3d Network Demo – Part 1: Icons


Presentation experts tell you to simplify and avoid complexity. However, in the real world, your challenge is often to make complexity simple. This series of posts will demonstrate several techniques that may help.

My project is to describe a typical enterprise computer/IT network, introduce my solution and demonstrate how my solution can defeat certain security attacks (I’m not a real expert so you are not allowed to be critical of the content). The same techniques can be used to demonstrate other kinds of complicated systems, manufacturing and chemical processes, business procedures and traffic within a cityscape or village.

In this post, I will construct 3d (isometric) network icons. I will lay out the network and add the animation in subsequent posts. Of course, you can use existing icons or create your icons using other tools (converted to images – png, preferably).

Here are some of the icons used in the project:


Some notes:

  • The icons are consistent with the client’s brand colors and graphical style.
  • The isometric/parallel view is common for this kind of application and simpler to deal with than perspective views.
  • Some of the icons are stylized representations of the actual network elements (the server stack and the laptop); others are symbolic (the router). The symbolic icons are standardized in the networking industry.

Preliminaries (isometric rotations, re-sizing and duplicating)

The icons are constructed from simple Shapes with 3-D Rotation/Parallel and 3-D Format/Depth applied. Some of the icons are made with more than one shape with different rotations. The rotations are standard presets (default options) – no fiddling with manual rotation. This diagram shows the results of the specific preset rotations and depth that I will use:icons2

One thing to be careful of here is the “top” aspect; this is used to create the laptop keyboard, for example. To get the desired result after rotation, the original object must be constructed in a “landscape” orientation (the purple version). The red version is constructed in a more natural “portrait” orientation but neither of the preset rotations provides the desired result.

You may think that you could simply rotate the portrait version before applying the 3d rotation. Sorry; this won’t work:


Another issue involves the stupid PowerPoint convention that some things are measured in inches (or cms) and others in points (1/72 inch) and re-sizing affects things that are measured in inches but not those measured in points! Since you will usually construct the icons at a convenient scale and reduce them in the final layout, this is a pain in the ass.

This example (the router icon) shows what happens:


Simply re-sizing the icon yields the result shown at the top. The proportions are not preserved; neither the depth nor the line feature (contour) are scaled properly. The somewhat inconvenient work-around is to convert (Copy/Paste Special/PNG) the icon to an (uneditable) png image and re-size that.

Some of the icon details involve arrays of repeated shapes (mulch) – the laptop keyboard and the server front panel, for example. A process that I am pleased to call “dupe and group” can make these kinds of objects easier to create.

This process takes advantage of a property of the Duplicate operation; a duplicated object will appear in the same position relative to the original each time it is duplicated. So, if you duplicate an object and then, without clicking anywhere else, align the duplicate, the next duplicate will also be aligned. Pictures are better than words in explaining this:


In this example, once I have created a row, I group it and apply the same process again to create several aligned rows.

Server Icons

Create the smaller server from a rectangle with details added using the “dupe and group” technique. Group the rectangle and the details; rotate the group. Then, select the gray rectangle only and apply the depth; the depth color is the same gray as the rectangle. You may find it a little difficult to select only the rectangle in the rotated object. The cursor will change shape and the rectangle will be faintly outlined when it is selected.

Here’s the process:


The server stack is made by duplicating and aligning the small server.

A larger server icon is made the same way:


Sometimes a client will want a more realistic icon, particularly of her own product. If you can find an appropriate photo, you can use it as the “front face:”

icons7Note that a full frontal photo is used.

Here’s another “realistic” icon:

icons8In this case, a rounded rectangle is filled with the photo to get the result.


The laptop is constructed of two parts: the keyboard and the screen. The screen is made in the same way as the server; the keyboard is a little different:


Notice the orientation of the keyboard construction. Also, after rotation and the addition of depth, the lighting angle is adjusted so that the right face is dark, like the screen.

Symbolic Icons

The symbolic network icons are made from simple shapes, grouped and rotated using the Top Up option. Depth and contour are added:



The printer is made of four objects, separately rotated (with depth and contour added) and grouped together:


The printer body is a Rounded Same Side Corner Rectangle (!) with Isometric Right Up rotation.  The paper tray object is used twice with different rotations. The buttons are a separate group.


The firewall icon makes use of contours to provide the detail on the side and top:


The object is a group of rectangles, duped and grouped, with alternate rows flipped horizontally. Fill and rotate; add the contour to the whole group rather than an object in the group as before.

The next post will create the network using these icons.

To get the free PowerPoint file for this post use the link below and click on the PowerPoint icon to download a “source” PowerPoint file containing these objects:

Powerpointy blog – network demo – icons

See this page for more on downloading files.

If you have questions, praise or complaints, please add a comment below. If you appreciate my efforts, liking or following this blog might be a good idea.



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