Edge of Chaos

Agile Development Blog

Scrum, Lean, Kanban, Visualization, User Experience

Visual Encoding

How do people perceive information? How designers can thrive on this process to help people understand data faster? Let’s try to look into this complex field and explore some basic principles.

The visual encoding is the way in which data is mapped into visual structures, upon which we build the images on a screen.

There are two types of visual encoding variables: planar and retinal. Humans are sensitive to the retinal variables. They easily differentiate between various colors, shapes, sizes and other properties. Retinal variables were introduced by Bertin about 40 years ago, and this concept has become quite popular recently. While there’s some critique about the effectiveness of retinal variables, most specialists find them useful.

The goal of this article is to provide an engaging introduction to visual encoding, and to give some hands-on examples of how it helps to present data in a meaningful way.

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