Small Multiples

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A principle introduced by Edward Tufte [Tufte, 1983, 1990].
Small Multiples are small, thumbnail-sized representations of multiple images displayed all at once, which allows the reader to immediately, and in parallel, compare the inter-frame differences.
Illustrations of postage-stamp size are indexed by category or a label, sequenced over time like the frames of a movie, or ordered by a quantitative variable not used in the single image itself.
[Tufte, 1990]

They typically appear as sets of thumbnail sized graphics — using the same measures and scale — on a single page. They:

  • Depict comparison, enhance dimensionality, motion, and are good for multivariate displays
  • Invite comparison, contrasts, and show the scope of alternatives or range of options
  • Can represent motion through ghosting of multiple images
  • Are particularly useful in computers because they often permit the actual overlay of images, and rapid cycling.

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