeing, Google, Gap, Kraft, Philips, Siemens, Intel, the United States Senate, and the White House.

Seminar clients

This will be my only trip to Europe this year, so I’d love to see you there! Register here for London or Register here for Berlin!




Thank you Amsterdam!

I’m just back from delivering my first public Napkin Training in Amsterdam.

Thank you all who attended! It was fun, a great success, and I believe a wonderful learning experience for all — especially me.

For just over eight hours, seventy-five of us from thirteen countries shared visual-thinking lessons, stories, examples, and more pictures than we could count.

My top three lessons:

1) While local details are critical, business challenges are universal.

All participants, from small consultancies to medium-size businesses to major corporations, brought their own “problems” with them. While each problem was unique, we saw through our pictures that each is composed of the same essential visual elements: the who, what, how much, where, when, and how. By drawing these out, we found that we could clearly understand each others’ businesses quickly and clearly.

2) Europe needs — and is ready for — more visual thinking.

To an even greater degree than in the USA, visual thinking appears not to be actively encouraged in European education and business. I sensed a greater hesitation among participants to leap into drawing — with a correspondingly high sense of satisfaction and collective amazement when our pictures “worked.” Certainly there are countless historic and cultural issues at work, which will make for great thought exercises. Yet given the communication, innovation, competition, and growth challenges ahead for Europe, I strongly believe more visual thinking will become an asset.

3) Amsterdam is a great center for visual thinking.

Amsterdam is such a great city to begin with. Add in the intense visual and design culture, the openness of the city and its people, and the willingness among businesspeople to try new things, and you have a powerful mix. I can easily see Amsterdam becoming a true center of visual literacy for Europe. I can’t wait to come back and draw again.

Thanks again to all who joined me. If you weren’t able to make it, I promise to do it again.

Until then, keep drawing!