Rules for Animated Infographics


Information Animated Infographics
Editors T. Finke & S Manger (2012)

“Well-made animated information graphics are based on clear decisions about what matters and what should be left out.” – Stefan Fichtel (in Finke & Manger, 8)

“By comparing different data sets and visualizations of the data and embedding them in a context, the view sees the result in the form of a narration with the help of illustrations” (Finke & Manger, 21).

The Pros and Cons of “passive, animated information graphics that have a linear structure:”





In sculptural, interactive works…

Time Sequences
…if time is represented, interactivity may permit atemporality.

Directing the Viewer
…the viewer cannot experience events in a predetermined order.

Changing Perspective
…emphasis should not be encoded in perspective.

Viewing Time
…the viewer is permitted to spend as much time as needed (or desired) for perception of content.

…the information presented may be perceived in various orders, and will permit different outcomes depending on the viewer.

…the statistical content must balance between rich and generalized visualizations, understanding experience can cease upon exhaust of attention.

…the viewer is permitted to ask questions or examine the data in detail.


Combinations of Visualization Techniques in Animation:

Schematic Diagrams
A way to view structure of an object, connections (of objects), or abstract processes (temporal connections of objects). Drawings of the object should be only as detailed as necessary to communicate understanding. Cross sections should be carefully cut (and visualized) so that inside and outside distinctions can be made and the form as as whole is still readily perceived. In charts of process, if the process is abstract, consider employing visuals that offer interest-piquing metaphor.

When making process graphics, it is helpful to recognize an overall image, a sequence of images, and the feature graphic. The overall image should lead the eye through the whole, often helpful to read top-left to bottom-right. Any visualization of the process must be distinct from the elements or actors, as such the elements and actors must be perceptually grouped/organized to show relationships. Feature graphics or elements must be introduced early in sequences, so that the rest of the sequence can animate the process and relationships.

Cartographic information pertaining to event space should be placed in context, with appropriate amounts of labels for bordering lands or geographic features (like bodies of water). Thematic maps provide a spatial distribution of one or more phenomena; in these cases geographic data is linked to statistical data. Codifying the map with symbols or iconography is often necessary, but in the course of an animation the legend should not be present the entire time (labels or voice-over work can suffice), so clear metaphors for visual encoding must be established. Moving images of maps need not a title, because tracking and eye back and forth from title to map (or legend to map) costs time.

“A good information graphic makes its content, or its essence, as accessible as possible in a brief period of time” (Finke & Manger, 109).



Research Methods: Readings II

“Why Should Engineers and Scientists Be Worried About Color?” Link
Bernice E. Rogowitz and Lloyd A. Treinish

the same data but mapped with mathematically equivalent scales, but one adds a threshold of significance (sea-level)

With the color map on the left, elevation is a continuous variable. However, its corresponding color scale ranges among approximately 5 discrete color categories. This confuses the reader.

“One result of this work has been a set of colormaps which take into account the data type, the spatial frequency of the data, and properties of the human perceptual system.  These colormaps are all designed to create more faithful impressions of the structure in the data.”

Data types include:

  • Nominal (no mathematical relationship)
  • Ordinal (occur in an order, but no mathematical relationship)
  • Interval (experimentally determined relationships)
  • Ratio (equal measurement between values, with zero included)

How do we choose color for these data types, so that our perception of color judgement matches the comparison of the data types?

Hue, Saturation, and Luminance: three perceivable dimensions of color

Hue, by itself, is not known for producing accurate judgments of a coded variable with varying magnitude. How to choose between a saturation-based color scale or luminance-based one? If there are great frequency shifts, use saturation-based color scale to see the graduation of changes. If there are small frequency shifts, use luminance-based color scale to emphasize distinctness in extremes.

