See the wavy line at the bottom of this graphic?

enter image description here

I often see this visual technique used in software manuals and other material that contain screenshots. The technique cues that "there is more to this screen, but it has been omitted from the graphic for brevity or focus".

I am wondering if this wavy line crop technique has any standard names. I was once interested in Googling about it, but came up empty-handed.

  • I'm pretty sure I was taught in school it was a straight line then angle down then angle up past the horizontal then angle down to horizontal then continues. I don't know the name either though. I imagine it comes from torn paper. – Ryan Jan 16 '15 at 20:21
  • I don't think this is a 'design pattern' really. It's just a crop. – DA01 Jan 16 '15 at 21:10
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    @Ryan that's the typical method for architectural and CAD drawings. – DA01 Jan 16 '15 at 21:12
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    @DA01 couldn't remember if I learned it in College or HS but that makes sense. My degree is in architecture haha – Ryan Jan 16 '15 at 21:17
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    I imagine the style of “break line” used in each situation should contrast the rest of the design. For web design, a wave works well because nearly everything else is right angles. For electronics, the zig-zag works because you'd never see that in a legitimate circuit. Etc. One style I don't see in the answers below that can work well with highly-colored graphics is a “stepped stripe gradation” (somewhat like the AT&T logo). It's all about standing out from the design itself. – Slipp D. Thompson Jan 17 '15 at 22:50

Looking it up from a CAD / Architecture perspective it can be found referred to as Break Point or Break Line.

The Alphabet of Lines (PDF) has it as Break Lines:

Note the jagged break line to indicate that this is only part of the object.

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In technical drawings it is as I tried to describe in comments depicted like this via Lines (pdf) though they refer to it as Cut Line

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One interesting image via Google Image search was this one which shows how different mediums take on different cut lines / break lines:

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You can see pretty easily how a website might take on some sort of curved or angled end to then illustrate the same concept.

  • Damn beat me to it because i actually drew the image :) – joojaa Jan 16 '15 at 21:26

Its a break, and has many forms. It comes form the drafting standards. For example were you to draw a shaft it might be uninteresting to see the 1000 mm of similar shaft, so to conserve paper you can indicate that the line or shape has been broken into pieces.


Image 1: Variations on a theme the bottom right one needs a change to dimension line as well, very uncommon.

There are at least 3 others that i know of.

1 see http://cad.morainevalley.edu/documents/CADdeptStandards.pdf page II-9 for a specimen of shaft breaks

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    Unlike Ryan I'm a mechanical engineer so its more appropriate for me to draw machine elements, same visual form applies to buildings. Its a bit of a disappearing art amongst mechanical engineers tough as we are transitioning to full 3d drafting/modeling/manufacturing. – joojaa Jan 16 '15 at 22:03
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    Tbh I can understand your answer much better because the diagrams in Ryan's are very noisy. – Dom Jan 18 '15 at 12:27

PowerPoint and Visio name for this shape

Perhaps this answer is too simplistic...?

  • Not at all! This is a welcome contribution. – MC256 Jan 22 '15 at 12:31

It is used in flow-charting or process mapping and it indicates a reference document, visio, powerpoint MS word etc.

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