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Visualizing Sets with Linear Diagrams.

Rodgers, Peter; Stapleton, Gem; Chapman, Peter


Peter Rodgers

Gem Stapleton


This paper presents the first design principles that optimize the visualization of sets using linear diagrams.
These principles are justified through empirical studies that evaluate the impact of graphical features on task
performance. Linear diagrams represent sets using straight line segments, with line overlaps corresponding
to set intersections. This study builds on recent empirical research, which establishes that linear diagrams
can be superior to prominent set visualization techniques, namely Euler and Venn diagrams. We address
the problem of how to best visualize overlapping sets using linear diagrams. To solve the problem, we
investigate which graphical features of linear diagrams significantly impact user task performance. To
this end, we conducted seven crowdsourced empirical studies involving a total of 1,760 participants. These
studies allowed us to identify the following design principles, which significantly aid task performance: use
a minimal number of line segments, use guidelines where overlaps start and end, and draw lines that are
thin as opposed to thick bars. We also evaluated the following graphical properties that did not significantly
impact task performance: color, orientation, and set order. The results are brought to life through a freely
available software implementation that automatically draws linear diagrams with user-controlled graphical
choices. An important consequence of our research is that users are now able to create effective visualizations
of sets automatically, thus improving human–computer interaction.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jul 30, 2015
Publication Date Dec 14, 2015
Deposit Date May 2, 2016
Publicly Available Date May 15, 2017
Journal ACM Transactions on Computer-Human Interaction
Print ISSN 1073-0516
Electronic ISSN 1557-7325
Publisher Association for Computing Machinery (ACM)
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 22
Issue 6
Pages 1-39
Keywords Sets; visualization; linear diagrams;
Public URL
Publisher URL
Contract Date May 15, 2017


Visualizing sets with linear diagrams (757 Kb)

Copyright Statement
© ACM, 2015. This is the author's version of the work. It is posted here by permission of ACM for your personal use. Not for redistribution. The definitive version was published in ACM Transactions on Computer-Human Interaction, 22/6 Dec.2015

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