Two special cases for color ranges: Segmentation and Highlighting

  • “In segmentation, the analyst’s goal is to look at the whole range of data, but partitioned.  If the segments are derived from interval or ratio data, it is important to preserve the perception of order, that is, that the order of the segments matches the order of the data values.”
  • “In highlighting, the analyst’s goal is to focus on a limited range in a variable and study how this range expresses itself in the data set.  The analyst, for example, may want to probe the exact ranges where the dose of a radiological treatment affects distant healthy tissue, or the particular magnitude at which the wind changes direction in a meteorological simulation.”
four color maps of photochemical pollution levels with a rainbow-scale (top-left), a isomorphic color-scale (top-right), segmented color-scale (bottom-left), and a highlighting color-scale (bottom-right)

So why the three other color scales? Firstly, an isomorphic color mapping has equal perceptual changes in color between equal intervals of the data. This is the “most” truthful.

Let’s say an alternate analysis is needed (maybe even quickly), a segmented map could show dangerous areas. In the bottom-left map, maybe 140 and above are toxic levels of chemicals. They are easily picked out of the map. What about a specific area, like low levels of a chemical that needs to be evenly spread throughout an area? The lower-right map shows off areas lower than 50 with perceptual ease. The higher areas, sufficient in chemical concentration, are not distinguished between.


“Visual Math Gone Wrong” Link
Robert Kosara

from the US Census Data Visualization Gallery

So what’s going on here? We have some population arithmetic. Important statistics, but what’s going on visually? Area arithmetic: something perceptually is four times as hard to grasp as single dimensional arithmetic. (And outlines for negative population double coded with the subtraction symbol. A good effort, fill would have been better without an outline, maybe on a toned background. But just use a bar chart since population is only a single dimension.)

Where do bar chart comparisons fail? Only once you get to vastly different scales (near 50x-100x difference between minimum and maximum values). Otherwise, comparisons among column components as well as cross-column comparisons are possible.


Ch 6: Visualizing for the Mind from The Functional Art
Alberto Cairo

“The ability to anticipate what the brain wants to do can greatly improve your information graphics and visualizations.” —PREATTENTIVE FEATURES

The detection of object boundaries is based off of variations of light intensity and color, and on how well the edges of the things you see are defined.

The brain is much better at quickly detecting variations in shade than in shape.

notice how color effects the visibility and ease-of-search when iconography is plentiful and too similar

Gestalt School of Thought preaches that the brain can recognize and sort differences in patterns because conscious thought can catch up with it. Examples include proximity, similarity, connectedness, and closure.

Cleveland and McGill (at Bell Labs 1984) published a groundbreaking study that pitted visualization methods against data perception accuracy. Most notably, position along common scale (single dimension with same starting point) and position along non-aligned scale (single dimension with same scale but different baselines) allowed accurate judgements. However, estimations in color saturation, color shading, and curvature were the least accurate.

10 vs 7 comparisons in terms of single-dimension, circular area, and hue

Stereoscopic depth perception (the difference between left eye and right eye images) allows humans to see in 3D however, there are monocular cues that also assist in 3D vision, including saccades, shadows, relative size, and detail/horizon blur.

“Color Use Guidelines for Mapping and Visualization”
Cynthia A. Brewer


One-Variable Color Schemes

Qualitative Schemes: categorical, no computational relationship between states

  • when using color between categorical data, distinguish them with differences in hue, and slight differences in lightness… not equal lightness. (Why? the physiological system to distinguish hue has poor shape- and edge-detection, the lightness difference will clarify boundaries.)
  • the more categories (the closer your hues), the greater the difference in lightness needs to be. also, consider why you’re displaying that many categories.
  • if any area is small by comparison to other areas its spatially proximal, a greater contrast in lightness would benefit detection.

Binary Schemes: on- or off-states, yes- or no-states

  • differences in hue and/or lightness can be used equally effectively.

