Automatic generation of semantic icon encodings for visualizations.


Authors use icon encodings to indicate the semantics of categorical information in visualizations. The default icon libraries found in visualization tools often do not match the semantics of the data. Users often manually search for or create icons that are more semantically meaningful. This process can hinder the flow of visual analysis, especially when the amount of data is large, leading to a suboptimal user experience. We propose a technique for automatically generating semantically relevant icon encodings for categorical dimensions of data points. The algorithm employs natural language processing in order to find relevant imagery from the Internet. We evaluate our approach on Mechanical Turk by generating large libraries of icons using Tableau Public workbooks that represent real analytical effort by people out in the world. Our results show that the automatic algorithm does nearly as well as the manually created icons, and particularly has higher user satisfaction for larger cardinalities of data.

Vidya Setlur
Jock D. Mackinlay
Publication Date: 
Tuesday, April 1, 2014
Publication Information: 
Proceedings ACM CHI’14, April 2014, p.541-550.