The term "diagram" in its commonly used sense can have a general or specific meaning:
visual information device : Like the term "illustration", "diagram" is used as a collective term standing for the whole class of technical genres, including graphs, technical drawings and tables.
specific kind of visual display : This is the genre that shows qualitative data with shapes that are connected by lines, arrows, or other visual links.
In science the term is used in both ways. For example, Anderson (1997) stated more generally: "diagrams are pictorial, yet abstract, representations of information, and maps, line graphs, bar charts, engineeringblueprints, and architects' sketches are all examples of diagrams, whereas photographs and video are not". On the other hand, Lowe (1993) defined diagrams as specifically "abstract graphic portrayals of the subject matter they represent".
a display that does not show quantitative data (numerical data), but rather relationships and abstract information
with building blocks such as geometrical shapes connected by lines, arrows, or other visual links.
Or in Hall's (1996) words "diagrams are simplified figures, caricatures in a way, intended to convey essential meaning". These simplified figures are often based on a set of rules. The basic shape according to White (1984) can be characterized in terms of "elegance, clarity, ease, pattern, simplicity, and validity". Elegance is basically determined by whether or not the diagram is "the simplest and most fitting solution to a problem".
Gallery of diagram types
There are at least the following types of diagrams:
Logical or conceptual diagrams, which take a collection of items and relationships between them, and express them by giving each item a 2D position, while the relationships are expressed as connections between the items or overlaps between the items, for example:
^Bert S. Hall (1996). "The Didactic and the Elegant: Some Thoughts on Scientific and Technological Illustrations in the Middle Ages and Renaissance". in: B. Braigie (ed.) Picturing knowledge: historical and philosophical problems concerning the use of art in science. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. p.9
Michael Anderson, Peter Cheng, Volker Haarslev (Eds.) (2000). Theory and Application of Diagrams: First International Conference, Diagrams 2000. Edinburgh, Scotland, UK, September 1-3, 2000. Proceedings.
Garcia, M. (ed.), (2012) The Diagrams of Architecture. Wiley. Chichester.