Sequential Schemes: ordered, low- to high-values

  • mapping low values and high values depend on the display. treat the display or background default as low, and the addition of ink or light (etc) as an increase.
  • pure black-and-white schemes will have a disadvantage when it comes to the default of the display (areas with no data, like water on a country map) will appear to be on the sequential scale as a zero point.
  • it is not recommended to vary a sequential scheme by saturation only when there are more than 3 sequenced points in your range
  • if using more than one color in a sequential scheme, vary lightness and darkness singularly and evenly, despite hue.
  • full-spectrum schemes (rainbows) are perceptually disadvantageous because yellow is perceptually lighter in hue, and darkened yellow is perceptually desaturated, leading to misperceiving information where, often, none exists.

Diverging Schemes: ordered, with a noteworthy midpoint (or similarly critical point)

  • recommended to use two hues and darken them as their absolute value moves away from the critical point.

Two-Variable Color Schemes

Qualitative vs Binary Schemes

  • choose two hues (one for each binary) and vary lightness by qualitative values
  • increased saturation on the binary value you wish to emphasize

Qualitative vs. Sequential Schemes

  • choose three hues for the qualitative, and vary lightness by sequential values

Sequential vs. Sequential Schemes

  • a logical mixture of two hues and a lightness. lightest represents low sequence in both variables; increased hue and lightness in each color paired with each sequential schemes; increased hue combines in both to show high sequence in both variables.

Balance Schemes

  • neither end of a balance scheme should be emphasized, choose hues carefully to match saturation as best as possible, and vary hue equally between the domain.
  • a special case of sequential/sequential scheme, but one variable increases as the other decreases and vice-versa: they cannot diverge from this formula.

Diverging vs. Diverging Schemescolor_schemes_diverge.png


Perspective Mapping: South Station

Tasked with returning to South Station, the following observations were made in light of an essay by urban media designer, Martijn de Waal (of The Mobile City) entitled The City as Interface: How New Media Are Changing the City.

In the essay, de Waal specifies some public space as part of the “urban public sphere,” namely any accessible place where people of various background can potentially meet. In certain aspects, successful public spaces are designed around the identities that weave though the space on a daily basis. A modern urban public are the inhabitants of this public sphere which share a common goal or action (such as transportation in a train station). American sociologist Lyn Lofland introduced a third classification of space (besides public and private): that of the “parochial” domain. A parochial sphere consists of a common group of people that share a sense of commonality despite having a publicly accessible location. Examples include a Turkish hooka bar in a Dutch neighborhood, a gay bar, a bench in a public park where teenagers commonly gather. The ubiquitous nature of personal cellular-run interfaces (phones, laptops, tablets) permits an interlocked analysis of public, parochial and private spaces. These observations try to take in consideration of these three classifications.

Patrons were observed in different zones of the South Station atrium/food court. For the course of three minutes, actions despite walking, were tallied. Included were (phone activity, talking, looking up at ads and way-finding, using the restroom, eating, etc). Actions were then classified into adding to the public domain or participating in a parochial/private domain (since often times it’s difficult to classify which one an individual is participating in).


These are the tallies/raw data from my 3 minute observations about the Atrium:


The concentric circle diagrams are the first steps in my algorithm to determine a network diagram at the perspective of an individual in South Station. My assumption: A patron of South Station will be drawn to areas in which other people are behaving similarly (headphones on, or looking for way-finding, or eating, etc.). My network diagram takes into account which zones are physically accessible to each other (clear pathways) and how much sonic or visual activity is perceivable from his/her vantage point.

The top image is the network diagram with the centers of each zone at their physical distances from each other. The circular chart on the left describes the journey of one individual through South Station in terms of talking on a mobile, looking up at way-finding, and having headphones on. The blue wedge and outlined zone #7 shows where in time and space (respetively) the individual’s perspective is currently. The size of the node represents how many people inhabit that zone on average. The saturation of the node represents how many people are conducting similar actions as the current user’s perspective. The length of the connection represents the potential of the user perceiving ambient information (sonic and visual) in his current perspective.


In this way, space is not a simple function of x-, y- and z-displacement; it is a dynamic system of goal-seeking, resource-exhausting, information-filtering agents which happen to be navigating four dimensions. And when these motivations act on a subject, it is not accurate to plot navigation of a public space in two dimensions.

