Let’s draw… A user!

It can be hard to explain different IT concepts to other people. How does services, servers, databases or the like look like? Within often large and complicated systems comes the possibility of being in a completely different place when discussing with your colleagues. I know I’ve had problems describing bugs to non-testers, I’ve had problems with not understanding the lingo on a new project, and I’ve had problems when discussing large and abstract systems with my team members.

One thing I want to be better at, is visualizing the systems or concepts that I want to discuss. I like drawing, but I know a lot of people who don’t, and some who are downright scared of it. So these posts are a small visual library of different IT concepts. They take their starting point in test-related concepts, but anyone involved in IT can benefit from them.

A User

I’ve saved the most difficult post for last in this run of summer-holiday-posts. The user. There are so many ways to represent a user, so the way you draw him/her depends on your context, on what you want to achieve.

Note: All the “meanings” or “moods” written under the figures are my own. You can perceive them in a different way. The perceived meaning of symbols are heavily influenced by environment and culture.

Want to explain how a user fits into a large and complicated system?

Draw a neutral representation of a human. He’s just supposed to be there, so you don’t have to worry about his posture or anything complicated. I like drawing stick-men. They are easy and fast to draw, and the simplicity of the lines of their bodies are great for exaggerating body language. And you want exaggeration. No naturalistic and pretty lines here. Why? I’ll tell you in 5 seconds.

neutral stickman

Want to explain something in which a user takes an active role?

This is why you want to be able to make easy, exaggerated body postures.

Let’s say you have an IT solution consisting of different systems, where the user can interact with all these systems. It could be a solution for a bank. The user can use an ATM (System 1), go online to see their home banking (System 2), or go to the physical bank and have a meeting with a consultant who helps the user interact with some budget-planning system (System 3).

To symbolize a user taking an active role, draw a full-body character in a posture that resembles what the user should do while interacting with the system.

stickman_body

Exaggeration. Don’t be afraid to draw something that’s physically impossible in real life. Nobody cares. When I’m e.g. happy, I do not detach my arms from my body, and glue them to my ears (Stickman 4). I’m also pretty sure my arms aren’t longer than my legs. But I’m not going to invest several minutes in drawing one simple stickman.

Want to explain something that triggers an emotional response in a user?

Maybe you’ve gotten feedback on a web shop where people are thrilled about the way they place orders, but dissatisfied with the way they search for items. If you were to present these different findings for someone, you could give them a nice overview of which areas sparked which reactions in users by drawing faces representing user’s reactions.

Draw faces that are sad, happy, bored, angry etc. Exaggeration is yet again the key. You want to break down the emotion of your choice to the simplest possible way of representing it.Humans use a lot of muscles when they show emotions, but we are only interested in the basic, visible areas that are affected: The mouth.

stickman_faces

Or you can use symbols

stickman_symbols

If you want, you can add eyebrows as well, to emphasize or specify the mood. In the below image I’ve used the leftmost face throughout the row of faces, and just added eyebrows (Or cheeks). It’s a small addition to the drawing, with a dramatic result.

user facial expressions

Fun fact: Eyebrows convey so much emotion, that people who do not have them, will seem very untrustworthy and unsettling. In The Silent Hill games the antagonist Claudia was purposefully designed without eyebrows, to allude to her unsettling nature and to spark aversion towards her character.

 

Feel free to submit your own interpretations of the concepts in the comments!

Let’s draw… A server!

It can be hard to explain different IT concepts to other people. How does services, servers, databases or the like look like? Within often large and complicated systems comes the possibility of being in a completely different place when discussing with your colleagues. I know I’ve had problems describing bugs to non-testers, I’ve had problems with not understanding the lingo on a new project, and I’ve had problems when discussing large and abstract systems with my team members.

One thing I want to be better at, is visualizing the systems or concepts that I want to discuss. I like drawing, but I know a lot of people who don’t, and some who are downright scared of it. So these posts are a small visual library of different IT concepts. They take their starting point in test-related concepts, but anyone involved in IT can benefit from them.

A server

Servers are generally depicted as either a square computer hard disc as we know them from stationary computers, or large, square boxes with smaller square discs inserted (Which also looks a lot like a stationary computer). I wish there was some cool story behind their look, but there isn’t. That’s just how they look.

server symbol server symbol server symbol server symbol

Versus real-life

server image

Draw it: The server is a longitudinal square with another longitudinal square inserted somewhere.

If you are in a hurry, just draw a 2D version of the server.

draw a server

Since the 2D version can be mistaken for a piece of paper, you could benefit from making your drawing 3D.

server drawing symbol

There we go, a server. Or a stationary computer, if you prefer.

server symbol

Feel free to submit your own interpretations of the concepts in the comments!

Lets draw… Wireless network!

It can be hard to explain different IT concepts to other people. How does services, servers, databases or the like look like? Within often large and complicated systems comes the possibility of being in a completely different place when discussing with your colleagues. I know I’ve had problems describing bugs to non-testers, I’ve had problems with not understanding the lingo on a new project, and I’ve had problems when discussing large and abstract systems with my team members.

One thing I want to be better at, is visualizing the systems or concepts that I want to discuss. I like drawing, but I know a lot of people who don’t, and some who are downright scared of it. So these posts are a small visual library of different IT concepts. They take their starting point in test-related concepts, but anyone involved in IT can benefit from them.

