The Syntax of Visual Language

The Syntax of Visual Language

“Graphic representation constitutes one of the basic sign-systems conceived by the human mind for the purposes of storing, understanding, and communicating essential information. As a ‘language’ for the eye, graphics benefit from the ubiquitous properties of visual perception.”

— Jacques Bertin


Functional visualisations are more than innovative statistical analysis and computational algorithms.

Despite today’s graphics diversity, many projects tend to follow noticeable trends and common principles, which lead to an emergent taxonomy. This Syntax, a palette of visual elements, that consider colour, text, imagery, size, shape, contrast, transparency, position, orientation, layout, to name a few, are the building blocks of a new visual language.

Arc diagram

Martin Wattenberg: The Shape of Song

Area grouping

Eytan Adar: GUESS

Centralised burst

Peter Uetz: Protein-protein interaction modeling

Circled globe

Richard Wolton: Earthquake 3D

Circular Ties

Marian Bantjes: Community

Elliptical implosion

Greg Judelman and Maria Lantin: Flower Garden

Flow chart

Maria Porpora: Density Design

Organic rhizome

Tyler Lang and Elsa Chaves: Connecting Distant Dots

Radial convergence

Martin Krzywinski: Circos

Radial Implosion

Richard Rogers: Climate Change US


yWorks yFiles Visualization

Scaling Circles

Juan Pablo de Gregorio and Jose Neira: CMM Infographic

Segmented Radial Convergence

Boris Muller: Poetry on the Road


James Spahr: Website Traffic Map


Visual Complexity: Mapping Patterns of Information by Manuel Lima



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