Exploring the Placement and Design of Word-Scale Visualizations

placement-wsv screenshot


We present an exploration and a design space that characterize the usage and placement of word-scale visualizations within text documents. Word-scale visualizations are a more general version of sparklines-small, word-sized data graphics that allow meta-information to be visually presented in-line with document text. In accordance with Edward Tufte's definition, sparklines are traditionally placed directly before or after words in the text. We describe alternative placements that permit a wider range of word-scale graphics and more flexible integration with text layouts. These alternative placements include positioning visualizations between lines, within additional vertical and horizontal space in the document, and as interactive overlays on top of the text. Each strategy changes the dimensions of the space available to display the visualizations, as well as the degree to which the text must be adjusted or reflowed to accommodate them. We provide an illustrated design space of placement options for word-scale visualizations and identify six important variables that control the placement of the graphics and the level of disruption of the source text. We also contribute a quantitative analysis that highlights the effect of different placements on readability and text disruption. Finally, we use this analysis to propose guidelines to support the design and placement of word-scale visualizations.


Pascal Goffin, Wesley Willett, Jean-Daniel Fekete, Petra Isenberg
Exploring the Placement and Design of Word-Scale Visualizations
IEEE Transactions on Visualization and Computer Graphics, 20(12): 2291-2300, doi:10.1109/TVCG.2014.2346435, 2014.


  title = {Exploring the Placement and Design of Word-Scale Visualizations},
  author = {Pascal Goffin and Wesley Willett and Jean-Daniel Fekete and Petra Isenberg},
  journal = {IEEE Transactions on Visualization and Computer Graphics},
  doi = {10.1109/TVCG.2014.2346435},
  volume = {20},
  number = {12},
  pages = {2291-2300},
  month = {Dec},
  year = {2014}