I’ve been working on a lot of diagrams lately and pondering how to represent network architectures. I’ve been reading The Visual Display of Quantitative Information to get some inspiration on different approaches. I continue to be fascinated by the power of a network diagram that is well thought out and visually pleasing. And this fascination has led to my own focus on different network diagrams. In this post I’m thinking out loud one the different ways to represent information.
At some point, I drew this diagram. On first look it seems kind of cool but it is actually horrendous and doesn’t contain a lot of information:
You can spend some time rearranging this to get the following version which, I have to admit to myself is equally horrendous. I can see some of the connections but not he overall intent.
So I rearranged the diagrams some more and got this version. Now, I like to have curves in my diagrams and not a huge fan of the current “flat and square” finish that computer interfaces are adopting. I could probably fix the asymmetry that makes this particular diagram look ‘wrong’ but it’s still not easy to understand. It has some visual aspects that are pleasing to the eye but, not a lot of data. I think that it’s the symmetry that makes this somewhat appealing:
And finally, I have this version, familiar and instantly recognisable to most network engineers. Here is the question for me ?
- Does this diagram look better or more useful because it’s what I’m expecting to see ?
- Because I am used to interpreting network diagrams as a tree structure for 20 years, is this the only possoble way of considering the network structure ?
- Does this contain the most information ?
What would it look like if I inverted the tree structure ?
I find this view more interesting. Because this is how many people perceive the network. That is, Applications -> Servers -> Network -> Physical.
What about Leaf Spine Layouts ?
the use of Leaf/Spine networks is becoming more common and I think it’s most common to draw the Spine at the top and the access below.
But this representation is more conceptually accurate with the Spine at the centre of the Leaf nodes.
If you change your diagram to circular, it certainly looks great but doesn’t contain much useable information. Dramatic, foolish and ultimately pointless.
And equally, this is totally useless. It’s still accurate but there is no hint of the structure.
Diagrams. I get a kick out of good diagrams.
Other Posts in A Series On The Same Topic
- Free Custom Handwriting Font for Network Designs (14th August 2014)
- Network Diagrams: Font Selection and Production Context. Choosing Slab or Thin fonts (9th June 2014)
- Book Release: Tips on Using Visio To Make Network Diagrams (27th March 2014)
- Network Diagrams: Drawing Overlay Network Layers (14th March 2014)
- Network Diagrams: Choosing Better and Free Fonts (10th January 2014)
- My New Diagram Colour Scheme "Old Disco Style" (24th September 2013)
- On Diagrams and Information (10th September 2013)
- Colour Blindness, Network Diagrams and Reliability (3rd March 2011)
- Designer or Engineer, Artist or Painter (19th January 2010)
- Network Diagrams: Rotating Text on a Line (1st October 2009)
- Network Diagrams: Tips for Printing from Visio (22nd September 2009)
- Network Diagrams:Zones on a diagram with Visio shape union (31st July 2009)
- Network Diagrams: Drawing complex VLAN Networks with IP Addressing (7th July 2009)
- Network Diagrams: Drawing Freehand Curves (and then fixing them) (23rd March 2009)
- Network Diagrams:Aligning Shapes (12th March 2009)
- Network Diagrams:Locking the Background Shape (10th March 2009)
- Network Diagrams: Labelling an VLAN/IP Segment (9th March 2009)
- Network Diagrams: VLANs and IP Subnets (8th March 2009)
- Network Diagrams: Drawing the Background Shape (6th March 2009)
- On the Art of Network Diagrams and Presentation (4th March 2009)