Wireless network

wireless icon wireless icon wireless icon wireless icon wireless icon

There are two well established icons or symbols that are used when we’re talking wireless networks. There is a difference between the two. One is the transmitter of a wireless network, the other is a hot-spot of a wireless network.

The first (the wireless transmitter) brings associations with large structures, industrial buildings and a certain robustness. This is a wireless signal transmitter that does not move.

draw wireless network

Drawing a wireless network

Draw it: Make a bottomless triangle, and add two straight lines across. This is your transmitter pole. Now add the signal by drawing three circles starting from the top of the pole, that grows bigger.

wireless network icon

The second (the wi-fi hotspot) is a smaller wireless network, used in cafés, airports and through people’s smartphones. It moves around with its user. It’s not a very “robust” symbol, but it’s something everyone can relate to.

draw wifi hotspot

Drawing a wi-fi hotspot

Draw it: Make a dot or a circle (exaggerated here, you can make it smaller if you want). Add three half-circle beams that increases in size, starting from the dot in the centre.

wifi icon

Use whichever of these two that suits your purpose!

Fun observation: In both examples, for the wireless signal (or the “waves”), you could’ve just drawn two (half)circles. However, that just wouldn’t look right. When you draw more than two circles, the viewer knows that the lines are not just a repetition, or a pair of lines. It’s  something that goes on and on. You could draw four, but that would be a waste of your time. The viewer gets it at three.

 

Feel free to submit your own interpretations of the concepts in the comments!

Let’s draw… A database!

It can be hard to explain different IT concepts to other people. How does services, servers, databases or the like look like? Within often large and complicated systems comes the possibility of being in a completely different place when discussing with your colleagues. I know I’ve had problems describing bugs to non-testers, I’ve had problems with not understanding the lingo on a new project, and I’ve had problems when discussing large and abstract systems with my team members.

One thing I want to be better at, is visualizing the systems or concepts that I want to discuss. I like drawing, but I know a lot of people who don’t, and some who are downright scared of it. So these posts are a small visual library of different IT concepts. They take their starting point in test-related concepts, but anyone involved in IT can benefit from them.

A database

databaseicon1 databaseicon2

I’ve only recently gotten to know databases. How they work, SQL and the different scripts you can use. I love it. I think it’s so much fun going into different databases when testing, viewing, comparing, joining and editing them. Even though the amount of trouble you can cause in there is immense.

However, for the life of me, I do not understand why the icon is a cylinder. It makes no sense in my world, I can’t see how it relates to anything, and I can’t see the connection between the tables of data I’m used to seeing on my computer screen, and a.. cylinder. So I asked a developer on my team, and he informed me that, like the floppy-disc-save-icon, it’s a historical relic.Back in the days, data was stored on large storage systems consisting of cylinder-shaped discs. Sometimes, each disc could even be lifted up and moved around.

old database

You can also see a magnetic disc storage system here and a cylinder shaped storage unit in the background of this image. The more you know.

draw database

Drawing a database

Draw it: Draw a skewed circle, and give it two “legs” on each side. Fill in the layers between the two legs with three half-circles.

drawDatabase

 

Feel free to submit your own interpretations of the concepts in the comments!

Le’ts draw… some IT related concepts!

It can be hard to explain different IT concepts to other people. How does services, servers, databases or the like look like? Within often large and complicated systems comes the possibility of being in a completely different place when discussing with your colleagues. I know I’ve had problems describing bugs to non-testers, I’ve had problems with not understanding the lingo on a new project, and I’ve had problems when discussing large and abstract systems with my team members.

One thing I want to be better at, is visualizing the systems or concepts that I want to discuss. I like drawing, but I know a lot of people who don’t, and some who are downright scared of it. And that’s too bad. Even if your drawing skills stopped evolving when you left Kindergarten, there’s still so much to gain from using symbols to explain things. Especially for those visual learners out there.

When drawing and explaining at the same time, it doesn’t have to be pretty. It has to be clear. What’s important is to capture the essence of the thing you’re trying to draw. The essence of a tree isn’t it’s beautiful and detailed leaves. It’s a trunk with two branches. No need to use time on drawing anything else, if people get that what you’ve drawn is a tree.

So let’s jump into it! Over the summer I will post some different IT related concepts and how I would draw them (And how you can as well). They take their starting point in test-related concepts, but anyone involved in IT can benefit from them. There’s already a lot of symbols in our everyday visual langauge. So we’ll start of with some basic concepts

A save button

save-icon   save-icon2 save-icon3 save-icon4  save-icon5  save-icon6

The save button is one example of a concept that has become outdated, but is still used because it’s meaning has preceded its functionality. It’s a floppy disc. I’m from a generation of IT workers who will never use a floppy disc during their work (though I did use them as a child.. so at least I know what they are). Regardless, I know that when that symbol is on my screen, it means that I can save something.

draw a save icon

Drawing a “save” symbol

Draw it: Make a square. Then make a small square in the upper part of your first square. If you are fancy, make a circle in the middle.

s7 s8

An e-mail

mail-icon mail-icon2 mail-icon3

When the e-mail was introduced, nobody knew what it was. So to make it easier for people to get it, someone clever used a letter to symbolize an e-mail. That way, people knew that the e-mail worked in mostly the same way as a letter did. And as the save button, that symbol has stuck with the e-mail ever since.

draw mail symbol

Drawing a mail symbol

Draw it: Make a longitudinal square. Make two lines that meet halfway down the square, in the middle.

m6

 

Feel free to submit your own interpretations of the concepts in the comments!