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Oct 18

Reported by Caroline Perry, Harvard University, 16 Oct. 2013.

Computer scientists at Harvard and cognitive scientists at MIT team up to settle a debate over “chart junk”.

Which of these visualizations will you remember later? (Images courtesy of Michelle Borkin, Harvard SEAS.)

It’s easy to spot a “bad” data visualization—one packed with too much text, excessive ornamentation, gaudy colors, and clip art. Design guru Edward Tufte derided such decorations as redundant at best, useless at worst, labeling them “chart junk.” Yet a debate still rages among visualization experts: Can these reviled extra elements serve a purpose?

Taking a scientific approach to design, researchers from Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology are offering a new take on that debate. The same design elements that attract so much criticism, they report, can also make a visualization more memorable.

Detailed results were presented this week at the IEEE Information Visualization (InfoVis) conference in Atlanta, hosted by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. Continue reading »

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