Visual Communication: Creating Engaging and Effective Technical Diagrams

In the world of software development, a lot of information is communicated visually, through diagrams. This course will teach you how to create effective and engaging diagrams.
Course info
Rating
(26)
Level
Beginner
Updated
Jul 31, 2017
Duration
1h 39m
Table of contents
Description
Course info
Rating
(26)
Level
Beginner
Updated
Jul 31, 2017
Duration
1h 39m
Description

Have you ever struggled to create a technical diagram to share with your manager or team? Or have you been the recipient of a diagram that was convoluted, ugly and difficult to understand? If so, this course is for you. In this course, Visual Communication: Creating Engaging and Effective Technical Diagrams, you'll learn how to define the goal and overall design for your diagram. First, you'll be guided through common components of a diagram and basic visual design principles to make your diagram understandable and engaging. Next, you'll discover the benefits of testing your diagram to ensure it's legible and makes sense to your reader. Finally, you'll see heavy use of before-and-after examples to demonstrate what to do and what not to do. When you're finished with this course, you'll have a foundational understanding of visual communication and how to use it to make your own technical diagrams more effective and engaging.

About the author
About the author

Amber is a Microsoft Certified Trainer and Microsoft Certified Professional Developer with 15+ years experience working with and teaching Microsoft technologies. She also focuses on professional skills, bridging the gap between techies and non-techies. For her work as a training leader, Amber received Training magazine's 2013 Emerging Training Leader award.

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Section Introduction Transcripts
Section Introduction Transcripts

Course Overview
Hi there, my name is Amber Israelsen, and welcome to my course, Visual Communication: Creating Engaging and Effective Technical Diagrams. I've been a developer, author, and technical trainer for 15+ years, and during that time I've seen a lot of technical diagrams, and created many myself. They've ranged from good to bad to ugly, which prompted the idea for this course. I'm really excited to share it with you. It's hard to quantify the cost of unclear and confusing diagrams in the workplace, but if you've been working in tech for any amount of time, I'm sure you've personally felt some of that pain. You'll receive a diagram from somebody that describes a software system let's say, or data flow through the system, maybe even a diagram showing a process flow for the team. You stare at it for a while and you just can't make sense of it, or you come to the wrong conclusion, based on how it was drawn. In this course, I'll discuss ways to improve that to eliminate confusion and to make the message clear from the get go. I'll walk you through the design process from beginning to end, starting with the goal for the diagram, and the intended audience. We'll look at the components that make up a diagram, and how to apply visual design principles to make the diagram more effective, and more aesthetically pleasing. We'll wrap up with a really fun module, doing some make overs. Starting with not so good diagrams, then applying the principles from the course to make them better. This isn't a course about how to use Visio, or any other tool, and it's not a course about UML. It doesn't focus on any particular type of technical diagram. Rather, when you are finished with the course, you'll have a foundational understanding of how to apply design principles to any kind of diagram with any kind of tool to make your message clear. This course is meant for all technology professionals who need to create technical diagrams as part of their job. There are no prerequisites for the course other than a keen interest to learn. I hope you'll join me in this journey to creating better diagrams in Visual Communication: Creating Engaging and Effective Technical Diagrams, at Pluralsight.

Where to Begin: Goals and Overall Diagram Design
Hi and welcome to this next module. I'm Amber Israelsen, thanks for sticking with me. To remind you of where we are in the course overall, we've done our introduction, and now we're going to get into the meat of how to make your diagrams better. I want to tell you a quick story about a friend of mine, who was trying to get me to invest in movies. The whole idea was brand new to me. I didn't know anything about the process, the pros, the cons, the risks, anything else, so I asked him to send me an overview of how everything worked. A few days later, I got an email from him with a ton of information. It included a full budget for the movie, the scripts for the movie, bios of people involved, the business plan, and a few other documents. So much information. I didn't even know where to begin. I know he meant well in oversharing, but in this case I was most definitely the wrong audience for the information. If someone was an experienced investor, it probably would have been perfect, but for a newbie like me, it wasn't really helpful, and in fact it was kind of overwhelming. So you might be asking yourself what this has to do with technical diagrams? Well, just like that email, your diagram is also going to have an intended audience, and you need to ask yourself who that reader will be, and understand how they'll be using the information you're trying to communicate. We'll also talk about the overall goal of the diagram, why are you creating it in the first place, and then we'll wrap up by talking about some common types of diagrams. We touched on this briefly in the last module, but here we'll try to categorize things and look at specific examples.

