Lessons from Visualization Research

The visual language of graphics is highly flexible, and different representations can be used. However, conventions do emerge around particular arrangements.

Infographics often make use of a panel composition where components are read in sequence, while data visualizations often combine facets of a subject into a single graphic composition.

This study identified and analyzed visual conventions from a selection of infographics and data visualizations. Common elements used in infographics and visualizations include:

  • Figurative elements (e.g. illustration, photographs, cartoons, schematics)
  • Maps
  • Weighted panel compositions
  • Outlines
  • Magnified views
  • Cut aways
  • Visual representations of time (e.g. direction, circular layout)
  • Iconography
  • Comparisons of shape areas

The study highlights that designers should aware of “acquired codes” (a reader’s familiarity with shapes and conventions) and “perceptual cues” (a reader understanding the representation of data with its figure) when designing infographics and data visualizations, because incongruous use of codes and cues can lead the design’s meaning into opposing directions.

Source: Acquired Codes of Meaning in Data Visualization and Infographics: Beyond Perceptual Primitives, Byrne. et al., 2015