3d Network Demo Part 2: Layout


This series of posts is about demonstrating complex systems; in this case a computer network. The 3d (isometric) network icons were constructed in the first post. This post will develop the layout of this network:


The challenge here is to place the icons and create the interconnecting links in a way that is consistent with the isometric/parallel view. I created a grid to aid in the isometric layout; here’re the steps:

  • Create a grid of equally spaced horizontal and vertical lines in a light color; you can use the “dupe and group” process that I outlined in the last post. I used a spacing of about 0.35 inches. The spacing value is not important but you want a fairly dense grid:


  • Group the lines and apply the Parallel/Isometric Top Up 3d rotation:


  • You can also draw the grid using lines rotated to 30 degrees from the horizontal.
  • You could use the grid directly on the slides but it is more convenient to create a Slide Layout containing the grid. Use that slide layout where needed; it will not interfere with your drawing since it is on a different “layer.”
  • To create the Layout, go to the Master Slide View, right click the Blank Layout and select Duplicate Layout. You can rename the new Layout to something like “grid.”
  • Paste and position the grid on the new Layout. You can now select the “grid” layout for a new slide or apply it to an existing slide.
  • If you want to create the network on some other existing Layout, select that one to duplicate rather than the Blank layout.

Now you can use the grid layout on slides where you want to create the network diagram. Once you are finished, select another layout and the grid will disappear.

The grid does not have snap properties. The lines in the grid are used to manually align icons and the connecting links are drawn (by hand) so that they are always parallel with the grid. Here icons are positioned to create one of the “user/client groups” in the network:



  • The grid lines are used to align the two desktops and the laptop in the front row (the dashed red line is added to show this),
  • The icons are spaced so that a grid line intersects the icon at a convenient place for drawing the interconnecting links (I’ll show you this later).
  • The row of icons is grouped and duped to form the back row. The back row is shifted a little so that the links will not interfere with the front row. The green line shows where a link will be drawn.

Next I added the local switch and one link:


  • The link is a Freeform, manually drawn from the leftmost icon to the rightmost. The parts of the link are drawn parallel to the grid. Take some care with this, the eye will pick up on any inconsistencies.
  • I added some thickness to the line (4 pts). The 3D Format/Bevel/Top/Circle was applied to give the line a rounded appearance. The bevel has a width and height of 2 pts.
  • The Line Style/Cap type and Join type are Round. This provides a convincing appearance where the links touch the icons or another link. Here’s a close-up:


  •  Here’s the completed user group:


  • When a link attaches to the back face of the icon, it is aligned with the bottom center of the front face (see the dashed red line above).
  • Pay close attention to the Front/Back relationships of the icons and links so that the result is “realistic.”

The third user group includes a printer and a wireless router, along with a few wireless devices:layout9

  • Duplicate the previous user group and add the additional icons. Extend the “front” link to the wireless router (red arrow) and add the links to the laptop and printer (red dashed lines). Again, set the Front/Back relationships appropriately.
  • There are no links to the wireless devices. If you want to indicate wireless coverage, you might use a group of concentric Arcs, 3d rotated. It will take some experimentation to get this “right:”


Creation of the other parts of the network is pretty similar; some notes:

  • The internet icon is the standard PowerPoint Cloud shape with fill, outline and text. 3d rotation and a small depth is also applied.
  • FYI, “DMZ” (demilitarized zone) is a networking term for a “subnetwork that contains and exposes an organization’s external-facing services to a larger and untrusted network, usually the Internet” (Wikipedia). It is outside the firewall.
  • The corporate server group (lower center of the diagram) is connected via dual switches and has a more complicated connection (it is, in fact, simplified here). This is what it looks like close up:


  • Notice that the two links are aligned with two roughly symmetric points on the bottom of the face of the server (the red lines).

The various groups are assembled and links added to form the overall network diagram. You will probably have to adjust some of the groups so that they are spaced and aligned properly in the final drawing. If you need to re-size elements or groups, you may want to convert them to png form before resizing. This will preserve the proportions of the line widths and the 3d depths (see the first post in this series for a discussion of this).

The next post will add animation to the display of the network, addition of new elements and network traffic.

If you want a free copy of the source PowerPoint file for this post, please use this form:

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