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  • Designing Graphic Presentations from First Principles

    Copyright 1998

    by Michael Schiff

  • 1

    Abstract

    Designing Graphic Presentations from First Principles

    by

    Michael Schiff

    Doctor of Philosophy in Computer Science

    University of California at Berkeley

    Professor Robert Wilensky, Chair

    This dissertation outlines a first-principles approach to automatically designing graphic presenta-

    tions of information. The components of this approach include a conceptual framework for discussing how

    presentations encode information, algorithms for determining whether a method of presentation will be ca-

    pable of presenting a given type of information, and design principles for ensuring the interpretability and

    perceptual effectiveness of a method of presentation.

    Compared with previous approaches to automatically designing presentations, the approach out-

    lined in this dissertation is more fine-grained and more general. It begins with an extremely general notion of

    how graphic presentations can encode information, then develops this into a useful framework by making a

    number of explicit assumptions about the types of presentations that people can use. This framework serves

    as a basis for analyzing the space of possible graphical languages—i.e., the space of systematic methods of

    presenting data. The logical adequacy of different graphical languages for different types of information, and

    criteria and methods for composing graphical languages for different data are also explored.

    In addition to this logical emphasis, this dissertation also emphasizes the influence of psychological

    issues on the design of presentations. It explores factors influencing the interpretability of presentations (i.e.,

    how easily viewers will grasp how information is encoded) and outlines some general design principles for

    creating interpretable presentations. It also explores perceptual issues in presentation—including perceptual

    organization, dimensional structure of visual stimuli, and the effectiveness of perceptual operations—and

    outlines design principles for guaranteeing the perceptual effectiveness of presentations.

    The last emphasis of this dissertation is on operationalizing the framework and principles—i.e.,

    on using them to create graphical languages in a relatively efficient manner. The implementation, AUTO-

    GRAPH, demonstrates the flexibility and viability of a first-principles approach.

  • 2

    Acknowledgements

    I have spent quite a few years working on this dissertation, and more generally in grad school. This

    experience would have been less fruitful and much less bearable without the support and advice of many

    people.

    I would first like to thank my advisor, Robert Wilensky, for granting me the independence to pursue

    my own research interests and still managing to provide me with generous support and valuable advice. This

    dissertation might never have been completed, and certainly would have been weaker, without his insight. I

    would also like to thank the other members of my thesis committee, Marti Hearst and James Landay, whose

    comments and critiques greatly improved this work.

    My graduate school experience was vastly enriched over the years by the various members and

    associates of my research group, including (in alphabetical order): Michael Braverman, Anne Fontaine,

    Marti Hearst, Narciso Jaramillo, Dan Jurafsky, Peter Norvig, David Palmer, Tom Phelps, Nigel Ward, Dekai

    Wu, Jamie Zawinski, and Jordan Zlatev. Most of these people were my officemates at one time or another. I

    never got much work done when they were around the office, but they nevertheless made my academic and

    personal experiences in grad school infinitely more rewarding.

    Outside the office, other friends and colleagues in the department also helped make the experience

    of being a grad student not only interesting, but fun, too. Among the students and faculty members whom

    I had the pleasure to know were: David Cohen, Eric Enderton, Francesca Barrientos, Diane Hernek, Nina

    Amenta, Kim Keeton, David Parsons, Nikki Mirghafori, Terry Regier, Mike Luby, Oliver Grillmeyer, Dana

    Randall, Mike Clancy, and Ashu Rege.

    Many other friends, near and far, also provided both diversion and support. Without the diversion,

    this dissertation might have been completed sooner, but without the support I’m sure it would never have been

    completed at all. Some of the nearby friends included Jon Levine and Susan Lin, Carrie Timko, Beth Multer,

    Becky Gross, Morrisa Sherman, Pete Chow, Erin Vaca, and Melanie Light. Others, further afield, included

    Jan Rivkin and Debbie Kadish, Ben Gillum and Heather Rayburn, Mike Rosenfeld, Tarun Khanna, Rahul

    Asthana, Pascale Fung, and Joanna Sadowska. Others, once near but now far, included: Ivelina Zlateva,

    Robert Chang, Anna Herreras, John Liechty, Toby Falk, Zenda Kuo, and Shari Cohen. A special thanks is

    due Kristin Conradi, who gave much support during the last year of the writing of this dissertation. And I’d

    like to add an extra thanks to Jon and Susan, and to Carrie, all of whom helped see me through more or less

    my entire grad school experience.

    I’ve had a number of housemates over the years I’ve lived in Berkeley, but I’ve been particularly

    lucky in the last four or five years. My housemates made life at home fun, and always yielded the kitchen

    table when I needed it, even if they did sometimes leave dishes in the sink. Among the people I had the

    pleasure to live with were: Shari Rubin, Holly Holmquist, Roger Studley, Carla Savage, Sasa Gabarsek,

    Rebecca Gelman, Alex Cuthbert, and Sharon Gibson.

    I have felt very fortunate during my graduate school tenure to have had the unfailing support of a

    very helpful Computer Science Department staff. Within the larger UCB bureaucracy, the department pro-

  • 3

    vided a smaller, more comfortable environment. I’d especially like to thank Kathryn Crabtree, who showed

    me around the day I first arrived in Evans Hall and has been of great aid in negotiating the system ever since.

    My acknowledgements would not be complete without thanking the taxpayers of this country, who

    provided funding in the form of a National Science Foundation fellowship, through National Science Foun-

    dation grant IRI-94-11334 (part of the NSF/NASA/DARPA Digital Libraries Initiative), and through the

    DARPA, via the Corportation for National Research Initiative contract no. MDA 972-92-J-1029, during the

    writing of this dissertation.

    Finally, I’d like to acknowledge the love and support of my parents Marilyn and Leonard Schiff and

    my sister Laura, who might have thought I’d never get out of grad school, but kept encouraging me anyway.

  • iii

    Contents

    List of Figures vi

    List of Tables ix

    1 Introduction 1 1.1 The need for intelligent presentation design . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 1.2 The graphic presentation design problem . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4 1.3 Designing graphic presentations from first principles . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7

    1.3.1 Logical principles . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8 1.3.2 Interpretive principles . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9 1.3.3 Perceptual principles . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10 1.3.4 System architecture . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13

    1.4 An example . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13 1.5 Guide to remainder of dissertation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24

    2 Related Work 25 2.1 Automatic presentation design systems and related work . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25

    2.1.1 APT . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25 2.1.2 SAGE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27 2.1.3 BOZ . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 28 2.1.4 ANDD . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29 2.1.5 AVE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29 2.1.6 IMPROVISE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29 2.1.7 Scientific visualization research . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 30 2.1.8 Graph-drawing research . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 30

    2.2 Limitations of previous work . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 31 2.3 Frameworks and principles for graphic presentation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 31

    2.3.1 Logical frameworks . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 32 2.3.2 Psychological frameworks . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 32 2.3.3 Research relevant to establishing perceptual and interpretive design principles . . . . 33 2.3.4 The work of Edward Tufte . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 35

    2.4 Summary . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .