6 ideas of Iceberg Model Diagrams in a Presentation

Does your presentation contain the idea of hidden versus visible? Consider using an analogy of an iceberg image.

This blog illustrates where and how you can use the iceberg diagrams. Make your presentation easier to remember by explaining visually invisible roots of various problems.

While we were designing the iceberg diagrams, we wanted people to focus on the content of their slides, not creating the graphics. One of the first user’s feedback is:

Iceberg model helps me as a trainer to show how a huge amount of hidden elements is driving people’s behaviour in a diverse range of contexts.
It is clear yet colorful metaphor, which makes it easy for participants to comprehend the context, and at the same time makes it memorable.

Mirna Šmidt, Croatia, trainer of positive psychology and professional skills at mirnasmidt.com

All presented slides examples are available at Iceberg Model Template deck.

The Iceberg Principle

It states that in many (if not most) cases only a very small amount (the ‘tip’) of information is available or known about a situation or phenomenon, whereas the ‘real’ information or bulk of data is either unavailable or hidden. The principle gets its name from the fact that only about 2/10th of an iceberg’s mass is seen outside while about 8/10th of it is unseen, deep down in the water.

Iceberg principle can be used in various areas, for example:

  • while talking about culture and literature
  • presenting cost models
  • revealing hidden conscious levels in psychology
  • system thinking
  • when doing various soft-skills training courses


3 Common Cases to Use the Iceberg Analogy

Freud Iceberg Theory

One of the first things that come to mind when you hear the words ‘iceberg analogy’ is Freud Iceberg Theory. According to Freud, the unconscious mind is the primary source of human behavior. Like an iceberg, the most important part of the mind is the part you cannot see.

The model is still widely used in the psychology and we decided to illustrate three mind levels with simple iceberg diagram and sticky notes: Conscious, Preconscious and Unconscious behavior.

Iceberg Model Template freud model ppt


Hidden Product Cost Illustration

Another case where iceberg diagram can be used is product cost illustration. Manufacturing cost takes 15% of all expenditures, whilst project, research, tests and transport cost – another 85%.

iceberg diagram product cost example ppt


System Thinking Diagram Example

Another area where iceberg hidden levels metaphor can be used is system thinking. The discipline of systems thinking is more than just a collection of tools and methods – it’s also an underlying philosophy.

The classical system thinking model can be represented as an iceberg, consisting of the following 4 levels:

  • Events – What happened?
  • Trends – What trends are noticeable over time?
  • Underlying structures – What has influenced these trends?
  • Mental Models – What are people assumptions about the system?

iceberg template system thinking



Where Else You Can Use an Iceberg Analogy

Apart from the described cases, you can apply such diagrams:

  • talking about different culture models – what traits and behaviors are above and which are below the visible surface
  • illustrating iceberg theory in literature – analyzing writing style for example (Ernest Hemingway introduced the model to the literature world)
  • while soft-skills training you may apply iceberg for leadership model or interpersonal communication levels.

To show your ideas, here are some iceberg diagrams examples:

iceberg blank template powerpoint

Iceberg diagrams can be used widely in business-related presentations. Hope you got inspired by our examples :)


Resources: Iceberg Model Diagrams

If you want to save time,  you can use the pre-designed diagrams from our infoDiagram collection, we have designed. Optionally you can create yourself a simple form of an iceberg, using polygons or even simple triangle.

Using infoDiagram iceberg diagram template, you can easily adapt and reuse the ‘icebergs’. The Iceberg PowerPoint template includes:

  • 10 iceberg diagrams over various background layer stripes. We designed also a lighter version of outline iceberg that is more subtle illustration, in case you want your slides to be less eye-catching. This format is also better if you want to print the presentation.
  • 26 vector icons representing levels of system thinking model (observations, trends, influence, people’s assumptions) and hidden product manufacturing costs levels such as transport, research and testing
  • 3 predesigned examples of Freud’s iceberg theory, System Thinking Model and Product cost iceberg

It’s easy to modify the iceberg diagram, add or remove layers, change descriptions and replace icons to fit the model content. On last slides you have set of several icons you can reuse or you can extend the icon collection by getting PPT icon set bundles (see Related Diagrams section).

Colors of iceberg shape and icons are easy to change, thanks to that all graphics are in vector format. So you can adapt the slide content to your preferred branding colors. Just ensure the proper contrast of text and background to stay readable.


You can see the full slide deck clicking the button:

See Iceberg Model Template

If you want more to get more extensive set of visual slides with more charts and diagrams, check this infographic PPT graphics bundle.

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