Aesthetics and Clarity in Information Visualization: The Designer’s Perspective

Annemarie Quispel, Alfons Maes, Joost Schilperoord

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Designers are increasingly involved in creating ‘popular’ data visualizations in mass media. Scientists in the field of information visualization propose collaborations between designers and scientists in popular data visualization. They assume that designers put more emphasis on aesthetics than on clarity in their representation of data, and that they aim to convey subjective, rather than objective, information. We investigated designers’ criteria for good design for a broad audience by interviewing professional designers and by reviewing information design handbooks. Additionally, we investigated what might make a visualization aesthetically pleasing (attractive) in the view of the designers. Results show that, according to the information designers, clarity and aesthetics are the main criteria, with clarity being the most important. They aim to objectively inform the public, rather than conveying personal opinions. Furthermore, although aesthetics is considered important, design literature hardly addresses the characteristics of aesthetics, and designers find it hard to define what makes a visualization attractive. The few statements found point at interesting directions for future research.
Original languageEnglish
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2018


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