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The Sorry State of Cybersecurity Imagery

  • 1.  The Sorry State of Cybersecurity Imagery

    Posted May 13, 2020 12:02:00 PM
    Edited by Stephen Lumpe May 13, 2020 01:29:48 PM

    Cybersecurity imagery seems to be stuck in an all too familiar scene—a hooded hacked sits in a matrix-green room as binary flows across the screen. Not only is this cliché exhausting, but the use of fear mongering imagery is a sad attempt at resonating with audiences. In a report by Hewlett Foundation, the issue is explained as "a problem because it's hard to wrap your head around something you can't visualize... The lack of visual storytelling language is not that surprising given the immaturity of the cyber policy field and its multidisciplinary nature. That is—the combination of technical, legal, policy, business and other dimensions of cybersecurity—makes a nuanced and sophisticated conversation difficult, whether communicating with words or pictures."

    So how do we bridge the gap? How do we develop a visual language that everyone can understand, and receive the same intended message from? As a designer at CSA, this is the question I ask myself daily! Fortunately, a follow-up report from the Hewlett Foundation and IDEO breaks down how to shift our thinking by considering the following:

    1. Humanize the space

    2. Inspire humility through accessibility

    3. Raise the alarm, but don't be alarmist

    4. Accuracy builds credibility

    5. Make the invisible visible

    Number 5 is especially challenging—how do you depict something that is not physically tangible? What does a data breach actually look like? The approach we take in these scenarios is to develop visual metaphors that represent the complex concept. This process of visual problem solving is outlined perfectly by Maggie Appleton, the Art Director at Egghead. She explains that "We may not 100% understand Thing B. But we know enough about Thing A, and can map its qualities onto Thing B. Which at least gives us a starting point. I can tell you . And now you're 1% closer to understanding how a quantum computer works."

    Although we are constantly trying to improve our process for developing visuals at CSA, I hope this provides a glimpse of the challenges we face as designers, and the efforts we take to fix the sorry state of cybersecurity imagery.

    Stephen Lumpe
    Senior Digital Designer
    Seattle WA

  • 2.  RE: The Sorry State of Cybersecurity Imagery

    Posted May 14, 2020 08:40:00 AM
    Great insights! This is definitely something I see frequently in the cybersecurity webinar space as well.​

    Hillary Baron CCSK v4
    Program Manager, Research
    Seattle WA