Today, effective communication is a key competency for every professional. Be it in science or industry. We are well educated to use numbers and texts but are often limited in the use of visual formats.

This module will first give you an introduction to understand how our brain works. It will then give you some basic ideas how to create an own visualization.

A majority of our brain’s activity deals with processing and analyzing visual images. Before we will discuss some perceptual phenomenon it is important to remember that our brain does not differ greatly from that of our ancestors, the troglodytes. At that time, perception helped for basic functions, for example for hunting (motion detection), seeking food (color detection), or applying tools (object-shape perception).

Since then, visual representations have served a variety of functions, such as:Recall: the ability of a visualization to convey content in a memorable way.

  • Overview: the ability of a visualization to synthesize detail and provide a macro structure that organizes many elements into a coherent whole.

  • Comprehension: the ability of visualization to foster understanding, learning, and sense making activities by showing relationships.

  • Discovery: the potential of a visualization to trigger new insights for its users/participants by highlithing meaningful, interesting patterns.

  • Emotion: the ability of a visualization to trigger functional emotional responses to it.

  • Coordination: the ability of a visualization to guide a group of people and provide common points of reference.

  • Your Task: Try to find an example for each of the above benefits.

    Before we will come back to this functional perspective, seven main visualization types are distinguished.

    Last modified: Friday, 2 February 2007, 3:01 PM