While the Darlows were living on the island of Jersey between 2006 and 2009 it wasn’t feasible for Mike to continue full-time professional turning. Jersey’s main activity is finance. Mike therefore enrolled in a bookkeeping correspondence course. He found the course notes explained poorly, as did all the textbooks available on accounting and bookkeeping. Inexplicably the teaching of bookkeeping and accounting is purely textual and has been so since the first accounting text was printed in 1494. Fortuitously the concept of double entry, the basis of accounting, is readily represented graphically. This allied with Mike’s experience with drawings as a civil engineer and woodturner enabled him to invent balance charts, a graphical way to represent financial information which makes accounting far easier to understand.

On returning to Australia in 2009 and having written six woodturning books, Mike decided to write an accounting book which he called Know Accounting Graphically.

What has astonished Mike is how reluctant accounting educators are to consider an invention which makes accounting easier for students to understand, and therefore the subject easier to teach. Balance charts are now being used for the second year in Adelaide University.

Know Accounting Graphically has 122 pages, size A4, and has 76 balance and other charts printed in full colour. It’s Australian retail price is $30 plus $5 postage.

For further details on balance charts, email Mike at mike@mikedarlow.com

Front cover

Figure 2.3   A balance chart representing the balance sheet equation, also called the accounting equation. The essence of the balance chart is that the net heights of the two vertical bars must always be equal. The net height of a bar is the total of the amounts represented above the x axis minus the total of the amounts represented below the x axis.

Figure 5.3   A graphical definition of debit and credit.

Figure 13.8   Balance chart sources bars for three companies. Although the companies are of different sizes, by representing their liabilities and equity in bars of the same height, you can easily compare them.

Figure 3.4   How a company accounts for its income and expenses.

Review by Peter Thorp published in Bookies Bulletin, the journal of the Australian Bookkeepers Network

We were recently introduced to a book titled Know Accounting Graphically. This book comes to us from an unlikely accounting author Mike Darlow who has a background in civil engineering and wood turning. Mike was inspired to write the book when disappointed by explanatory notes in a bookkeeping course he was undertaking. The book is very visual and full of diagrammatic representations of accounting concepts that Mike calls balance charts. The style of language is easy to follow and is low on jargon.  The book avoids deep diving into accounting concepts, so if you are looking for an accounting text book you will be disappointed. But it does provide a quick explanation of a very wide range of mainstream accounting aspects and does so in an easy to follow manner.

I liked the book for a few reasons:

  • The easy to follow way it explains accounting terms and processes
  • The graphical nature of the explanations works well
  • It takes accounting back to its core principles which helps understand exactly what it is that accounting software is doing for us

Know Accounting Graphically covers off on a lot of concepts in its 120 pages. It starts with an explanation of the Balance Sheet Equation and the Chart of Accounts and explains its way through a multitude of terms from accrual accounting to debits and credits. The latter chapters focus on financial statements including some analysis aspects including budgeting.

I think most people who work in the accounting function including bookkeepers will likely get something from Know Accounting Graphically. Having read it you will likely refer to it again from time to time to help understand terms and concepts.