Getting It on Paper: Common Diagram Components
Hi there and welcome back. I'm Amber Israelsen. In this module, we're going to start getting things on paper, even if that's digital paper. To recap the big picture and where we are, the last time we talked about goals and overall diagram design, keeping in mind the reader of the diagram. Once you've established that, you need to actually start creating your diagram, which is the topic of this module, getting started with common diagram components. I should note as we start here that your diagram doesn't have to be fancy and digital, it might be something on a whiteboard like this, or even created with pen and paper at your desk. Or it could be done in software, something like a Visio diagram shown here. For our purposes, it doesn't really matter so much the tool you're using or not using, we're going to go over the basics to get you started, regardless of your approach. In the rest of this module, we'll cover three components that make up a diagram. First is nodes. Think of these as your rectangles or bubbles in a lot of cases, usually the main object of a system or process. You'll need to connect those nodes somehow, so we'll look at common connectors, and then finally the things that give your diagram polish, and help with understanding, things like titles, labels, and legends. I noted in the last module that this isn't a UML course per se, but applies to diagrams more generally. If you're looking for some good training on UML, I'd once again offer this course by Mike Erickson, which you can find in the Pluralsight catalog.

Getting It on Paper: Visual Design Fundamentals
Hi there and welcome to this next module in the course about technical diagrams. I'm Amber Israelsen. In our last module, we reviewed some of the common diagram components, the nodes, the connectors, titles, labels, and legends, all the things that make up a diagram's overall structure, and then some polish. In this module, we're going to take those basic components and see how we can apply visual design principles to make the diagram more effective, and engaging. Here's a list of principles we'll be covering. First is visual hierarchy. This is basically how the reader knows where to start reading first, and what's important. Alignment- do elements of the diagram line up along one or more axes? Proximity and relationships- the distance between elements can signal a relationship, or a lack thereof, and we'll see how important that is. Flow- this is very important in diagrams that the path through the diagram is clear. Contrast- this includes things like colors and shapes and size, different ways to make important elements stand out as important. And finally, simplicity. It's a complex world and even more complex in the industry of tech, so it's very important that your diagrams distill the most important information, and we'll cover some ways to do that. So let's jump in.

Testing: Have We Met the Goal?
Hello and welcome back. We're making good progress in this course, thanks for sticking with me. Before we dive into this very short but important topic of testing, a quick reminder of where we've been so far. Up to this point in the course we've talked about how to design and create your diagram. We've covered things like nodes, and connectors, general categories of diagrams, and in the last module, all kinds of tips and tricks to make your diagrams look better, and communicate more effectively. At this point, you might be ready to ship it, right? It's created and ready to release to the world. But I would argue, not quite so fast. Would you release software without testing it? I don't think so. Then why would you release an important diagram or document without having somebody take it for a test run first. In the rest of this module, we'll discuss why it's important to test at all. We'll talk about editing your own work, stripping away unnecessary things, focusing on simplicity, and some of the other visual tips we discussed in the last module. Then we'll talk about usability testing, which is basically how you get somebody to use the diagram and make sense of it, to see if you've met your communication goal. So without further ado, let's dive in.

Diagram Makeovers: From Bad to Better
Hi there and welcome back! I'm really glad you joined me for this module because I think we're going to have a lot of fun doing some diagram makeovers. To briefly recap where we are, we've covered how to design, create, and test your diagrams, and along the way we've covered a lot of tips and tricks. So, this module will give us a chance to review those things that we've learned, and apply them to some not so great diagrams. For any of you fellow home improvement junkies out there, you know how good it feels to look at before and after photos of your work and I think that most people enjoy seeing this good, better, best progression, regardless of the topic, and from a learning perspective, it's also sometimes more instructive to see how not to do something, which is why I've approached the module this way, but even if you're starting a diagram from scratch, verses doing a makeover, you can absolutely apply the same principles. In the upcoming module, we're going to pull together everything that we've learned over this course, we will look at a not so good example of a diagram, identify the problems with it, whether it's visual hierarchy, alignment, flow, message, what have you, we'll then take steps to correct the problems that we identified, and finally admire our efforts with some before and after screenshots. So let's get started.

Course Summary and Next Steps
Hi again and welcome to this final module in the course, the summary and next steps. We've almost made it. We've come a long way since the beginning of this course, and here we are at the end. Hopefully you've learned a lot about how to design a diagram from scratch, all the way from goals to components, to visual communication principles, or how to do a diagram makeover like we did in the last module. In the rest of this module we'll cover the main takeaways, basically the highlights from each module, and then I'll share some additional resources with you if you want to continue learning about diagrams and practicing on your own. So let's go.