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6 years ago

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.

Read the article

  • PaulB

    Very good graphics. The one thing that you completely failed to address was colour blindness. And, with this affecting 10% of the male population, it is pretty likely that at least one of your end users is colour blind.

    For example, I suffer from protanopia (I’ve got no red cones. For RGB colours, it is roughly the same as setting all of the “R” value to zero). The colours that you’ve chosen for “Bugs” and “Stories” look very similar to me. If you are going to use hue to distinguish catagories, then I would suggest doubly encoding it with the shape of the object as well.

    It _is_ definitely possible to choose colours in such a way that colour blind people can distinguish them. However, you do need to use care (and primary colours aren’t necessarily the best). It would be a shame to use just 3 colours in a graph, and then to find that two of them look identical.

    I recommend… as a good source for making figures that are colourblind-friendly.

  • Michael Dubakov

    @0a12ea994c6cdfd0133ddd440cebccf8:disqus Thank you for the great comment, indeed I missed colour blindness completely 🙁

    In fact texture sounds as a good replacement of colour in this case, we will pay attention to this problem in TargetProcess.