Illustrating abstract articles is a pain in the ass, and in the age of social media, a post without an illustration is likely to disappear without attaining any kind of readership, which leaves those of us who cover the field endlessly remixing HAL9000 eyes using walls of code, Matrix text-waterfalls, or variations on hacker-in-a-hoodie.
Eli Sugarman from the Hewlettt Foundation has partnered with design giants Ideo to launch the cybersecurity visuals challenge, designed to create a visual vocabulary for infosec that conveys "the huge stakes for governments, industry and ordinary people alike inherent in topics like encryption, surveillance and cyber conflict."
It's a design competition, with the final output to be released under open licenses to enable "nonprofits, media outlets and anyone else in need of cyber imagery… to draw on a visual language that better reflects the reality of cybersecurity—in all of its salience and complexity—and what it means for individuals, corporations and governments around the world."
25 runners up will win cash of $500, up to five grand prizes of $7K will be awarded to the finalists. Everyone gets "access to resources and community support," and the runners-up and finalists get "mentorship from a cybersecurity expert."
The fifth and final design principle identified in the report is the need to make the invisible visible. The core challenge of depicting cybersecurity visually, of course, is that so much of it is not tangible. How should a visual creator depict a signal speeding along a fiber optic cable? What does a data breach actually look like? And where do people come into the picture? Each of these is a challenge in need of solving, and visual creators will have their work cut out for them.
This last design principle hints at one approach that may bear fruit: developing visual metaphors for complex concepts, as in the famous depiction of Freud's concept of mind as an iceberg with the conscious mind floating atop the submerged ego, superego and id. The viewer is immediately aware of the relation of each of these parts to the others and the whole, and the relative importance of each in Freud's overall framework.
The Sorry State of Cybersecurity Imagery [Eli Sugarman and Heath Wickline/Lawfare]
PS: I'm super-proud of the shoop I did to go with this story.