Icons: System Security

I have been thinking about system security and the types of threats that malware presents to a system. There really are only four types of Malware: Spyders (Malevolent Select), Viruses (Malevolent Insert), Trojans (Malevolent Update) and Bombs (Malevolent Delete).  I’ve been playing with other terms: Causus (Cause), Ductus (Person), Modus (Function), Datus (Data), Eventus (Event), Locus (Node).  I have also included standard security measures:

I hope these icon ideas get you thinking about system security not just in the context of computer systems.

Discrimination Destroys Performance

I just read an article in the Economist “From He That Hath Not” that discusses Cognitive Disenhancement research. Subjects were told to think of Empowering or Disempowering experiences and their cognitive performance was tested. People who thought of disempowering experiences performed more poorly. However, I think this research was nothing compared to the work of a third grade school teacher in a small all white Iowa town, Jane Elliott.

Jane Elliott separated her class by eye color and discrimated against the brown eyed students for a day and then against blue eyed students for a day. The students who had been performing well as a whole suddenly showed a marked difference. The students discriminated against performed considerably poorer. When asked why they performed more poorly, the students discriminated against explained that they were preoccupied by the discrimination against them and could not concentrate. Afterward, having learned the effects of discrimination the students’ performance as a whole actually improved overall.

Jane was asked to perform the same experiment with adults and the same results were found.

Discrimination robs people of achieving their full potential in any pursuit.

Here is the Frontline video, “A Class Divided(55 min)

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “A Classroom Divided“, posted with vodpod

The book “A Class Divided” can be found here.

Icons: Systema

I finally put together a broad range of icons for the System Elements. Remember Causus (Why), Ductus (Who), Modus (How), Datus (What), Eventus (When), Locus (Where):


Tonight I broke out the dictionary and began examining my Latin roots. Spurred on by the term “datum” I decided to go all the way and produce an internally consistent set of terminology for a system:

I have a confession to make.  I abused the Latin a bit.

I recently learned that to enable philosophers of all languages to exchange their work Latin is used as the standard. In working to refine my understanding of system concepts I can see the rationale behind using a language with a thoroughly refined vocabulary and grammar. Dead languages do have utility.

Design: Attacking Convention

It’s wrong. The way we think about managing files in applications is wrong. And it is wrong for one reason. It lacks conceptual abstraction, simplicity and consistency.

“Wait!” you may say, “the icons are the same in all the applications! We’ve got the sheet of paper for ‘New’, the opening folder for ‘Open’ and the diskette for ‘Save’. We’ve even got a cute magnifying glass for ‘Search’.”

Frak the magnifying glass!

That’s part of the problem. The “New”, “Open” and “Save” icons should be sacrificed on the alter and replaced. New is relatively acceptable, but when we open it is not file we open but a folder. When we save we are not saving to a diskette. And we shouldn’t even be using the term “File” for anything. We are managing “Email”, “Documents”, “Worksheets”, “Presentations”, “Databases”, “Calendars”, “Projects”, “Drawings”, “Contacts” and “Browsers” people! If our applications are single function so should be what we are editing.

When you “Open” you could be uploading or downloading into your computer’s memory. When you “Save” a document, you could be uploading it to a hard drive on the web or downloading it to your hard drive; it could be burning it to a CD-ROM or good heavens even writing to a diskette. I’m not going to draw little hard drives. I’m going to abstract the concepts completely.

I always hated the clipboard metaphor. I just decided to call it a “content block”. You either delete it from your document, copy it from your document, update your document with it or select it in your document.

This is not my final version in the least. But I wanted to put some food for thought on the tabula rasa.

Design: Illusion Sciences

Arthur Shapiro keeps a fine blog, IllusionSciences.com, where he presents visual illusions from his psychology and neuroscience research. The site is rich in concepts and ideas which can be borrowed by visual designers to create novel effects in their work. The site is just plain interesting as well.