Using Coloured Pencils
So you may remember the previous article Diagrams and Colour Pencils and how it can be used to make a fast field diagram that is useful to the people around the meeting table. Now I want to take this diagram and put into a format that I can include in my documentation and then put forward for approval.
The Value of Presentation
I like to take some time to make a diagram “look good”. Lets not get too carried away here and make like we are in the marketing department (actually, it’s not too difficult to make a diagram look better than a lot of marketing.
Step 1 – the basic diagram
So lets draw up the basic structure of the network design, so that we can see the shape of the network and get some feel for the layout of the system. In this drawing I will just use a single service line to start with:
Not so bad, but still looks…. boring
Step 2 – a little shadow
A little bit of drop shadow bring the elements of the page to life.
Step 3 – A background, a little graduated shading – Looks Three Dimensional
Many network diagrams look and feel two dimensional. When I look at the marketing brochures, they use a three-D feel to make them look different from “normal” network diagrams. Becuase they look ‘different’ that are often impressive.
So lets insert a rectangle, distort it slightly from the square so it looks a little bit 3-D. Add a little shading that starts dark at the bottom, then lightens towards the top to give it a feel of”moving away from you”.
This is better, but I want to bring out the highlights about the layers of functionality here.
Pop some boxes across the tapered shape, then change their colours to something that suits your taste, and give them some transparency. The transparency will allow the shape underneath to be clearly seen and not lose the definition or meaning of the 3D shape.
I like this and things are going well but there are too many layers here. The picture looks a bit busy and means that it is losing focus. A bit more thought needed.
Remove some layers, and fill in the blanks
So I removed a couple of the layers, since I am focussing on the networking side (and nobody really cares about servers anymore), and changed the font to something a little bit nicer. I also touched up the colours to a better colour scheme. The previous colours were a bit dodgy.
So this is how I do / approach diagrams when I am consulting, writing white papers or internal documentation. I think a little time spent thinking about the layout is worthwhile. I would love the hear about how you do diagrams, or send me your diagrams for posting if you have something you would like to show off. I need more ideas on how to make diagrams work better.
A word of warning: mucking around with Visio or Omnigraffle can be a massive time waster. Don’t let it be an SSA.
Other posts in the series
- Colour Blindness, Network Diagrams and Reliability
- Designer or Engineer, Artist or Painter
- Network Diagrams: Rotating Text on a Line
- Network Diagrams: Tips for Printing from Visio
- Network Diagrams:Zones on a diagram with Visio shape union
- Network Diagrams: Drawing complex VLAN Networks with IP Addressing
- Network Diagrams: Drawing Freehand Curves (and then fixing them)
- Network Diagrams:Aligning Shapes
- Network Diagrams:Locking the Background Shape
- Network Diagrams: Labelling an VLAN/IP Segment
- Network Diagrams: VLANs and IP Subnets
- Network Diagrams: Drawing the Background Shape
- On the Art of Network Diagrams and Presentation (This post)