IDEA is a series of nonverbal algorithm assembly instructions, developed by Sándor P. Fekete, a computer science professor at TU Braunschweig, Germany, and Sebastian Morr, one of his former students. The instructions explain how various popular algorithms work, entirely without text. This also allows the instructions to be understood interculturally. Among the explained concepts are various algorithms for sorting and searching, graph algorithms, a geometric algorithm, as well as public key cryptography.
With the project, we want to demonstrate that there is more to algorithms than cryptic lines of text, or scary, mysterious things which determine our lives. Instead, algorithms first and foremost consist of good ideas - they can be very clear, concrete, and vivid procedures. Representing algorithms as “assembly instructions” seems like a good step in finding a medium that more closely resembles human thought.
The project began in 2016, when Sebastian made a one-page explanation of an algorithm he developed for his Master’s thesis. Together, the two authors then further developed the concept to teach basic algorithms to first-year students in Sándor’s algorithms and datastructures lecture. The instructions have also been used in schools with great success. Designing the instructions is challenging - finding good graphical abstractions is like developing a new language.
All instructions are available under Creative Commons licenses, so everyone is free to share and adapt them in noncommercial settings. We hope they will be useful in all sorts of contexts, for teachers, students, and curious people alike.
If you have comments, feedback, or ideas for improvement, write to firstname.lastname@example.org or contact our Twitter account @ideainstruction.
All IDEA assembly instructions are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International license, or CC by-nc-sa 4.0 for short.
This means that you’re free to share and to adapt them: You can copy and redistribute them in any medium or format. You can give them to your kids or students, include them in presentations or on flyers. You can also remix, modify, and build upon the material.
As long as you respect the following terms:
attribution – give appropriate credit. The URL contained in the top right corner of each page is already sufficient.
noncommercial – you may not use them for commercial purposes.
share-alike – if you modify the instructions, you must distribute them under the same license as the original.
The SVG files were created using Inkscape, but can be edited using any vector grahics program. You’ll need to install the font Montserrat, which you can download here, so that the texts are displayed correctly.
If you want to create your own IDEA instructions, you can start from our SVG template, which contains a page grid, a collection of basic items, arrows, and little people. If you build something cool with it, let us know and maybe we’ll consider displaying it on this website!
We want to thank Sebastian Stiller, who was involved in the conception of this project, and who helped popularize it.
The top right icons are taken from Dave Gandy’s Font Awesome project. The font used on this website and in the diagrams is Julieta Ulanovsky’s Montserrat. Both are available under the SIL Open Font License.
Sebastian Morr, Jasperallee 35 B, 38102 Braunschweig, Germany