Modelling Practices & Principles

Models are difficult to most of the business people. Others than architects find model diagrams too cumbersome. That’s why it is important to create such a diagrams that are easier to understand by the first sight.

When modelling, it is important to follow best practices and principles. A modeler should be careful and always keep in mind that the diagrams are to be shown & publish to other audience. Modelling artifacts shall be easy to depict at first glance. So it is important to concentrate on aesthetic aspects when modelling. There are some valuable practices and very basic principles that help a lot. In fact, there is only few rules to be followed to make diagrams more attractive…

Modelling practices introduced int the table below.

Common Modelling Practices ("the ethics")

PracticeOriginDescription
Less Is MoreMiesVan Der Rohe, 1907Model "just enough", not more. As the information increases, interpretation decreases. Too much information spoil the diagram. Where is the "information horizont" when understandability suffers dramatically, is question of professionalism and experience..
Keep It Simple Stupid (KISS)Kelly Johnson, Lockheed, 1960'sSimplify! Simplify! And simplify more! Simplicity is beautiful! Simple is understandable.
Note! Simplifying things is based on deep knowledge of the problem domain!
Simplicity is the ultimate sophisticationLeonardo da Vinci, around 1500This principle is self-descriptive. We shall always try to simplify things as much as possible. To be able to simplify things requires significant amount of knowledge..
PerfectionAntoine de Saint Exupéry, L'aviateur, 1926"It seems that perfection is reached not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away".
It is suggested to fine-tune diagram by fading out unnecessary information. Completeness is getting closer when diminishing irrelevant elements from the diagram..
Einstein's "principle of simplicity"A. EinsteinEverything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.
Occam's razor"Law of parsimony". Principle of "economy", according to which there shall be minimal amount of explanation of the element, event or target area (phenomenon of the existence of an object). All the extra, irrelevant or unnecessary explanations shall be discarded away. Theories shall be as simple as possible. The most simple explanation or theory shall be chosen from the competing ones.
HarmonyWhen visualizing, try to accomplish harmony and balance between the elements.
This is based on intuition: you sure can recognize a harmonized diagram when you see it.
Use shows meaningWittgenstein (often refrenced and mentioned by Gerben Wierda)Meaning of modelling is in the use. At best, modelling helps to understand the problem domain. At its worst, modelling makes things more complicated to be understood.
"When modelling, model properly, or do not model at all".
Modelling is a process, in which we interpret and create digital construct the problem domain, and share common understanding... That is one of the most valuable advantages of visualization and modelling,
Seeing is believingWhen you see it, you can believe it.
That's why visualization and modelling are perfect tools for succesfull communication.

Modelling principles introduced in the table below.

Modelling Principles ("the Esthetics")

PrincipleDescription
Model only what is relevantConcentrate on important elements, leave unnecessary elements out. Think which elements are required to understand the main idea in the context. Think what is essential, what is the meaning and message of the diagram. Too much information spoils the diagram. Don't "overmodel", avoid analysis paralysis.
Not too much elements into the same diagramSplit diagram into logical parts if it has become too complex.
Only elements of the same "abstraction level" into the diagramUse only elements of the same abstraction level on the same diagram. Diagram shall illustrate elements with the same level of details. More detailed elements should be left out and introduced in other diagrams when possible. Think about the typical reading order and eye movement from left to right and from top to down.
Connecting lines aligned, no crossing linesUse orthogonal lines and avoid line crossings - for the sake of readability.
Elements alignedPlace elements aligned to each other, in both vertical and horizontal directions. Place the most essential elements in the middle, or at the top left corner.
Elements same sizedKeep the width and height of the elements equal. The size of the element indicates the importance. Use larger size with elements with higher importance. Adjust the size of the element e.g. when the size gives some extra information, when sizing enables better visual look & feel, or when sizing simply provides better readability.
Use colors with care, not too much, not too much too bright colorsColors can underline the importance of the elements. Avoid too glaring colors. Think about the usage: is the diagram to be shown with screen only, or included into document.
Symmetry and balanceModelling is art of one kind. Use the space with the readability in mind, concentrate on symmetry and balance of the overall layout, think about the common reading order from left to right, from top to down. Place and size the elements right from the start according to target format (e.g. wide screen, document page with portrait or landscape direction).

A modelling practice (figure below) – “aesthetics”: Elements of the same size, at same level, aligned to each other and orthogonal lines between them.

Modelling practice 1.