Rules of Flowcharting

The many processes that animate the domain of biology include putrefaction or decomposition. This phenomenon is defined as the “continual process of gradual decay and disorganization of organic tissues and structures after death.” Every living biological entity undergoes decomposition at the terminal stages of its existence. This process allows the men and women of science to observe, at close quarters, the various modes of disintegration that assail a biological entity. In doing so, said personnel gain a close understanding of biological disintegration, thereby adding to the relevant bodies of knowledge. In a similar vein, flowcharting activities must commence by decomposing the moving parts, actions, and outcomes that comprise a given process. The modern flowchart is an embodiment of the visual breakdown of the many stages inside a procedure. In essence, a flowchart diagram enables corporate chieftains, business managers, executive officers, business associates, and employees to understand how a process starts, operates, and terminates.

Geometric shapes represent a steady component in flowcharting projects. This choice of action stems from the imperative to impart meaning to the flow of visual dialogue inside a diagram. In line with this, the designers of flowcharts must deploy a variety of shapes that include circles, squares, rectangles, parallelograms, diamond shapes, etc. to denote various flowcharting activities. These shapes must contain text that imparts meaning to these shapes. Certain designers may choose to depict irregular shapes inside flowcharts with a view to indicate special activities. In addition to the above, arrows and connectors are included to create momentum in flowcharting activities. Over the years, such design choices have helped develop a body of conventions that distinguish the creation of a flowchart, as opposed to actions that generate various other forms of analytical illustrations.

Certain shapes deserve special attention when we consider the rules that attend flowcharting activities. Diamond shapes, for instance, represent critical junctures inside a flowchart owing to their representation of decisions inside a process. Designers must enlighten these shapes by positioning information in their immediate vicinity as part of efforts to inform readers and reviewers. Such information may include specific conditions (or causation) that leads the visual process to said diamond. Certain decision points may emit multiple stages that include minor decision points, which in turn connect to latter stages inside a process. In addition, certain processes may require designers to position logical operators such as ‘OR’ and ‘AND’ near the diamonds. In terms of flowcharting, these logical operators convey logic that operates inside a process and serve as illustrators of meaning. The outcomes that flow from a diamond shape typically bifurcate in different directions in tune with the demands of a depicted process.

Modern perceptions of linearity include tangible systems such as a highway and the imperceptible, such as conventional notions of the flow of time. To elaborate, linear progress comprises one of the cornerstones of flowcharting in the contemporary sense. A high-level view of a modern flowchart reveals a steady progression of stages etched in a linear pattern. Designers adhere to such an approach because it helps them describe the gradual progression of a normal process or system to the average reader. However, when describing an extended process or a complex system, designers may seek recourse to etching parallel lines connected by arrows. This approach, governed by the limitations imposed by a limited canvas, allows them to extract mileage from a confined space. That said, the concept of linearity faces minor disruptions in the form of lines that connect non-serial parts of a depicted process. Such disruptions to the concept of pure linearity force designers of flowcharting to exercise extreme vigilance in the interests of preserving the integrity of a (depicted) process.

Ligaments and other forms of connecting tissues link the bones that confer shape (and silhouette) to a biological entity. The ligaments play a critical role in enabling actions such as movement and locomotion. Similarly, flowcharts gain shape, form, and meaning through the placement of connectors such as arrows positioned between different stages. These arrows signify the flow inherent in flowcharting and remain a constant accompaniment in all sections of the illustration. The connectors must emerge as constant lines that have gained the status of a motif in modern times. That said, the complexities inherent in modern processes encourage designers to deploy irregular arrows that may variously describe an arc, a dotted connection, or multiple limbs. These choices in flowcharting could be governed by spatial restrictions or the general flow of motion inside a flowchart. In addition, designers can exercise choice when they implant contrasting tints inside arrows in a bid to relieve the visual tedium that may attend the perusal of an expansive diagram. In certain instances, a straight connector may house a child connection that encloses a conditional stage inside a flowchart’s segment. This imparts visual density to the diagram, but is necessary to describe the intricacies of a process.

Rectangles represent a common shape when designers set about etching the outlines of a flowcharting project. These shapes are similar to parallelograms in terms of the visual imprint. Rectangles, typically the location of major actions depicted inside a flowchart, are populated by text-based descriptions that denote significant operational aspects of a process. These shapes may punctuate the space between multiple decision points, thereby gaining heft in flowcharting actions. In addition, these shapes allow readers to extract rough meaning from the primary visual projected by a flowchart. That said, certain designers might elect to add significance to rectangles by adding double lines to the short ends of such shapes. These special shapes may signify, for instance, a pre-defined process that operates irrespective of the actions (and the variations thereof) in its vicinity. In addition, the rectangle gains further heft because it represents the start and close of a process, which are defined by rectangles bearing rounded edges.

Not every wavelength of light belongs to the visible spectrum. This is a fact attested to by rigorous empirical examinations devised by modern science. The ultraviolet and infra-red sections of the electromagnetic spectrum remain veiled from the human eye. In a similar vein, off-page references remain invisible to the readers and reviewers of flowchart diagrams. These are concealed sections of a flowchart represented by an arrowhead pointing southward on the master canvas. The off-page references may include external repositories of information, web-links that connect to foreign pages that have no immediate representation on the master illustration. However, the depiction of said arrowhead is a critical component of flowcharting because it augments various levels of meaning and spurs reader comprehension. The arrowhead also holds the promise of revealing new meaning to veteran reviewers. That said; the inclusion of off-page references also empowers designers to direct readers’ attentions to previous iterations of a depicted process. This allows them to spotlight new additions (to the current illustration) that distinguish the evolutionary journey of a system toward greater complexity.

The foregoing paragraphs have sought to explore some of the cardinal rules that inform conventional approaches to flowcharting. The illustrators and creators of such diagrams remain at liberty to invoke artistic license when they embark on fresh endeavors in modern design. However, a strict adherence to the rules empowers them to connect with legacy audiences that endorse the old school and eschew any deviations from convention.

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