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Digital Privacy & Encryption. Simplified.

A depiction of digital privacy and encryption through physical-world scenarios and intuitive visuals.

Photo of Afsal cmk

Written by

Sketch 1 (1,500 characters)

It is a fact that a large number of users don't understand many of the digital terms while using the product or services online. Bringing awareness about Digital Privacy & Encryption for everyone is highly important. As this is a very sensitive, but mostly ignored area that should be given much more importance.

One reason for this problem is, it is very hard for the users to understand what is happening behind the scenes. It is easy to communicate such a scenario by using existing metaphors. But, we're used to seeing the same metaphors for every aspects of Cybersecurity.

There is no specific group or persona. These visuals are for everyone. From children to adults, and old people. If I could craft a concept that is intuitive enough for an average person, every other persona will be able to understand it.

So, how to solve this challenging problem?
In the area of Digital Privacy and Encryption, It is good to retain existing visual elements like a 'Lock' and 'Checkmark' to convey the message. But what I learned from the whole exercise is, it is better to illustrate the scenario with more details to tell the complete story. An illustration that will evoke a sense of trust and will translate the message better.

My initial thoughts were aligned for a scalable approach, a metaphor or a story that could be applied to any scenario. This helped me to build many concepts that show a combination of real-life scenarios and digital processes in one canvas.

Sketch 2 (1,500 characters)

The opportunity area I am working on is Digital Privacy and Encryption.
Some of the initial sketches for a scalable approach. Showing the physical world and the other side of the digital world in one illustration. I have used a separator line to distinguish between these two. That will be more evident in upcoming sketches.

After interviewing a few people who are my colleagues, to understand their knowledge about encryption. But they are unaware of it. As a next step, I looked into what exactly is encryption and existing visuals like iconography, illustration or other metaphors currently being used. For me, a well-structured notes, affinity mapping, and reminders are very important to craft the best possible visuals. This helps me to come back and refresh my thoughts to be aligned with core principles.

I start with many important questions like what is the problem I am solving and why? what is the emotion I want to evoke in the viewers? Do the visuals and elements evoke represent the problem and solution? What is the theme, colors, and composition suitable for this? Is this approach scalable with a different context?

Once I find answers to these questions, it is easy to start on the sketches. As an artist, I am easily able to draw these visuals in any style. I even consider the level of fluidity in the lines, to convey how serious / fun the matter is.

What have you learned through this sketching process? (1,000 characters)

It is interesting to know that, any metaphor using in these visuals has to be familiar with the users. The reason is that we've already seen many such metaphors in different contexts. Even though we cannot avoid some of those existing metaphors like 'Lock' and 'Checkmark', we can improve the overall visuals with a better composition to tell the whole story.

When it comes to security and encryption, illustrating with more humans in the composition will not be a good idea. The reason is that, when we say privacy and security, we imagine something where there is no human interference. Even though there will some appropriate management by the authorized parties.

Another thing I have learned from these, using technical terms and visual elements of such processes will make it more complex and abstract, than communicating the right message. So, it will be better to use metaphors and composition that is more familiar for an average person.

Tell us more about you. (1,000 characters)

I am Afsal. Artist, Designer and Coder from Kerala, in India.
Very long time ago, I had an interesting thought about making artworks for a purpose, even though I do it for entertainment at that time. That brought me to a new level as a designer.

Later, understanding the possibilities of combining art, design, and technology I have developed my coding skills as well. Now, I enjoy turning complex problems into simple, beautiful and intuitive designs.

Currently working as a Design Lead at InMobi, previously worked at Microsoft for AI creativity and Intelligent Answers, defined visual design systems at Zeta, Helped to build a smart education platform for Genius. Recently I have built many automated applications that generate art, design, and helps for learning. I've also built my own personal chatbot application 'Clariti' for helping me in everyday activities.

What inspires me is art, design, and endless possibilities of technology.

Why are you participating in this Challenge? (750 characters)

I liked this interesting and challenging problem. I was very impressed to see the amount of effort gone behind this challenge, and also the detailed resources available for the challenge.


My dribbble portfolio with designs and illustration I have done in my spare time:

What is your experience with the field of cybersecurity?

  • I have considerable experience and/or knowledge in the cybersecurity field.

What best describes you?

  • I’m a professional visual creator affiliated with an organization.

How did you hear about this OpenIDEO Challenge?

  • Other

Location: City


Location: State / District


Location: Country

  • India

What opportunity areas are you covering with this final portfolio? (250 characters)

Digital Privacy + Encryption

Final Portfolio (1,500 characters)

The first illustration shows that "Privacy is in your control". Bringing this awareness in people will help them to control their privacy. This is an interesting metaphor I learned from my mentor, to illustrate a person closing the curtain to block visibility as that is what we do in the physical world for privacy.

The second illustration shows encryption as one of the aspects of security measures, there are a number of steps to be taken for the effectiveness of privacy. As we see in the physical world, drawers with unique keys, users should take basic security measures like using strong & complex passwords.

The third illustration shows that your data is safe in a trusted & encrypted platform. This illustration shows a person marking certain day in a calendar for tracking health-related information. As the platform indicates encryption with a visual cue using a lock icon, it brings that trust.

The fourth illustration shows how encryption works. It is the process of encoding the data that only authorized parties can access. It works with a valid secret key to process with an algorithm that takes complex steps to transform a plain text into encrypted text.

The fifth illustration shows the importance of security & encryption at any product stage. A baking scenario is a continuous process & with many stages. This could be used for articles like "Why Baking Security Into Products Is Important" (

How would you summarize your final portfolio in 100 words or less? (650 characters)

The key vision for crafting these visuals was to communicate digital privacy and encryption by following design principles like humanizing the space, incorporating technical accuracy, and building more familiar metaphors that are easy to understand for an average person. Also to make this field rich with diverse communities to make them feel like they're part of this. Each of these visuals communicates a specific topic for privacy and encryption. That helps to bring awareness about individual responsibility, and also gives a better understanding of digital security and privacy.

Briefly describe your imagined use case for the work in your portfolio. (250 characters)

These visuals can be used in newspapers, magazines, pamphlets, websites, blogs, privacy policy pages, and app onboarding screens. These are created in vector format to suit any resolution of the above-mentioned use cases.

What was the most useful feedback that you received? (1,000 characters)

Joanne, who is my mentor helped me to craft these visuals and given an amazing direction for building better metaphors. While I was thinking about a scalable approach, she helped me to focus more on a user-centric approach that is easy to understand for anyone. She also shared "the concept of baking security". This is about applying security measures at any stage of a product. This was most useful for the concept sketch I created for encryption.

How have your concepts evolved since the Ideas Phase? (1,000 characters)

The opportunity area I am working on is Digital Privacy and Encryption.
Some of the initial sketches for a scalable approach was to show the physical world and the other side of the digital world in one illustration. I have used a separator line to distinguish between these two. But, the process of encryption and abstract metaphors of the digital world was not easy to communicate the message.

Collaboration with Joanne helped me to craft these visuals with a new direction for building better metaphors. While I was thinking about a scalable approach, Joanne helped me to focus more on a user-centric approach that is easy to understand for anyone. Then I created an illustration with visual elements that are more familiar with everyone. She also shared "the concept of baking security". That is for applying security measures at any stage of a product. This was really useful for the concept sketch I created for encryption.

How have you been able to incorporate technical accuracy into your concepts? (1000 characters)

Yes, all the illustrations are composed of a story and with technical accuracy. As the first step for technical accuracy, I did research and learned the history of encryption, ciphertext, cryptography and rotor machine. The second step was to understand the knowledge of non-technical people. For this, I did usability testing with existing metaphors. And finally, and most importantly, collaboration with my mentor helped me to incorporate more technical accuracy using more familiar metaphors for an average person. Focusing on the narrative and building a story with the necessary visual elements made it better.

How do your concepts expand the conversation on cybersecurity? (1000 characters)

As I learned from existing visuals used in the cybersecurity field, they are more abstract and overgeneralized within various topics. To expand the conversation in these areas, visuals are created with more details, and by following a specific narrative and telling a story for the audience. These visuals will bring more thoughts and conversation about cybersecurity. When it comes to digital privacy and security, the target audience to bring awareness is everyone. These visuals will help to communicate the message for everyone.

If you were provided with additional time and resources, are there additional ways that you’d wish to reimagine the visual language of cybersecurity? (1,000 characters)

Yes, I see this as a starting point for that huge impact we're about to make in the field of cybersecurity. As there is always scope for improvement, I would like to spend more time for collaboration and to explore various concepts.

What resources did you find most helpful? (optional, 1,000 characters)

Everything that Openideo has provided. Research insights, interviews, design principles and collaboration with an expert. Other than this, I have read a lot of blog articles, Wikipedia, and watched a few videos. Some of them are here:

Commitment to Creative Commons License (CC BY 4.0)

  • Yes, I ensure that my portfolio is in compliance with CC BY 4.0.


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Photo of Doug Baker

These look great, can think of so many uses for them. Well done!

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