Chapter 5. First, Place

Now that you have had a chance to define your goals, identify some supporting data, and consider appropriate visual encodings, it’s time to think about he particulars of how to apply those encodings. That means making some decisions about what placement will signify and where particular visual entities will go on the page, what attributes (such as color, size, and texture) you will assign them, and how you will label and describe them.


If you haven’t already done so, now would be an excellent time to get out some paper and pens, open a sketching application on your computer, or avail yourself of whatever prototyping method most suits you. Ideally, it will be something quick and dirty and malleable (so you can try out lots of options), with various color and typographic choices available.

We’ll start with a discussion of spatial position—axes and placement—because this property defines the scope and visual landscape that your visualization will occupy. For this and other reasons, spatial position is often the most important visual encoding you’ll have to select. Once we have covered basic placement and organization, we’ll move on to color and other visual encoding properties in Chapter 6.

Position: Layout and Axes

Axes (and the resulting layout), placement, and position of entities are perhaps the most underutilized visual encodings. While axes are frequently defined, they are often not used to their fullest potential, or not assigned at all. ...

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