Design History: Mappamundi

3 Map Mundi / Kingdom / City

The Catalan Atlas

  • Abraham Cresques, 1375
  • vellum, 9ft +
  • 3 Parts: Introduction, Portolan Chart (Mediterranean & black sea), Expansion
  • Aragon royalty commissioned nautical charts to be presented to Charles V, King of France
  • Portolano: a collection of sailing directions
    • rhumbline grid: straight lines of sailing paths
  • 300 years ahead of time in terms of accuracy of coast lines
  • First use of compass rose
  • mappamundi: “image of the words, of its different periods, of the different regions over the weather and the different races that live on it.” —Cresques
  • Why is the Atlas special?
    • extended range beyond Mediterranean and Black seas, to Asia and North Africa
    • emphasis on political geography, flag icons for rule and religion, etc.
    • introductory pages: astrological, astrophysical, cosmological, navigational, elemental, historical, narrative information
  • Design choices
    • subjective descriptions
    • iconography
    • multiple intended users (traders, sailors, pilgrimages, etc)
    • graphic distortion/enhancement of Majorca (Cresque home island), Corsica, Sardinia, & Cyprus
    • text orientation suggests viewing from tabletop, walking around

Turgot Map

  • 1739, Paris
  • Isometric view
  • Michel Turgot (commissioned), to promote reputation of Paris for resident and foreign elites
  • Louis Bretez (designer), ~2 years to survey, ~2 years from image to engravings to print
  • France
    • 17th century: Henry IV launches new city planning, architecture projects
    • 18th century: Paris expands westward, large population boom from immigrants, “age of enlightenment” —call for scientifically accuracy
  • Hills represented flat, rather than isometric, to prevent cover-up of roads
  • Selective shadowing, to show sun position
  • perspective goes against “port view”
    • most maps of the city were based on ships coming in from the top of the Seine, this map orients itself ~45 away from this traditional perspective.
  • All building details shown: doors, courtyards, windows
    • Property tax was determined (at this time) by street-facing windows, so not unheard of

American Bird’s Eye View Maps

  • European: reference, geography
  • American: self-serving, city-pride
  • Why so popular? Immigration & Transportation
    • Allowed for many cities to spring up
    • map served as best light to show cities in to grow population
    • Includes: factories/jobs, bridges, railroads, ports, public parks, schools
    • Excludes: slums, trash, weather, conditions of public works
  • Map as an Advertisement
    • commissioned and vetted by chambers of commerce
    • companies and stores paid to be on map
  • Not made from hot-air balloon views
    • surveyed lands to determine view that had most potential
    • distance fairly accurate, while building/commodity size is enhanced
    • surrounding land was generally inaccurate, adding green space and forestry to frame the city in a good light
    • if no vignettes were sold to large companies or city buildings, the space was still completed with nature
    • if extra space was sold, more vignettes would be added to the sky region
  • 1800s crowd funded
    • artists would collect subscriptions to meet quota to produce

Design History: Transportation

2 Transportation

Peutinger Table

  • A Map of the Roman World
  • towns and roading near Mediterranean, Europe, Anatolia, Egypt, Magreb
  • 4th Century
  • 3 prominent cities: Rome, Constantinople, Antioch
  • only copy lost and copied by monk in Colmar on parchment in 13th century
  • only discovered in 1494 found between leaves of book; 1507 book and map given to Peutinger
  • User-centered features
    • icons for services avaialbe (inn, bath, gymnasium, etc)
    • distance between locations on same road
    • removes space between cities not on the same road
  • ~3ft x 15ft, possibly another panel that did not survive the copying process
    • size possibly because of parchment limitations, or because of table top surface dimension


  • Etzlaub (in Nuremburg) was an instrument maker for navigation uses between cities
  • designed for year 1500, because of so many Europeans want to pilgrimage from Europe to Rome
  • Nuremburg Map (1492) centralized Nuremburg and showed its relationships to other cities nearby
  • Romweg: represents towns of Holy Roman Empire
    • Color coded: islands are red, italy is green, france is red, netherlands is light yellow, etc. based on languages currently spoken in area.
    • oriented Mediterranean at top, North Sea at bottom (opposite) to show top-to-bottom travel.


