Diagram guidelines#

Diagrams can help users visualize complex processes in a simplified way. However, diagrams can sometimes be too simplistic, confusing the user instead of providing help. The decision about whether a diagram might be helpful depends on the context of each document and the discretion of each writer.

When to use diagrams#

Before using a diagram, consider tables or lists as possible alternatives.

Include diagrams in the following situations:

  • When there is evidence of a process, whether the process is automated or manual

  • When you need to clarify configurations and settings, such as the architecture for virtual servers

  • When you need to define a complex workflow within a Rackspace product

Do not include diagrams in the following situations:

  • When a workflow is simplistic, such as using the Control Panel to create a cloud server

  • When there is no interaction with a Rackspace product

Before you create a diagram#

To create diagrams, you need to access the recommended software and download the required icons and stencils.


Use draw.io to create your diagrams. Draw.io enables you to create diagrams directly in your web browser of choice.

To get started with draw.io, see the instructions in the Draw.io Online User Manual.

Icons, stencils, and shapes#

Download Rackspace’s library of product icons and stencils. These icons and stencils are considered objects.

  • The product icons are blue and are located in this zip file.

  • Stencils are used to represent certain functions and hardware such as the world wide web or a server. These stencils are black and are located in this zip file.

After you download the icons and stencils, you can being making diagrams in Draw.io.

Request a diagram from Creative Services#

If you’d rather request a diagram from the Creative Services team than create it yourself, consult the Writer’s Handbook Processes section for instructions.

Diagram checklist#

Use the following standards when creating diagrams:


Each diagram property is located on the right side of the Draw.io main screen under Diagrams.

  • Paper size: Set the paper size to A4 (210 mm x 297 mm) and Landscape.

  • Background color: Set the background color to none.

  • File format: Save all diagrams as editable SVG files, as follows:

    1. Click File > Save As.

    2. Type a descriptive name for the file, and replace .xml with .svg at the end of the file name. The file is saved to your local directory.

  • File name: Create unique and meaningful file names to differentiate diagrams.

Text formatting#

  • Font: Set the font to Helvetica.

  • Titles: Title must be bolded, aligned left, and be at least 24px in size. Use sentence-style capitalization.


  • Product icons: An icon represents its corresponding product. Product icons are always blue. Following is the Cloud Images icon.

    Cloud Images stencil


    If you find a Rackspace product icon that is not blue, send an email to how-to@rackspace.com and a member of our team will create a blue version of the icon.

  • Stencils: A stencil represents a concept or function. Stencils that are not Rackspace products should always appear in black.

  • Labels: Label all product icons, stencils, and shapes, according to their function within the diagram. Use sentence-style capitalization (that is, capitalize only terms that are proper or are normally capitalized).


If possible, use a transparent background and don’t add borders or shadow effects to the diagram to avoid distracting interactions with the reader’s screen background.

<alt> property#

Use the <alt> property to briefly describe the screenshot for visually-impaired readers. The following list provides some guidance:

  • For decorative images: leave alt-text blank.

  • For images with text: use the text in the image.

  • For charts and graphs: summarize the trend or take-away point.

  • For other images: What does the image represent or add to the document?

Lines and arrows#

  • Line usage: Use lines are used to connect and display a relationship between two or more objects.

  • Line width: Line width must be at least 2pt. You can change the width of a line in the Format Panel under Style when you select the line.

  • Line shape: Keep lines straight unless a line needs to change direction.

  • Rounded line corners: If a line changes direction, the corner in which the change of direction occurs must be rounded. You can change to rounded corners by selecting the line, going to the Format Panel under Style, and selecting Rounded in the dropdown menu.

  • Solid lines: Use solid lines to show a direct relationship between objects, as shown in the following example.

    Example of solid lines
  • Dashed lines: Use dashed lines to group objects that are connected through a network, as shown in the following example.

    Example of dashed lines
  • Dotted lines: Use dotted lines to show how data entered by the user travels, as shown in the following example.

    Example of dotted lines
  • One-way and two-way arrows: Use arrows to represent direct interactions between two or more stencils. If a stencil is attached to an arrow, it implies that the product represented by the stencil needs to interact with another piece of the diagram.

    In the following example, the CDN management service needs to interact with the CDN to perform its function. Similarly, the CDN needs to be managed by the CDN management service. The relationship is two-way, so the line has arrows on both ends pointed to both stencils.

    Example of one-way and two-way arrows