I added the book "The back of the napkin" to my Amazon wish list and hope to review it here soon. It reminds me how I always start the design of every PowerPoint chart I make: on a piece of paper. I guess the practice was hardwired in my brain when I started as an analyst at McKinsey that - in the early 90s - still employed graphics designers to create charts from paper.
  • Step 1: think of the general concept you would like to show: a trend, that something is too complicated, the something is small, very big, that we want to change direction, that there is a tension we need to resolve, that we can stand up as David to Goliath, etc. etc.
  • Step 2: Now think of a visual analogy that can make this single point. I often prefer using a page-filling picture to make a point (a hammer hitting a nail, cracks in a wall, a rope that is about to snap) , other symbols such arrows that show forces, a simple and clean column chart to show a series of numbers, a huge font number to show that something is indeed huge, etc.
  • Step 3: Scribble the chart and put it in PPT. Lack of a good image, or graphical skill shortcomings (I am only human) often force me to go back to step 2 at this point.
This is process is also very important when thinking about data charts. There are always 15,000 ways to show quantitative data and picking the right representation makes all the difference.