  • 17th century England and Wales
  • introduced 1” scale, varying compass orientation so that roads run up and down


  • Timeline
    • 1830: first “city communications” committee that oversaw transportation
    • 1846: idea of inner and outer circles of rail system
    • 1863: first underground rail opened (4 miles) in world, but was steam powered
  • Private companies wanted railways that brought people into heart of city bc they had more money. The central part of London has more poor people, less profit for inner city transportation
    • 1905: all inner-city rail electrified
  • Upwards of 8 individual companies owned railway, and some companies connected railways and had to pay tolls and profits
    • 1932: public companies merged all private railways into standardized service
  • Henry C. Beck: Junior draftsman, laid off from signal engineer temp position
    • drew 1939 iconic map in spare time (completed in 1931, but not published until 1933)
    • thought of as “too revolutionary for the time”
    • 45/90 degrees lines only
    • only landmark River Thames
    • scaled city center up and suburbs down to make fixed intervals on lines
    • geography de-emphasized, connections and transfers featured
    • uses single color for each “line” through the city
  • culturally, this means:
    • efficiency is important
    • technology = social progress
    • new ideas about leisure; commuting somewhere in between
    • commuting lifestyle made possible
    • train station new locus for commerce and consumption
  • Beck redesigns map multiple times, hand-lettering all minute changes.
    • Beck moves towards only rectangular forms around 1940, but wasn’t popular concept
    • Beck’s map replaced by Hutchinson’s diagrams in 1960 without Beck’s knowledge.
  • Frank Pick: push to create Art for the Underground
    • paid Artists/commissions for art even when not used
    • stands abut the de-emphaszied role of the diagram maker Beck


Interview with Mossimo Vignelli

1972-1978 NYC Subway Diagram designer: M. Vignelli

NYC_Subway_RESPONSE – presentation documenting Vignelli quotes on design, criticism and his 1972 NYC Subway Diagram; meant to be an oral presentation and downloaded for further study.

Designing Information: Chapter 5

Designing Information: Human Factors and Common Sense in Information Design
Joel Katz

Chapter 5: Finding your Way? Movement, Orientation, Situational Geography

5  Finding your Way? Movement, Orientation, Situational Geography

What’s Up? Heads up

  • Heads-up maps, originally developed for pilots to look up and read maps at the same time, orients maps so that up on the map is forwards from their orientation to the sign
  • GM introduced HUDs (heads up displays) in automotives in 1988 and now almost all GPS devices have this option
Heads-Up display of pedestrian maps for Walk!Philadelphia
Heads-Up display of pedestrian maps for Walk!Philadelphia

Signs and Arrows

  • Two arrows in way-finding
    • literal: point in the actual direction
    • literal arrows can have different cultural associations. On a HUD, American “up” arrow means straight ahead, French “down” arrow means straight ahead (as in, go under this sign).
    • theoretical: point in direction of something, possibly distant, but do not clue as to how to get there.

scale and adjacency

  • While scale and adjacency are preferred constant and mapped naturally, printing concerns or restrictions can take precedent.

a movement network genealogy

  • “It is the challenge and responsibility of the information designer to design maps and other navigational aids with an understanding of the different ways in which movement modes are experienced and perceived.”
  • Consider your unit of measurement or perception of measurement when abstracting maps for a user/purpose
    • While walking, we count cross-streets, or monuments, or addresses; while riding a bus, we count stops; while flying there is only a beginning and ending airport.

map or diagram?

