Visualization Design Patterns

From InfoVis:Wiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search


For any design discipline, including Information and Scientific Visualization, there are design problems within the domain that tend to arise time and again. Although effective solutions may be known, they are not helpful unless that knowledge is coherently structured and communicated to colleagues. Without good structure, design knowledge may be disparate and disjointed, and relationships among solutions may not be apparent. Without good communication, designers who are unaware of solutions may be forced to ‘reinvent the wheel’, wasting unnecessary effort on a problem that has already been solved by others. Some means of capturing and codifying solutions to Information Visualisation design problems would be useful for those engaged in practice. The Visualization Design Patterns described here have been proposed for this purpose.

Foundational Patterns

These patterns are the building blocks of Visualizations. They are more "reference patterns" than true "design patterns". Visualization designers will assume they are a given component of visualization design. The patterns are included to provide a common technical lexicon, to build a lingua franca used throughout the language, to encourage communications between novices and experts, and to facilitate a discussion of pros and cons.

Visualization Architecture

Interaction Patterns

User intent-based categories of interaction techniques [1]

General interaction patterns, characterized according to actions that users perform on visual representations (VRs), and the utility of action-reaction pairs (i.e., interactions) in carrying out tasks and activities. These are conceptual, pattern-based characterizations of user-initiated interactions with visual representations at the interface, and are not directly concerned with implementation details, techniques, and underlying data/information. Included with each pattern is a list of some common variations, techniques with which the pattern has been instantiated, the cognitive utility of the interaction in the context of performing complex tasks and activities, and some examples and lists of existing tools in which the pattern is instantiated. [2]

Unipolar Patterns:

  • Annotating: augment VRs with additional visual marks and coding schemes, as personal meta-information
  • Arranging: change the ordering of VRs, either spatially or temporally
  • Assigning: bind a feature or value to VRs (e.g., meaning, function, or behavior)
  • Blending: fuse VRs together such that they become one indivisible, single, new VR
  • Cloning: create multiple identical copies of VRs
  • Comparing: determine degree of similarity or difference between VRs
  • Drilling: bring out, make available, and display in VRs interior, deep information from the underlying information space
  • Filtering: display a subset of the elements of VRs according to certain criteria
  • Measuring: quantify some items within VRs (e.g., area, length, mass, temperature, and speed)
  • Navigating: move on, through, and/or around VRs
  • Scoping: dynamically work forwards and backwards to view compositional development and growth of VRs
  • Searching: seek out the existence of or locate the position of specific items, relationships, or structures within VRs
  • Selecting: focus on or choose VRs, either as an individual or as a group
  • Sharing: make VRs accessible to other people
  • Transforming: change the geometric form of VRs
  • Translating: convert VRs into informationally or conceptually equivalent forms

Bipolar Patterns:

  • Accelerating/Decelerating: increase or decrease speed of movement of the constituent components of VRs
  • Animating/Freezing: generate or stop motion in the constituent components of VRs
  • Collapsing/Expanding: fold in or compact VRs, or oppositely, fold them out or make them diffuse
  • Composing/Decomposing: assemble VRs and join them together to create a new, whole VR, or oppositely, break whole entities up into separate, constituent components
  • Gathering/Discarding: gather VRs into a collection, or oppositely, throw them away completely
  • Inserting/Removing: interject new VRs into them, or oppositely, get rid of their unwanted or unnecessary portions
  • Linking/Unlinking: establish a relationship or association between VRs, or oppositely, dissociate them and disconnect their relationships
  • Storing/Retrieving: put VRs aside for later use, or oppositely, bring stored VRs back into usage

See also: Interaction Design Patterns (wikipedia article)

Display Rendering Patterns

Programming Patterns

These are patterns related to the backend programming of visualization systems. They are organised according to the Model-View-Controller approach, though other organizational systems may also be appropriate.

Heer and Agrawala's paper Software Design Patterns for Information Visualization[3] provides a useful overview of software design patterns specific to infovis tasks.

Data Modelling and Management



Development Patterns

These patterns relate to the systems development lifecycle and to the activities involved in implementing and testing software.


For techniques used during the design process to evaluate coding and design-time decisions.

Evaluation and Testing

Quality Assurance, Evaluation, and Usability testing methods to close the feedback loop during the development lifecycle.


  1. Yi, J. S., Kang, Y. A., Stasko, J., & Jacko, J. A. (2007). [ Toward a Deeper Understanding of the Role of Interaction in Information Visualization.] IEEE Transactions on Visualization and Computer Graphics (TVCG), 13(6). Presented in InfoVis 2007, Sacramento, California, October 28 - November 1, 1224-1231. (see also [ Toward a Deeper Understanding of the Role of Interaction in Information Visualization (presentation)])
  2. Sedig, K. & Parsons, P. (2013). [ Interaction Design for Complex Cognitive Activities with Visual Representations: A Pattern-Based Approach.] AIS Transactions on Human-Computer Interaction, 5(2), pp.84-133.
  3. see Heer, J. & Agrawala, M., 2006. [Software Design Patterns for Information Visualization]. IEEE TRANSACTIONS ON VISUALIZATION AND COMPUTER GRAPHICS, 12(5), p.853.