Temporal vs Spatial – Visualization Design


Temporal Designs:  are when we convey information over time. Think of a PowerPoint deck when the presenter clicks through each slide to see the next piece of information.  Or, a filter on a dashboard, the user clicks to see the information in a granular view. These designs have merit. They can pack a lot of information over the entirety of the document, but they have a flaw — the human brain has a hard time of comprehending differences when information is displayed over time.

A day trader does not have one monitor; she does not flip through different views of stocks and indicators to make a quick decision.  She has 6 monitors with each view displayed in space and not in disparate times. This allows her to see patterns quickly

An air traffic controller has many monitors because she has to understand the data rapidly to make correct decisions.

Spatial Designs: allow for the user to process data quickly. We have evolved to see patterns, and our brains are good at it, but are much better when we can see it all at once.

Good visualization design will thus promote our ability to see data in space as much as possible; it will limit the user from figuring out the pattern by flipping back and forth like some patternless nonrecogniizing Australopithecus afarensis who didn’t have the luxury of evolving

Superior pattern processing

for the past 2 million years.

Take a look at the recent viz I made.

  • Does it allow for quick pattern recognition?
  • Can you see things in the data quickly because of its spacital design?


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