  • Mark Noad’s redesign of the London Undergound Map walks the line between a map and a diagram
    • It closely relates to the actual space between stops, but simplifies shapes without being geometrically rigid.
    • Maps are difficult to memorize, but contain a wealth of information for various users
    • Diagrams are easier to memorize and conceptualize, but are sparse in order to help certain users accomplish a certain task.
underground maps of London; Beck, Noas (2012), geographical accuracy
underground maps of London; Beck, Noas (2012), geographical accuracy

information release sequence

  • changes in mode of transport require user to revisit context
  • each modal change sequence is different
  • information user needs to attain is in discreet steps, but each step might not be simple/familiar
    • releasing information depending on location (inside/outside, above/underground) or status (un/paid) helps discreet steps to be completed in order
    • it is a hierarchy that is dependent on time and place


  • maps that measure geographic distance as a function of time
    • if it takes the same time to get there, it is visually equal.
    • takes into account things like: availability of transport, topography, obstacles, etc.

transitions and familiarity

  • the transition from a geographically intact pedestrian map to an abstracted subway map can prove difficult
    • consider how much geographic accuracy is needed for a map to do its job. Can routes be straight when they are really curved? Can routes be less curved in the diagram than in real life? Small discrepancies will generally go unnoticed by users.
    • natural features (river, pond, shore, etc) can help orient users between maps and diagrams

perils of alphabetization

  • organizing information: LATCH (Location, Alphabet, Time, Category, Hierarchy)

the view from below or above

  • placing pictorial representations of buildings on flat maps could give impressions of the facade’s directionality
  • in any one map perspective, at max you can only see 50% of buildings’ facades. Not every building facade will be the iconic, picturesque version of the building.

urban open space

  • Roman urban architecture valued the uniform street facade with intricate public spaces interior.
    • This is instance, designer Giambasttista Nolli published a map that denotes open street space and open courtyard space of equal hierarchy, to allow pedestrians to understand, when faced with a facade, if there interest behind those walls.

3 Trips Assignment: Ideas + Sketches

For the 3 Trips Assignment, we must design a map/diagram which documents the route of three trips: (1) from our local living space to Northeastern, (2) from our childhood home to our local living space, and (3) from Boston to an overseas destination. Each of these trips must be shown simultaneously (one document or pamphlet) and descriptions should not be favored over visual representation.

For this assignment I labeled the trips: Local, Continental, International (respectively). These trips are from specific address to specific address, including the transportation methods employed as if the trip was happening today. My local trip uses the subway from apartment to studio space in Boston, a commute. My continental trip uses car (both personal and über services) and airplane from Dayton, Ohio to Boston. My international trip uses a combination of walking, bus, subway and airplane (including layover in Paris) to go from Boston to the Franz Kafka Monument in Prague, Czech Republic.

Statue de Kafka par Jaroslav Rona, Prague, Republique techeque
Statue de Kafka  Jaroslav Rona, Prague

Idea 1:

Idea 1

Modeled after ØString’s “Roadtrip 2009”
Circular element representing time overlays a geographical route. Icons surround the circular element to represent landmarks. The routes in proportion to each other’s time arranged for comparison on bottom.

Idea 2:

Idea 2

Modeled after Boyack + Klavans + Paley’s “Relationships Among Scientific Paradigms”
A non-euclidean, spherical map of the northern hemisphere shows all three routes in their entirety; callouts zoom in on the parts of the map that aren’t flight related (Dayton, Boston, Prague). Lines connect various parts of the map and routes: connects can form from a multitude of realms, such as emotional, geographical, historical, environmental, social, etc. Along the outside of the globe, time/distance are measured in proportional radians. Callouts help describe historical, natural, or environmental landmarks.

Idea 3:

Idea 3
Idea 3
Idea 3
Idea 3
Idea 3 - Mechanics
Idea 3 – Mechanics

Based of Felton’s “Feltron Atlas 2008”
Each route will exist on a series of foldable equilateral triangles that allow viewers to see each trip in an “overview” mode (where the entire route is visible) or in “detail” mode (where the beginning and ends of route are detailed/zoomed in on). The colored in flaps in the third picure show where the extra variables will be (historical context, temperature, total time, etc). The mechanics are only worked out for the first two routes.