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Sphere of Influence

Virtual sphere of ocean and sky as a metaphorical foundation for telling stories about cyberattacks, disinformation and industry trends.

Photo of Brian Murray
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Written by

Sketch 1 (1,500 characters)

Sketch 2 (1,500 characters)

The Sphere of Influence presents a diorama of a changing scene of sky and ocean that serves as the foundational visual metaphor for the internet as a relationship between the physical/software infrastructure (the yellow sky) and an information resource (the blue ocean). Colors are borrowed from the maritime flag for the letter K ("Kilo") used to tell other vessels that you "wish to communicate." This is the nucleus of the sphere: giving the user agency to explore, create, discover, and protect herself online. The online user is on a sailing vessel in the middle of the sphere. The sphere is an instance of an online session, where the sky is the technology ("cloud" for example) that moves her across the water, and the sea is all online information. When sailing is smooth, user can dive in to learn more about specific subjects, navigate to virtual ports/communities, find treasure, sail with other users, etc. But with this freedom comes danger. Diving deeper can lead user to swift currents, predators, and isolation. Waters become polluted, storms send her off course. From this point, I envision the visual metaphor can be expanded to address the technical issues of cybersecurity (compromised clouds make thunder and rain), warn users of attacks (a new symbol library similar to maritime flags), and report on disinformation (a squid misdirects with a squirt of its ink). The imagery of historic and mythic tales of seafaring could further inspire this new visual literacy.

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

I had originally focused on commercial maritime themes and signals as a way to categorize and report cyberattacks that take advantage of the internet infrastructure but the idea felt limited to an industry audience. I sketched a series of flat circles with stripes and patterns that could signal various cybersecurity situations but when I bisected the circle horizontally and colored it yellow and blue, I saw the circle as a better representation of cybersecurity--the infrastructure of the internet and its inherent vulnerabilities (yellow), and the information/content of the internet (blue) and the problem of disinformation.

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

I am a graphic designer for a cybersecurity organization and formerly a designer for local and state political campaigns in the U.S. My current design work in cybersecurity involves designing diagrams to simplify security and computing concepts and advertising and marketing communications. I am very politically informed and active and I am concerned that disinformation on the internet is as much of a threat to U.S. democracy as cyberattacks on our elections infrastructure. I'm inspired to win debates with design.

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

As a designer working in the industry, the limited visual library of cybersecurity is a formidable barrier to creating more original work. People within the industry see the cliched images of hackers and Matrix-style green text as a shorthand for cybersecurity issues and audiences readily interpret these images as having a relationship to their internet security. I'm taking part in this challenge to help me clarify the ideas I'm not always able to use in my day-to-day work and to get feedback about how to expand visual metaphors and language about cybersecurity into concepts and tools that are more easily interpreted by industry experts as well as average internet users while creating a broader visual library for designers.

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?

  • In the news

Location: City


Location: State / District

New York

Location: Country

  • United States of America


Join the conversation:

Photo of Viviane

You have taken a metaphor from something completely different and applied it to cybersecurity with a lot of thought. That takes creativity and subject understanding – good job because I know that’s not easy!
Interesting as an ecosystem for developing the thinking further. You might think about abstracting the elements just enough to convey a status or threat, but not so literal that people draw too much literal maritime connection which might cause confusion (eg. have the cloud of ink but not the squid itself).
An application might be as a dynamic visualisation of the changing cyber threat landscape (or seascape, in this case!).

Photo of Dima Boulad

Welcome to the challenge Brian Murray  and thank you for your contribution! I like the simple graphic side of it. We've had a large number of very interesting submissions so far and we will be going through them one by one in the Review phase. In the meantime, we invite you to browse the other submissions and join the conversation around cybersecurity on the platform!

Photo of Aswin BeHera

Really loved your visual style! Though I couldn't understand the maritime analogy ��. It's not something I come across on a regular basis. I assimilated only the sky representing Cloud Storage and the Ocean being the literal data flooding the internet. Hence whatever the user sees on a boat in the middle is the whole of internet. But comparing weather phenomena with complex cyber topics maybe a little tricky. Hope to see your visual language, on the next iteration.